You are cordially invited to a birthday party.
Where: Your Parish
Why: To Celebrate the Church’s Birthday
Are you confused by this invitation? Did you know that the feast of Pentecost is often referred to as the birthday of the Church? It is called that because Pentecost is when the apostles went out among the people and began spreading Jesus’ message, thus establishing the beginning of the Church.
Pentecost (Greek for “50th day”) is celebrated by Christians 50 days after Easter, and marks the day that the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles while they were cowering and hiding behind locked doors following Jesus’ resurrection. After receiving the power and gifts of the Holy Spirit, the apostles immediately went out and preached Jesus’ message to everyone—even those who spoke other languages.
Actually, Pentecost was originally a Jewish feast that concluded the 50 days of Passover and celebrated the end of the barley harvest, plus the beginning of the wheat harvest. The Jewish people at Pentecost also celebrate the gift of the law to Moses at Mt. Sinai.
Symbols of Pentecost
The symbols of Pentecost are wind, fire and a dove.
The first symbol—wind—is taken from the noise the apostles heard as the Spirit descended upon them (Acts 2:2). After the wind, flames appeared and rested upon the heads of each of the apostles (Acts 2:3).
A dove serves as a symbol of the Holy Spirit. There is no mention of a dove in Acts, but we associate a dove with the Holy Spirit because of the story about Jesus’ baptism: “After Jesus was baptized, he came up from the water and behold, the heavens were opened [for him], and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove [and] coming upon him” (Matthew 3:16).
Pentecost is probably one of the most important days on the Church calendar, but it often gets overlooked. Here are some ways that your family can help celebrate this very important day:
a) Because Pentecost is the birthday of the Church, celebrate it just as you would any other birthday in your home—break out the cake and ice cream. Rather than singing “Happy Birthday,” recite a prayer for Pentecost. Most prayer books contain special prayers for this special day.
b) Wear something red. The color of the vestments worn by priests on Pentecost is red, to symbolize the love of the Holy Spirit, or the tongues of fire that appeared over the heads of the apostles on Pentecost. And don’t just stop at wearing red. Use a red tablecloth for dinner, eat off red paper plates, eat red foods, etc. See how many ways you can incorporate the color red in your celebration.
c)Read aloud the story of Pentecost in the second chapter of Acts.
So come, let us wish the Church a happy birthday on this Pentecost.