You are cordially invited to a birthday party!
Where: Your Parish
Why: To Celebrate the Church’s Birthday
Are you confused by this invitation? Did you know that the feast of Pentecost is often referred to as the birthday of the Church? It is called that because Pentecost is when the apostles went out among the people and began spreading Jesus’ message, thus establishing the beginning of the Church.
Pentecost (Greek for 50th day) is celebrated by Christians 50 days after Easter, and marks the day that the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles while they were cowering and hiding behind locked doors following Jesus’ resurrection. After receiving the power and gifts of the Holy Spirit, the apostles immediately went out and preached Jesus’ message to everyone—even those who spoke other languages.
Actually, Pentecost was originally a Jewish feast that concluded the 50 days of Passover and celebrated the end of the barley harvest, plus the beginning of the wheat harvest. The Jewish people at Pentecost also celebrate the gift of the law to Moses at Mt. Sinai.
Symbols of Pentecost
The symbols of Pentecost are wind, fire and a dove.
The first symbol—wind—is taken from the noise the apostles heard as the Spirit descended upon them (Acts 2:2).
After the wind, flames appeared and rested upon the heads of each of the apostles (Acts 2:3).
A dove serves as a symbol of the Holy Spirit. There is no mention of a dove in Acts, but we associate a dove with the Holy Spirit because of the story about Jesus’ baptism: “After Jesus was baptized, he came up from the water and behold, the heavens were opened [for him], and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove [and] coming upon him” (Matthew 3:16).
Pentecost is probably one of the most important days on the Church calendar, but it often gets overlooked. Here are some ways that your family can help celebrate this very important day:
- Because Pentecost is the birthday of the Church, celebrate it just as you would any other birthday in your home—break out the cake and ice cream. Rather than singing “Happy Birthday,” recite a prayer for Pentecost. Most prayer books contain special prayers for this special day.
- Wear something red. The color of the vestments worn by priests on Pentecost is red, to symbolize the love of the Holy Spirit, or the tongues of fire that appeared over the heads of the apostles on Pentecost. And don’t just stop at wearing red. Use a red tablecloth for dinner, eat off red paper plates, eat red foods, etc. See how many ways you can incorporate the color red in your celebration.
- Read aloud the story of Pentecost in the second chapter of Acts.
- For more projects that you and your family can do for Pentecost, check out the book Before and After Easter: Activities and Ideas for Lent to Pentecost by Debbie Trafton O’Neal.
For Teens: Reaching Out to Others
Before the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles on Pentecost, they were afraid to go out and preach Jesus’ message. Sometimes you too may feel insecure about talking with people you don’t know or have much in common with.
After receiving the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the apostles found themselves able to converse with everyone despite their different languages. Now, you may not literally speak a different language than someone, but you may still discover that there is a world of difference between the two of you, such as interests, social groups, religions, ages, etc.
Make an effort to try to overcome those differences. Try to converse with people you have previously avoided or not understood.
For instance, if you are into sports, take some time to understand or get to know someone involved in the music or art department. Or take the time to ask someone you know of a different faith to explain his or her beliefs to you. Just remember to be respectful of your differences, and celebrate the things you have in common.
For Kids: Let’s Go Fly a Kite
As we mentioned, wind is one of the symbols of Pentecost. So what better way to experience the wind than to fly a kite? You can buy one or make your own with instructions from a book or off the Internet. Launching a kite can be difficult, so ask an adult to help you get your kite up in the air.
Or, if you would rather tackle a smaller project, make a pinwheel and watch what the wind does. Again, you can find instructions for how to make pinwheels in books at the library, in magazines or on the Internet.
If you make your own kite or pinwheel, decorate it with the other symbols of Pentecost, such as red flames or a dove. You can either draw these, make them with construction paper or cut pictures out of magazines and glue them on. (Make sure you have permission to cut up any magazines.)