May 31, 2009

Today is Pentecost: Sunday May 31, 2009

Pentecost is one of the most important feasts in the liturgical calender, celebrated on the 49th day (7 weeks) after Easter Sunday - or the 50th day inclusively. Pentecost falls on the tenth day after Ascension Thursday. Historically and symbolically related to the Jewish harvest festival of Shavuot or the day, fifty days after the Exodus, on which God gave the Ten Command-ments at Mount Sinai. Pentecost commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and other followers of Jesus as described in the Book of Acts. For this reason, Pentecost is sometimes described as "the Church's birthday".

The story is recounted in the Acts of the Apostles, (Acts 2:1 – 4) "On the day of Pentecost all the Lord’s followers were together in one place. Suddenly there was a noise from heaven like the sound of a mighty wind! It filled the house where they were meeting. Then they saw what looked like fiery tongues moving in all directions, and a tongue came and settled on each person there. The Holy Spirit took control of everyone, and they began speaking whatever languages the Spirit let them speak."

The apostles received the Holy Spirit and were miraculously enabled to go out into Jerusalem prophesying and speaking in languages that all the visitors there could understand ("God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven... each one heard them speaking in his own language.") The noise and activity attracted a huge crowd and the Apostle Peter preached a sermon to the crowd with some effectiveness, as Acts reports: "Those who believed what Peter said were baptized and added to the church that day—about 3,000 in all." Acts 2:41.

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