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Major Orthodox Feasts: The Descent of the Holy Spirit


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The Descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles (Acts of the Apostles 2:14-23.)


Pentecost (The Fiftieth Day, Holy Trinity. Trinity. Pentecost) is the second holiest time next to Easter, and is celebrated 50 days after the Resurrection. It commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit onto the 12 Apostles. This feast falls on the tenth day after Ascension Thursday. Pentecost translates to the Festival of Weeks, the Jewish Harvest Festival, which commemorates God giving the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai fifty days after the Exodus. In the New Testament, Pentecost is where the 12 Disciples received the Holy Spirit in the Upper Room, and is recounted in Acts 2:1-6, here:
   "And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language."

The apostle Peter stood up amongst with the other 11 and said unto the crowd that this event was the fulfillment of the prophecy. In Acts 2:17, it reads: "'And in the last days,' God says, 'I will pour out my spirit upon every sort of flesh, and your sons and your daughters will prophesy and your young men will see visions and your old men will dream dreams." Acts 2:41 then reports: "Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls."

In traditional Eastern Orthodox tradition, Pentecost is one of the Great Feasts and the service is celebrated with an all night vigil on the eve of the feast day, and the Divine Liturgy on the day of the feast itself. Orthodox churches are decorated with greenery and flowers, and the celebration is similar to that of the Jewish holiday of Shavuot. The feast lasts three days. The first day is known as "Trinity Sunday," the second "Spirit Monday," and the third is called "Third day of the Trinity." The Afterfeast of Pentecost lasts for one week. Fasting is not permitted. In the Russian Orthodox Church, the liturgical color used in Pentecost is Green, and the clergy and faithful carry flowers and branches during the services.

On the night of Pentecost, there is a Vespers service called The Kneeling Prayer, where everyone makes a full prostration, touching their foreheads to the floor. Prostrations in the church were not allowed from Easter up to this point. Three sets of long poetic prayers are added, the composition of Saint Basil The Great.



An interesting Orthodox fact is the icon of the Pentecostal feast, which depicts the 12 Apostles seated in a semicircle. Above them, is the Holy Spirit is descending on them in the form of tongues of fire. At the bottom, is the allegorical figure of Kosmos, which symbolizes the world. Kosmos is crowned with earthly glory but is covered in darkness caused by the ignorance of God. He holds a towel with 12 scrolls on it, representing the teaching of the twelve Apostles.

Troparion of Pentecost.


Blessed art Thou, Christ our God, Who hast shown forth the fishermen as supremely wise, by sending down upon them the Holy Spirit, and through them, didst draw the world into Thy net. O Lover of mankind, glory be to Thee.

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