Sunday, June 08, 2014

The Significance of Pentecost

Most people only know Pentecost as a Christian holiday, one that commemorates the day when the Holy Spirit fell on the apostles and disciples of Christ as they gathered in the Upper Room after the Ascension. While the apostles and disciples remained in Jerusalem out of obedience to Christ (cf. Acts 1:4-5), Scripture tells us that Jews from many different nations were also present in Jerusalem (cf. Acts 2:5, 9-11). They were present for a different reason: The Jewish Feast of Pentecost.

Pentecost is originally a Jewish holiday. Along with Passover and Tabernacles, it is one of the three Great Feasts of the Jewish calendar. The word “Pentecost” comes from the Greek word which means “fiftieth.” The feast takes this name because it occurs fifty days after the second day of the Passover.

To the Jewish people, Pentecost has historical and agricultural significance. Historically, Pentecost commemorates the giving of the Torah to Moses on Mt. Sinai. Since God accommodated his Law to an agricultural people, it enjoins upon the Jews various grain offerings. So, agriculturally, Pentecost also commemorates the time when the first fruits of the wheat harvest were harvested and brought to the temple in the form of two cakes of leavened bread (cf. Lev 23:17).

As Christians, we may ask ourselves what significance there is to the fact that Jesus decided to pour out His Holy Spirit upon the Church on this Jewish Feast. I think there are many instances in which the Christian celebration of Pentecost proves to be a sort of fulfillment of the Jewish Feast.

The Jewish Feast celebrates the beginning of the wheat harvest by offering the first of the harvested wheat to the Lord. In the Christian Feast, we celebrate the beginning of the Christian Church, when Jesus harvested 3000 souls who were cut to the heart by Peter’s teaching and were baptized. Jesus Christ Himself is the first fruit (“of those who have fallen asleep,” cf. 1 Cor 15:20), and we too are a kind of first fruits by the grace He has given us (cf. Jas 1:18). Finally, the Spirit that the Church received on that day guides us into all truth and knowledge of God’s Will in a way that far surpasses what was given in the Torah.

So, in many ways, the Jewish feast of Pentecost was the perfect day to set in motion the Church that God had in mind from the very beginning.

For more information about the Jewish Feast of Pentecost, see the following resources:Dr. Bergsma's three posts on the readings for Pentecost are also excellent:Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

2 comments:

Lady.Rosary said...

This only shows that even though we may differ in religion, we have a lot of things in common such as the basis of our beliefs. Faith unites us somehow.

phatcatholic said...

Yes, there is a certain level of continuity between the Jewish and Christian faith that I think can bridge the gap between the two.

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