PENTECOST STAINED GLASS
A stained glass window at St. Mary Church in Luxemburg, Wis., depicts the Holy Spirit descending upon the Apostles at Pentecost. The feast of Pentecost, often referred to as the birthday of the church, is celebrated on May 28 this year. (OSV News photo/Sam Lucero)
I can’t remember the last time I heard anyone say, “Happy Pentecost.”
We are so eager to send glad tidings at Christmas and Easter, exchanging gifts or food or flowers, but shouldn’t Pentecost be given its due? Shouldn’t we be extending warm wishes—I’d even say, fiery ones!—to mark the feast we consider the “birthday of the Church”?
I think so. We should send cards! Exchange gifts! Make this feast truly festive, for it commemorates an extraordinary moment in salvation history—a moment that’s never really ended.
Scripture never says, “After the tongues of fire landed, they burned out.” There is never a point where we hear that it is over. Considered that way, this beautiful truth reveals itself: Pentecost doesn’t have an expiration date. As a priest friend likes to say, it is still going on.
That alone is worth celebrating. But how? What is a fitting way to spread the joy of the Holy Spirit burning in our hearts?
To pick one obvious way: Strike a match and light a candle. Watch the flame burn and dance. That is how the Spirit works—and the very image of a flickering fire should inspire us to dance, as well.
Ways to Celebrate:
Call a friend. Embrace a loved one. Remind them, every one of them, that they are loved by God. In case they have forgotten—or put it all on a back burner (so to speak)—share the good news that Christ has risen. Hope has prevailed! Death doesn’t have the last word! And don’t let anyone forget it.
This day, give to a charity. Volunteer at a soup kitchen. Take a lonely neighbor to lunch. Pay for a stranger’s meal at a neighborhood diner.
And then sit down, inhale—maybe hearing a vague echo of that mighty wind that blew through the Upper Room—and take an inventory of profound gratitude.
Yes, give thanks! Make a list, check it twice. Thank God for the gift of the Holy Spirit—the Spirit that landed like fire 2,000 years ago and continues to singe our hearts and illuminate our Church.
The Spirit is astoundingly productive, but often shockingly quiet. He likes to whisper, nudge, coax, and prompt; you never hear him yell, which may be why so many of us don’t realize he’s in the room. A friend likes to refer to “The Sneaky Spirit,” and that’s an apt description.
It’s a good time to ask: How has the Spirit been at work in our lives? Have we listened for him lately? Have we found time for silence, to hear what he has to say? Take time this Pentecost to (as one of my favorite hymns puts it) “ponder anew what the Almighty can do.” What has he been doing in your life? You may be amazed to realize how much.
As we look back on the last two Sundays of the liturgical calendar, we see resurrection and mercy, life and renewal. Now, on Pentecost, we see inspiration—a spark catching fire. We see the affirmation of all that has come before. Here is light and fervor and hope.
Every birthday party, in a sense, encapsulates all of that, complete with candles and singing and wishes being made. But the Pentecost celebration is different. We don’t blow out the flame. As my priest friend reminds me, the fire keeps going.
And so do our hopes and aspirations for the lives we want to lead, and the faith we want to share and the Church—the body of Christ, we need to be. Pentecost is about beginnings, about possibility, about carrying the joy of Easter out of the Upper Room and into the world.
So, all things considered, maybe that’s the best way to celebrate this great feast: Make a wish! Ask the Holy Spirit to give us what we need to be the Christians we need to be, now, at a moment when it feels like the fire is about to sputter out.
Come, Holy Spirit, and enkindle in us the fire of your love! Then, let’s keep the fire going—and prayerfully work to make that wish come true. Happy Pentecost!
OSV News: Deacon Greg Kandra is an award-winning author and journalist, and creator of the blog “The Deacon’s Bench.” He serves in the Diocese of Brooklyn, New York