1660, stained glass, Throne of St. Peter, St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican
Bernini’s Dove of the Holy Spirit stained glass in St. Peter’s Basilica illustrates the Holy Spirit as our source of light.

Decoding Pentecost

Pentecost, the beginning and birthday of the Church, is an annual feast that closes out the Easter season 50 days after the resurrection is celebrated. The word Pentecost has its root in the Greek word that means five. (One can see where the word pentagon comes from.) It is also a word that was used in Judaism during the time of Jesus, as Pentecost was the word used for the harvest festival Shavuot.

The Christian celebration has its origins in the Acts of the Apostles, in Acts 2:1-12, where the early disciples experienced the filling of the Holy Spirit promised by Jesus. Acts also states, “While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. ‘This,’ he said, ‘is what you have heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now’” (Acts 1:4-5).

This Third Person of the Holy Trinity is known by a variety of names in Christian theology; one name is Paraclete. The name Paraclete means educator, intercessor, teacher, helper and comforter. These names describe how the Holy Spirit is present in the Church and is present with God’s people. The Spirit is sent to remind us of all that Jesus said and taught. The Holy Spirit makes everything possible. These meanings highlight why meditating on the feast of Pentecost is an important thing to do. With the whole Church throughout the ages, we may rightfully pray, “Come, Holy Spirit. Come!”

The following articles will help you understand more completely and practically why the Church celebrates Pentecost Sunday:

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