The Feast of Pentecost

The Feast of Pentecost (Holy Trinity Sunday)

June 15, 2021

icon holy Trinity

Fifty days after Holy Pascha, the Orthodox celebrate one of the twelve Great Feasts - Pentecost (or as it is often called in Russia and Belarus - the Holy Trinity Sunday). This year Pentecost falls on June 20th in the Belarussian Orthodox Church.

The Descent of the Holy Spirit

You may have seen Pentecost being mentioned in the Old Testament. It used to be a feast celebrated exactly 50 days after Passover (celebration of the exodus of the Israelites from the slavery of Egypt). In the Old Testament, Pentecost celebrated the Ten Commandments of God which Moses received on Mount Sinai.

Though Pentecost is also celebrated on the 50th day after Pascha in the New Testament, it has a completely different meaning. The story of the new covenant Pentecost can be found in the Book of Acts, verses 1 to 47.

The Bible tells us that, on the day of Pentecost, the Apostles were all gathered together when all of a sudden they heard a loud noise coming from the sky. It sounded like wind blowing and it completely filled the room. After that, the Apostles saw the fire which didn’t burn them, but rather separated into smaller parts and came to rest on each of them.

orthodox green vestment

The fire was the Holy Spirit of God which descended on the Apostles:

“All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” (Actes 2:4)

Filled with the Holy Spirit, the Apostles preached in different languages so the people around them could all understand. The people were amazed, some even thought that the Apostles were drunk.

The Apostle Peter then stood up and told everyone that they were not drunk but were under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. He also quoted the prophet Joel who wrote:

“I will pour out my Spirit on all people.

Your sons and daughters will prophesy,

your old men will dream dreams,

your young men will see visions.

Even on my servants, both men and women,

I will pour out my Spirit in those days.”

(Joel 2:28-29)

Then, Saint Paul explained what was happening even further:

“God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.” (Acts 2:32-33)

icon Trinity semi precious stones

A handmade icon of The Holy Trinity from semi-precious stones created in our Convent*

When people from the crowd asked the apostles what they should do, St. Peter said that in order to receive the Holy Spirit there are a few things that the faithful must do:

“Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” (Acts 2:38-39)

Significance of the Feast

Pentecost, the descent of the Holy Spirit, is the final fulfillment of Christ’s mission. The Holy Spirit comes down upon the faithful to sanctify, to unite, to save. It is the beginning of the Kingdom of God which is mystically present in the world right now.

Thus, Pentecost reveals to us the eschatological truth and reminds us about the day when Christ will come again in full glory, the day of the final and perfect end. In a way, we are celebrating the present and the future, not simply an event that happened in the past.

Apart from that, on the day of Pentecost (or Holy Trinity Sunday), we also celebrate the full revelation of the Divine Trinity - the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, which also represents that Christ’s mission is complete and that God’s plan is being fulfilled.

Celebrating Pentecost in the Orthodox Church

Pentecost is one of our favorite feasts of the liturgical year. This is the day when we spend a lot of time in prayer, praying for the whole of mankind, for those who are dead and forgotten, for everyone who has ever lived. It is a very special celebration of life, love, and the Kingdom of Heaven to come.

decoration on Pentecost

On the day of the feast we serve a festive Divine Liturgy and sing various hymns:

“Truly great is Your mystery, Master and Maker of all, of the temporary separation of Your creatures, to be united again in everlasting rest. We confess Your grace in all things, for our entrances into this world and our departures, of which our hope of resurrection and a life of bliss, according to Your certain promise, are the guarantee.” (The Great Vespers of Pentecost, second Kneeling Prayer)

On the day of the feast we serve a festive Divine Liturgy and sing various hymns:

“When the Most High came down and confounded tongues of men at Babel, He divided the nations. When He dispensed the tongues of fire, He called all to unity, and with one voice we glorify the Most Holy Spirit.”(Kontakion of Pentecost)

As always, the icon of the feast is present in the center of the church for all faithful to venerate. The beautiful icon of Pentecost shows the twelve Apostles sitting with wind and tongues of fire coming from the sky, which signifies the descent of the Holy Spirit. Underneath the Apostles there is a figure holding a cloth with scrolls. It represents the Cosmos - all people of the world, who are waiting to be taught by the Apostles and baptized in order to receive the Holy Spirit.

In the evening of the same day we serve the Great Vespers service, during which we say three long prayers - the Kneeling Prayers. This is the first time since Easter that we kneel. The prayers have some important messages for all Christians:

“Truly great is Your mystery, Master and Maker of all, of the temporary separation of Your creatures, to be united again in everlasting rest. We confess Your grace in all things, for our entrances into this world and our departures, of which our hope of resurrection and a life of bliss, according to Your certain promise, are the guarantee.”(The Great Vespers of Pentecost, second Kneeling Prayer)

On the following Monday after Pentecost, we glorify the Holy Spirit and pray:

“Heavenly King, Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, everywhere present and filling all things, Treasury of blessings and Giver of life: come and abide in us, cleanse us from every impurity and save our souls, O Good One.” (Prayer of the Holy Spirit)

PS - If you have prayer requests, make sure to click on this link. The Sisters of St Elisabeth Convent will be happy to pray for you and your loved ones on the Feast of Pentecost!

* You can order this icon and other products of St Elisabeth Convent by clicking on this link.

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1 month ago

Fr Michael

1 month ago
Thank you for this account it is excellent. One thing you might like to change is the name of the Apostle who speaks in regards to (Acts 2:32-33)and vv38,39 to St Peter instead of St Paul.

Would you also please pray for healing in my daughter's left hand following an operation she has had for severed tendons.

Sr. Anastasia

1 month ago
Dear Father Michael,
Thank you for your kind correction. We will change it. We will pray for you and your daughter. If you have a chance, send us her name.

Hieromonk teodosy

1 month ago
You write: "We start celebrating on the eve of the feast. During the All-Night Vigil service, we say three long prayers which are called the Kneeling Prayers. This is the first time since Easter that we kneel."

the text needs to be corrected...

The three long Kneeling Prayers are NOT prayed at the All-Night Vigil of the Feast but on the Eve of Monday of the Holy Spirit, that is, Sunday evening at 'Kneeling' Vespers, which is sometimes prayed immediately after Divine Liturgy of the Feast on Sunday.
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