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FEAST DAY: 50 days after Easter and 10 days after the Feast of the Ascension
Icon: It is painted in the rich, bright colours of red and gold, indicating that this is an important occasion. At the top the 12 rays coming from the mandorla (semicircle shape) point directly at the Apostles, and the tongues of fire have descended on each of them, symbolising the descent of the Holy Spirit. The 12 tongues of fire symbolise the diversity of gifts given by the one Holy Spirit. Similarly, each of the twelve Apostles are seated together in a semicircle but in slightly different positions―there is unity and harmony, but not conformity. We are all given different gifts by the one Holy Spirit, yet each one of us is unique.
On the left, starting at the top is Peter, Matthew, Luke, and the other Apostles. On the right Paul, John, Mark, and the other Apostles. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are holding a Gospel, while the others are holding scrolls, indicating that even though they did not write scripture they have authority to proclaim the Gospel message to all nations.
Paul, Luke, and Mark were not one of the 12 Apostles, and Paul was not even present at Pentecost but because they were integral in preaching the Gospel, they are included in the icon to signify they were in unity and harmony with the others.
The head of the semicircle of Apostles is empty because it is the seat of Jesus Christ, who is invisible yet present. As He said before ascending into heaven, “Behold, I am with you even to the end of the age.”
The building in the background represents the ancient belief that you could attain divinity and become a god by building a tower into heaven. Pentecost dispels this belief, through the Holy Spirit who has been sent to unite all people in the new spiritual building of the Church and through the Church we can reach heaven, no matter our race or tongue (language).
The royal figure below the Apostles against a dark background, is Cosmos. He is symbolic of the people of all nations, living in a world without faith, of darkness and sin. The white cloth in his hands contain the twelve scrolls of the Apostles, who through their teaching of the Gospels brought light to the world.
The Feast of Pentecost is always celebrated on a Sunday. It celebrates the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles and the fulfilment of God’s creation plan to dwell with us forever. The Holy Spirit was sent down upon the Apostles, so they could proclaim the message of God to all nations and baptise all people in the name of the Holy Trinity.
When the Apostles received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost there was tremendous change―before they were afraid, but now they preached confidently. They spoke in tongues (different languages), they healed the sick, they gave their lives rather than deny Jesus. The Holy Spirit is also present in us and enriches our faith. When we were chrismated (confirmed) at our baptism we were anointed with Jesus and received the gift of the Holy Spirit. However, to truly realise the greatness of this gift, we need to be mindful of the Holy Spirit’s presence in our life. It is our responsibility to pray so that our hearts open to the presence of the Spirit, and are open to His guidance, and we act as He leads.
Nearly every Church service and prayer in our Byzantine Rite will begin with the chant, “O Heavenly King.” The presence of the Holy Spirit is called on whenever we pray or do anything as Church, because the Holy Spirit is the soul of the Body of Christ. The Church is brought together and sustained in unity, truth and love through the presence and work of the Holy Spirit.
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