Pentecost was an ancient feast before it became Christianity's birthday.


In the Acts of the Apostle’s account of Pentecost Sunday as a prelude to the Apostles’ bursting out on the scene we are given a list of the peoples gathered in Jerusalem. There were Parthians, Medes, Elamites and twelve other groups of strangers crowding the streets. Their reason for congregating came from Pentecost’s having been an important double pre-Christian anniversary.

First, for farming people in the Middle East, Pentecost was their Thanksgiving. From 5000 B.C. they had been planting their wheat at the last full moon of Autumn, and making unleavened cakes with the first grains on the night of the first full moon of spring. Then, their experience had been that they needed to work from sunup to sundown for fifty day to gather in the harvest before the coming of heavy rains. On the fiftieth day, on Pentecost, they ate their full, and they had their weddings. The Cretans and Arabs who heard the Apostles that day might have been celebrating their harvest.

For the Jews Pentecost was the anniversary of their becoming the Chosen People. 1250 years before their ancestors in Egypt had eaten their first Passover meal fifty days before. Then, the had walked speedily down to the base of the Sinai peninsula, and on that fiftieth day after their first Passover they had become the Chosen People by entering into their covenant with God.

When the Holy Spirit descended on the Apostles exactly fifty days after the Last Supper they burst out into the street, speaking with such convincing eloquence, that they astounded the people with their revelation of what the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit had accomplished in their midst down through history. They declared that they were indeed privileged to be told of God’s wonderful works. I have always like the sound of that phrase in Latin where the wonderful works of God becomes the Magnalia Dei.    


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