Hymn: Veni Creator Spiritus
Come, O Creator Spirit, come,
and make within our heart thy home;
to us thy grace celestial give,
who of thy breathing move and live.
O Comforter, that name is thine,
of God most high the gift divine:
the well of life, the fire of love,
our souls’ anointing from above.
Thou dost appear in sev’n-fold dower,
the sign of God’s almighty power,
the Father’s promise, making rich
with saving truth our earthly speech.
Our senses with thy light inflame;
our hearts to heav’nly love reclaim;
our bodies’ poor infirmity
with strength perpetual fortify.
Our mortal foe afar repel;
grant us henceforth in peace to dwell;
and so to us, with thee for guide,
no ill shall come, no harm betide.
May we by thee the Father learn,
and know the Son, and thee discern,
who art of both, and thus adore
in perfect faith forevermore. Amen.
The Old Testament Pentecost: the Feast of Weeks or Firstfruits
This was one of the three great feasts of the year at which all Israelite males were to appear.
“Three times thou shalt keep a feast unto me in the year. Thou shalt keep the feast of unleavened bread: (thou shalt eat unleavened bread seven days, as I commanded thee, in the time appointed of the month Abib; for in it thou camest out from Egypt: and none shall appear before me empty:) And the feast of harvest, the firstfruits of thy labours, which thou hast sown in the field: and the feast of ingathering, which is in the end of the year, when thou hast gathered in thy labours out of the field. Three times in the year all thy males shall appear before the Lord God.” (Exodus 23:14-17)
“And thou shalt observe the feast of weeks, of the firstfruits of wheat harvest, and the feast of ingathering at the year’s end. Thrice in the year shall all your men children appear before the Lord God, the God of Israel. For I will cast out the nations before thee, and enlarge thy borders: neither shall any man desire thy land, when thou shalt go up to appear before the Lord thy God thrice in the year.” (Exodus 34:22-24)
“Also in the day of the firstfruits, when ye bring a new meat offering unto the Lord, after your weeks be out, ye shall have an holy convocation; ye shall do no servile work: But ye shall offer the burnt offering for a sweet savour unto the Lord; two young bullocks, one ram, seven lambs of the first year; And their meat offering of flour mingled with oil, three tenth deals unto one bullock, two tenth deals unto one ram, A several tenth deal unto one lamb, throughout the seven lambs; And one kid of the goats, to make an atonement for you. Ye shall offer them beside the continual burnt offering, and his meat offering, (they shall be unto you without blemish) and their drink offerings.” (Numbers 28:26-31)
From Smith’s Bible Dictionary: “This feast was in memory of the giving of the Law. It was the end of the harvest, as the second day of the Passover was the first, and it was the end of the Week of Weeks—seven times seven days. Canaan was in a peculiar sense God’s land, and as He manifests his care in providing, He should be honored by those who are partakers of his bounty. In spiritual matters it was also the harvest season—the end of Christ’s personal ministry on earth.”
“Seven weeks shalt thou number unto thee: begin to number the seven weeks from such time as thou beginnest to put the sickle to the corn. And thou shalt keep the feast of weeks unto the Lord thy God with a tribute of a freewill offering of thine hand, which thou shalt give unto the Lord thy God, according as the Lord thy God hath blessed thee: And thou shalt rejoice before the Lord thy God, thou, and thy son, and thy daughter, and thy manservant, and thy maidservant, and the Levite that is within thy gates, and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, that are among you, in the place which the Lord thy God hath chosen to place his name there. And thou shalt remember that thou wast a bondman in Egypt: and thou shalt observe and do these statutes.” (Deuteronomy 16:9-12)
The significance of firstfruits: “Holiness involves the total consecration of man’s life and labor to God’s service. This was symbolized in the giving of one day in seven, and a tithe of all produce, and also in the dedication of the firstfruits of agriculture. This principle covers not only crops (Exod. 23:19; Lev. 23:10; Deut. 26:1ff) but also animals (Exod. 34:19-20; Deut. 15:19) and even children (Exod. 13:2; Num. 8:16ff). By dedicating the first of everything to God, the man of the Old Covenant publicly acknowledged that all he had was from God, and he thanked him for his blessings (1 Chr. 29:14).”
(Gordon J. Wenham, The Book of Leviticus, Eerdmans 1979, page 271)
Themes of the Old Testament Pentecost: thankfulness to God for his provision and for his conquering might, remembrance of our own helplessness and our dependence on God, commitment to obey God’s law, consecration of ourselves and our goods to God’s service.
The New Testament Pentecost: the Coming of the Holy Spirit
Christ’s promise of the Holy Spirit or paraclete (advocate). The Holy Spirit will dwell in the believer forever. By the power of God believers are able to obey his commandments.
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father. And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it. If ye love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also. At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you. He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him…But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:12-21, 26-27)
On the day of Pentecost following Christ’s ascension the Holy Spirit manifested itself in a miraculous manner.
“And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” (Acts 2:1-4)
The fruits of the Spirit by which Christians should be known are set forth throughout the New Testament. The concise list of these fruits given by St. Paul in Galatians 5 is especially valuable for Christian contemplation and practice.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.” (Galatians 5:22-26)
Themes of the New Testament Pentecost: the fulfillment of Christ’s promise, the mighty increase of the Church under the New Covenant, the presence of the Holy Spirit in our own souls and bodies which enables us to love God and obey his law.