On the far side of every cross we find the newness of life in the Holy Spirit, that new life which will reach its fulfillment in the resurrection.St. Pope John Paul II
Table of Contents
- Pentecost in the Bible – Acts
- Jewish Roots and Pentecost in the Old Testament
- Pentecost Bible Readings
- Pentecost Prayers
- Related Reading
The Solemnity of Pentecost recognizes the sometimes overlooked third member of the Holy Trinity, the Holy Spirit.
Celebrating the Holy Spirit’s role in launching the Church, Pentecost takes place on the seventh Sunday (50th day) after Easter.
It follows the Ascension, where Jesus ascended into heaven and was no longer physically present with his disciples.
Before he left the disciples, Jesus told them, “And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age,” (Matthew 28:20).
Through the Holy Spirit’s descent as a mighty wind, sparking tongues of fire above them, the disciples recognized Jesus was indeed with them, baptizing them with the Holy Spirit and strengthening their mission.
Pentecost in the Bible – Acts of the Apostles
We learn of Pentecost in the Christian tradition in Acts of the Apostles.
In the first chapter of Acts, Jesus alludes to sending the Holy Spirit onto his disciples:
While meeting with them, he enjoined them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for “the promise of the Father about which you have heard me speak; for John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the holy Spirit.” (Acts 1:4-5)
Jesus went on to tell them in the “Great Commission,” in his final words before ascending to heaven, “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
The next chapter of Acts contains the fulfillment of Jesus’s words. As the disciples were gathered in the upper room with others (a group of about 120 total), the Holy Spirit descended on them.
“And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.” (Acts 2:2-4)
Those gathered saw this as their baptism “with the Holy Spirit,” as Jesus had promised and recognized this as their commissioning to be Jesus’s witnesses “to the ends of the earth.” This is why Pentecost is known as the birth of the Church.
Pentecost in the Old Testament
The Christian celebration of Pentecost has roots in Jewish customs, as it is related to the Jewish feast of Shavuot.
Shavuot, also known as Feast of the Weeks (and sometimes referred to in other ways) celebrates Moses receiving the Torah at Mt. Sinai. It’s celebrated 50 days (seven weeks) after Passover, hence the name “Feast of the Weeks.”
It also celebrates the harvest, as we learn in Exodus:
“You shall keep the feast of Weeks with the first fruits of the wheat harvest, likewise, the feast of the Ingathering at the close of the year.” (Exodus 34:22)
When we hear “Pentecost” these days, we think of events we learn about in the Acts of the Apostles. When Acts of the Apostles mentions Jesus’s followers being gathered for Pentecost, it means they were together in Jerusalem for the “Jewish” Pentecost.
Pentecost Bible Readings and Scripture
Pentecost liturgies usually spotlight similar portions of Scripture each year.
The account of the Pentecost in the Acts of the Apostles normally represents the first reading. The Gospel often comes from John and features passages in which Jesus addresses the disciples about the Holy Spirit.
The USCCB contains full daily readings for Pentecost and each day.
Prayers for Pentecost
Pentecost is an important time for prayer and for listening to how God calls and commissions us, as he did the disciples.
In his 2021 Pentecost homily, Pope Francis implored people to “open your hearts to the Holy Spirit.”
Holy Spirit prayers are popular during Pentecost, and can be as simple as repeating “Come, Holy Spirit” quietly in your head whenever time allows during the day.
Also, consider the following short prayers:
- “Heavenly Father, on this Pentecost day, let me feel the Holy Spirit wash over me, guiding me in Your ways and helping me to hear Your call.”
- “May the Holy Spirit strengthen me, protect me, encourage me and guide me today and all days.”
- “God, quiet my heart and head so I can be mindful of the gift of the Holy Spirit in my life. In the voices of others, may I discern Your voice. In the actions of others, may I recognize Your love. In moments of stress, may I feel the peace that Your spirit brings. Amen.”
Frequently Asked Questions about Pentecost
Pentecost celebrates the Holy Spirit coming descending upon the Apostles, as Jesus said it would. Many recognize Pentecost as the birth of the Church.
Red is the official Church color for Pentecost, symbolizing the fire of the Holy Spirit.
Pentecost falls 50 days (seven weeks) after Easter and 10 days after the Ascension.
Pentecost always falls 50 days after Easter. In 2023, Pentecost will take place on Sunday, May 28.