The Church will celebrate the Feast of Pentecost this Sunday. Though perhaps not as well known as Pascha (Easter) or Christmas, the Feast of Pentecost is one of the major feasts of the Church year. On this day we remember, enter into, and celebrate the events of the first Christian Pentecost.
The disciples had gathered in the upper room–following Christ’s command to wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit, and observing the Old Testament Pentecost which remembered the giving of the Law. While they were together “in one accord,” the Holy Spirit came upon them in dramatic fashion (Acts 2:1).
The heard the rushing of a mighty wind that filled the entire house. They saw flames of fire sitting upon each one’s head. And then they were filled with the Holy Spirit, who enabled them to speak in various languages they had never spoken in before. This caused such a disturbance that others in Jerusalem heard and drew near in shock as they listened to the disciples speaking in their own language.
Indeed the disciples’ behavior was so unusual that they were assumed to be drunk! However, Peter preached the good news of Christ’s death and resurrection as fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies, causing three thousand to repent and be baptized.
Through the gift of the Holy Spirit, the nations separated by language after the sin of the tower of Babel were now brought together as one Body. People from various nations, backgrounds, and languages were able to become part of Christ’s Church.
As the Kontakion says,
“When the Most High came down and confused the tongues,
He divided the nations;
But when He distributed the tongues of fire,
He called all to unity.
Therefore, with one voice, we glorify the all-Holy Spirit!
The feast of Pentecost is also the feast day of the Holy Trinity, for on this day the world came to know God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Now God is truly among his Church, with his people, through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
Ways to Celebrate Pentecost
1. Attend Divine Liturgy and Learn the Troparion
Attending Divine Liturgy on Pentecost is far easier than for many other feasts, as Pentecost is always celebrated on a Sunday. The service is a particularly joyful one where we celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit. It is also the first time that we kneel after the Paschal period. Many churches include the prayers known as the Kneeling Prayers in the Divine Liturgy. Other churches may have a separate Vespers service. If possible, try to participate in the Kneeling prayers and enter into the spirit of repentance, forgiveness, and strength for our journey.
The troparion for the feast is:
“Blessed are You, O Christ our God!
You have revealed the fishermen as most wise
By sending down upon them the Holy Spirit;
Through them You drew the world into Your Net.
O Lover of Man, glory to You!”
2. Wear Green to Liturgy
The liturgical color of Pentecost is green. You can dress your family in green to help your children notice this change, and point out the new life found when the Holy Spirit comes upon us.
3. Decorate the House with Greenery
In keeping with the theme, you can also decorate your house with greenery. These may include potted herbs that you can later plant in an herb garden. We had a lovely bouquet of fresh basil, parsley, and rosemary that we placed in a vase before our festal icon last year. The fragrance filled the house and reminded us of the birth of the Church all week.
4. Learn to Say “Hello” in Different Languages
The story of Pentecost is filled with many interesting and exciting things (tongues of fire, a rushing wind–how cool is that to a child?!). One of these is the fact that the Apostles were able to speak in languages they hadn’t learned before. The Holy Spirit gave them a gift so that they could preach the Gospel to people of all languages visiting Jerusalem at the time.
Parents can help children understand this concept of different languages by teaching children how to say “hello” in multiple languages. Look online to find out how to greet others in Spanish, Russian, Greek, Arabic, and Japanese. You can teach them to say “hello” in languages that people in their area might use. Is there a large Korean population in your town? Do you have people from Bulgaria in your church? Do you live by a Native American reservation? Have fun learning new languages!
5. Fill the House with Candles and Tell the Story
In remembrance of the tongues of fire that descended upon the apostles, fill your house with candles. Then, tell, read, or listen to the story of Pentecost.
6. Orthodoxy Around the World Activity
Finally, help children appreciate the diversity of the Church by learning about churches around the world. See if you can find websites for churches on all seven continents. Or, look for and print out pictures of churches from every continent. You can make a collage by pasting the pictures, church names, and locations on a posterboard.
On the Feast of Pentecost, let us rejoice because God Himself is with us in his Church!
Resource for Family
In order to help your family celebrate this feast and the other feasts and fasts of the Church year, I have written my e-book, Seasons of the Faith.
This 200 page e-book is designed to help you and your family celebrate the feasts and fasts of the Church year. You will learn:
- The story of each feast
- Simple, practical ways to celebrate the feast or fast as a family
- Fun learning activities designed for younger children
- Engaging age-appropriate learning activities for older children
- Tips for fasting with children
If you are a recent convert wanting to learn more about the Church calendar, then this book is for you!
If you are a long-time Orthodox Christian who wants to make the faith come alive to your children, then this is for you!
If you are a Church School teacher looking for activities and lessons for your children, then this book is for you!
Seasons of the Faith is priced at only $12.
Have a blessed feast.
How does your family celebrate the Feast of Pentecost?