In the liturgical year, Pentecost is the turning point of the calendar. It is transition from the Gospels to the Acts of the Apostles. It signifies the time when the mission of Jesus on Earth is completed, and the mission of the Church (the Body of Christ) on Earth begins. Similarly, there is a transition in the lectionary reading. The calendar from Advent to Pentecost focuses mostly on the narrative of the incarnation and the life of Jesus, with an emphasis on Jesus’s temptation in the wilderness, the passion of Holy Week, and then Eastertide, which focuses on the significance and meaning of the resurrection.
Pentecost is really the beginning of the final season of the year — Ordinary Time, known in some traditions as Kingdomtide or Growing Season. Ordinary time doesn’t mean plain; for Christ followers it means living life in God’s order, and the Holy Spirit gives us the power to do so. The readings from Pentecost to the end of the year challenge us to live as disciples.
The dramatic story in Acts chapter two tells of the coming of the Holy Spirit with the sound of a mighty rushing wind and appearance of divided tongues looking like fire came and rested upon the disciples. Those images are the Bishop’s mitreand the liturgical color red. Some parishes celebrate the day of Pentecost by asking worshippers to wear something red to church.
Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit, is an event completely unique in the scriptures. The disciples spoke as the Spirit gave them utterance, but the listeners all heard the message in their own dialects and language, simultaneously! People from the many regions where Jews had dispersed were gathered in Jerusalem for the observance of Shavuot — the Feast of Weeks. The miracle (which seemed to occur in their ears of the listeners) was that as the disciples spoke, their words became the native language of each person present. Two responses followed: amazement and mocking. Those who were amazed asked the question, what does this mean?
When hearers asked, “What does this mean?” Peter explained. He averred that promises of the prophet Joel had come to pass, that is, all who call on the Name of the Lord shall be saved and that God would pour out his Spirit on all people. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit and miracle of each person hearing in their own language confirms the words of Jesus that, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8 NLT).
Pentecost is the culmination of Jesus’ Ascension. The disciple’s view of Jesus being lifted to heaven on a cloud, disappearing from their sight is only half of the story. The other half is Jesus being enthroned as the Lord and Ruler of all things (Daniel 7:9-14). Hebrews 1:3 sums up the significance of the enthronement of Christ by saying, “When he had cleansed us from our sins, he sat down in the place of honor at the right hand of the majestic God in heaven” (Hebrew 1:3 NLT).
Reflection: The Pentecost tongues of fire and the speaking forth the might works of God are the proclamation of the Church: our sins are purged and the Holy Spirit is poured on all people! It is what we are called to live in Ordinary Time.
Bishop Gregory Ortiz
Rector, Cathedral of Christ the King
Bishop, Diocese of the Northeast
Charismatic Episcopal Church