Category Archives: Pentecost

On Pentecost and Missions

We often remember Pentecost as being the day of the descent of the Holy Spirit. We remember the tongues of fire and wonder what that experience would have been like. Perhaps we also limit the important events of that day to the room in which the Apostles were waiting as Christ had commanded them to do when he ascended into heaven. We may not think about the rest of that day, or what happened beyond the room.

Pentecost is considered to be the birthday of the Church. After all, it was on this day that the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles. That, in itself, was an event worth celebrating, but it did not just happen for the Apostles’ edification. When He descended upon the Apostles, the Holy Spirit enabled them to fulfill Christ’s command to go into all the world and preach the Gospel. We don’t always ponder that connection when we celebrate Pentecost.

So, let’s take a moment to think together about what actually happened that day. When the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles, He gave them the ability to speak in other languages. And they didn’t just sit there and marvel at what had happened. Instead, they immediately put that ability to use. They left their secluded room and went right out into the world around them where many people of different languages were gathered. The Apostles began to speak to these others, sharing with them the good news about Christ. Miraculously, because of the Holy Spirit, they could speak to these strangers in their very own languages! And what happened? Acts 2 tells us that more than 3,000 people became part of the Church on that day! That’s quite a birthday celebration!

The icon of Pentecost shows the Apostles in their room, with the tongues of fire over their heads, but it also speaks to the rest of the day’s events. If you look closely at the icon, you see an old crowned man at the bottom of the icon. He is called “Cosmos” and represents the people of the world. He’s crowned to show that people rule over the world itself, but he’s in the dark to remind us of the darkness that everyone is in without Christ. Cosmos is holding 12 scrolls, representing the 12 Apostles who left the safety and blessing of the Spirit-filled upper room to carry the good news of the Gospel to all corners of the world. So, right there in the festal icon, we see this link between Pentecost and missions.

So, as we celebrate Pentecost, let us not just focus on the coming of the Holy Spirit. Yes, His descent upon the Apostles (and on us) is hugely important! We need Him just to breathe and live! But let’s also remember that Cosmos is still in the dark, whether “he” is down the hall, across the street, in another corner of our country, or another part of the world. Just like the Apostles, we must take this gift of the Holy Spirit, which we were given at baptism and Chrismation, and share the good news of the Gospel to every part of the world where we find ourselves. We don’t need to fear not being able to speak the right words: the Holy Spirit will provide (Luke 12:12), just as He did for the Apostles on Pentecost.

Let us celebrate the birthday of the Church with joy. But let us also continue to do our part to accomplish the purpose for Pentecost: that is, to fulfill Christ’s command of going into all the world and preaching the Gospel! May the holy Apostles intercede for us as we go.

Blessed art Thou, O Christ our God,

who hast revealed the fishermen as most wise

by sending down upon them the Holy Spirit:

through them Thou didst draw the world into Thy net.

O Lover of Man, Glory to Thee

(Troparion for the Feast of Pentecost).

Here are some quotes from Church fathers and leaders that will help us continue to think about Pentecost and missions, as well as some suggested further reading that may be helpful as you and your family prepare to fulfill Christ’s command:

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“The ultimate goal of the descent of the Holy Spirit is the sanctification of creation.” ~ St. Athanasius the Great

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“‘Unthinkable as it is to have a church without liturgical life, it would be even more unthinkable to have a church without missionary life.’ ~ Archbishop Anastasios of Albania, the foremost Orthodox missiologist and missionary in the world today.” http://www.schwebster.org/about-orthodoxy/our-orthodox-faith-and-the-centrality-of-missions

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What is it like to begin a mission in another part of the world? Read this article about one in Kenya, and please remember these brothers and sisters of ours in your prayers: https://www.ocmc.org/resources/view_article.aspx?ArticleId=2411

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“I don’t believe in the salvation of anyone who is not concerned with the salvation of the other.”

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“The leader of the Church ought to care not only for the Church that has been entrusted to him by the Spirit, but also for the entire Church existing throughout the world.” ~ St. John Chrysostom

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Study the lives of these saints who were missionaries: St. Gregory the Illuminator of Armenia, St. Nina of Georgia, St. Froumentios of Ethiopia, St. Patrick of Ireland, Sts. Cyril and Methodios among the Slavic peoples, St. Steven of Perm in the northern regions of Russia, St. Makarios Glukarov to the Altai Mountains of Siberia, St. Kosmas Aitolos among the peoples of northern Greece and Albania, St. Herman of Alaska, St. Innocent the Enlightener of America and Eastern Siberia, St. Nicholas of Japan

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“…All Christians must understand that missions is not simply a part of our Orthodox identity, but is of the Church’s essence, it is who we are. We can never separate missions into a “nice activity” or one person’s specific calling. Missions is as central to our Church’s nature and self understanding as worship itself!” Challenge yourself by reading this and more in this article: http://www.schwebster.org/about-orthodoxy/our-orthodox-faith-and-the-centrality-of-missions

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Together as a family, you may wish to complete this “inventory” that can help you think about missions in the context of your family. How did your family come to the Faith? How is your family sharing the Faith with others? https://oca.org/yya-files/TheHub/StudyGuides/CatechicalThemes/MissionsAppealWorksheet.pdf

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As your family searches for opportunities to obey Christ’s missionary commands, check with your priest for local opportunities. Where can you serve and share Christ’s love?

Opportunities for missions within the United States include:

Young Orthodox Christian American Mission Adventures, serving among Native Americans: http://www.yocama.com/

International Orthodox Christian Charities coordinates parishes willing to open their doors to the needy during disasters; sends volunteers and supplies to rehabilitate homes in natural disaster areas; and more, right here  in the USA: https://iocc.org/where-we-work/united-states

Opportunities for mission work outside of the USA include:

International Orthodox Christian Charities offers humanitarian relief as well as sustainable development opportunities to people of all ages, all around the world. Find out where they are at work (and where/how they need your help) here: https://iocc.org/where-we-work

Orthodox Christian Mission Center is working around the world, through both long-term and short-term missionaries, as well as a variety of mission projects. Take a look at all that they’re doing and how you can help, here: https://www.ocmc.org/

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If your family is unable to go on any missions assignment at the moment, you can still support missions. Here are 25 creative ways to do so: https://iocc.org/ways-to-give/25-ways-give

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On Light and the Feast of Pentecost

A brief look at light (and, thus, at Pentecost):

The early story on light/the Light : The universe as we know it began with a simple command: “Let there be light!” Even before there was earth, there was light. God has provided light to our world through the sun ever since He created the earth. In His great mercy, God extended His kindness beyond our physical need for light and has provided The Light of the World! Even before there were humans, there was the Light of the World. God sent us His Son, Jesus Christ,  to illuminate our souls as well!

Significant appearances of light/the Light: Light continues to appear as the earth rotates around its axis, around the sun. The Light of Christ continues on, as well: every Pascha the Holy Fire comes to the tomb of Christ in Jerusalem. At our Paschal Feast every year, we sing, “Come, receive the light,” lighting candles as we celebrate Christ’s triumph over death. It makes sense to celebrate Christ, the Light of the World, and His Resurrection (His moment of greatest triumph) with light. Actually, Christ appearing as light is nothing new: remember the Transfiguration, when “His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light.” (Matt. 17:2)? What about when He appeared to Saul of Tarsus who was travelling to Damascus when “suddenly a light (bright enough to blind him) shone around him from heaven” (Acts 9:3) and the voice of Christ spoke to him? The Light of Christ truly illumines all, and has been doing so since He was on earth.

Pentecost and light/the Light: How fitting, then, that when Christ, the Light of the World, ascended to His Father and sent help (the Holy Spirit) to His followers, the event was marked with the appearance of flames of fire over their heads! As He illumined the heads of the disciples, the Holy Spirit also enabled them to speak in other languages, thus illuminating the souls of all around through the truths about Christ that were spoken (in a way that the visiting foreigners could understand)!

The presence of light/the Light in our lives: God continues to send His Holy Spirit to light the world. At our chrismation, we received “the seal of the Holy Spirit,” and He is at work to illumine our hearts, and through us, the hearts of those around us, as well. May we all be enlightened, both physically (by the sun) and spiritually (by the Son) as we continue to live the Faith! And may we live in such a way that all those around us (especially our children) are brightened by the light of Christ in our lives through the grace of the Holy Spirit. Indeed, “the Light of Christ illumines all,” and that illumination is greatly assisted when we cooperate with Christ and His Spirit’s work in our life!

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Thanks to tinyurl.com/phsnt93 and Jesse Brandow for this illustration!

With these thoughts in mind, work together on a simple craft to help your family think about light/the Light and Pentecost as you celebrate the feast. Create individual “flames of fire” (with led candles and tissue paper) as suggested here: http://www.inkandglue.com/home/tissue-paper-votive-flame. Place one “flaming votive” at each person’s place at the dinner table, to remind you that the Light of Christ illumines each of us! During the meal, talk about light, The Light, and Pentecost. Brainstorm ideas of ways to live illumined lives, showing those around you that the Holy Spirit is living within you!

 

Here are a few other ideas of ways to learn about and celebrate the Feast of Pentecost:


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Here is a blog post we wrote a few years ago about the Feast of Pentecost. It offers ideas of fun ways to celebrate the feast with children. It features links to great ways to learn about Pentecost, as well as ideas for celebrating the feast with our children!

https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2014/06/04/preparing-for-pentecost/


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Print this pop-up centerpiece about Pentecost to add to your dining room table’s festal decor: http://www.antiochian.org/sites/default/files/assets/asset_manager/aa2cecccf942072bd7af8ff6fbfcd23b.pdf


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Watch this short animation of Pentecost: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IqG_lvZhU-A

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Find coloring pages about Pentecost here: http://www.biblekids.eu/new_testament/pentecost/pentecost_index.html, and a memory verse coloring page here: http://www.biblekids.eu/bible_memory_verse_2016/pentecost.html

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Here’s a printable word search about Pentecost: http://www.biblekids.eu/bible_word_search_puzzles/bible_word_search_puzzles/pentecost_wordsearch_puzzle.JPG

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This helpful blog offers ways to live our Faith in an illumined manner: http://illumination-learning.com/main/2016/05/25/igniting-the-spark-living-our-orthodox-christian-faith/

 

Teaching Children About the Feast of Pentecost

50 days after Great and Holy Pascha, we celebrate another wonderful feast: the feast of Pentecost. This important feast commemorates the fulfillment of Christ’s promise to his disciples: the descent of the Holy Spirit on them. The apostles were then able to go out into Jerusalem and speak to all the people there about Christ: even though they did not speak the people’s languages! Because of that, this day is often called “the birthday of the Church.” This feast is special for several reasons, including the reaffirmation of the Holy Trinity as an entity and the opportunity that Christians have to be unify the world, “undoing” of the separation of languages that happened at Babel, and beginning the Church.

Here are some resources to help us learn more about Pentecost, so that we can teach our Sunday Church School children about it, as well:

  1. In order to better teach about Pentecost, we must first understand the feast. These articles are very helpful, and full of information about Pentecost. Check them out at http://www.goarch.org/special/listen_learn_share/pentecost/index_html ; http://oca.org/orthodoxy/the-orthodox-faith/worship/the-church-year/pentecost-the-descent-of-the-holy-spirit; and http://holycrossoca.org/newslet/0906.html. Fr. Alexander Schmemann has written about the feast, as well: read his article at http://holycrossoca.org/newslet/0906.html. Praxis magazine devoted an entire issue to Pentecost, which can serve as a resource, as well: http://www.goarch.org/archdiocese/departments/religioused/praxis/Praxis-1999-1-1/issuu
  2. “The Feast of Pentecost” from the 12 Feasts series by Mother Melania, is a children’s book about the feast that can be found at http://www.orthodoxmarketplace.com/childrens-products/9782888212433-mother-melania-pentecost-the-feast-of-twelve-great-feasts-for-children.html. Dr. Chrissi Hart reads the book in her podcast “Under the Grapevine,” at http://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/grapevine/readings_from_under_the_grapevine_program_7. Either way would be one way to introduce our Sunday Church School students to the feast. Or, we can simply describe it in our own words, at their level.
  3. The icon of the feast is a wonderful teaching tool. We can study the icon of the feast http://iconreader.wordpress.com/2011/06/14/pentecost-icon-as-an-icon-of-the-church/ and read about it at http://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/livingfaith/the_feast_of_pentecost. Fr. Noah Buschelli has recorded a child-friendly explanation of the icon at http://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/letthechildren/pentecost.
  4. We can help our students learn about the feast and to celebrate it in a variety of ways. Here are a few sources for lesson ideas. For example, there is a preK-2 lesson with suggested activities at http://www.antiochian.org/1120536370. There are lesson ideas and a printable companion sheet for older students at http://orthodoxeducation.blogspot.com/2009/05/preparing-for-pentecost.html.

Since Pentecost is one of the 12 Great Feasts of the Church, let us do what we can to help our students learn about it, and then celebrate the feast together!