How to Celebrate Pentecost at Home, by Fr. Anthony Coniaris
Since Pentecost is the birthday of the Church it can be celebrated in the home by baking a special birthday cake for the Church and serving it as dessert. One candle may be used to represent each 100 years of the Church’s existence. Nineteen or twenty candles may be used. The whole family can sing “Happy Birthday” to the Church and blow the candles out together.
The opportunity may be used to read and discuss the Scripture lessons that are read in Church on Pentecost (Acts 2:1-11 and John 7:37-52, 8:12).
A discussion can follow on what the Church is. It is the Body of Christ through which He continues to be present in the world today: to teach us, forgive us, guide us, bless us, strengthen us. After Christ ascended into heaven, He established the Church to carry on His work. When we go to Church on Sunday, we are going to Christ. When we support the Church with our offerings, we are supporting Christ. When we listen to the Church, we are listening to Christ.
The Body of Christ
The Church is called the Body of Christ because just as Christ once used His physical Body to do the work of God in the world, so now He uses His mystical Body, the Church.
On the long high front wall of a church that was just being completed, an artist started painting a picture of Christ as the Good Shepherd. Only the firm brush strokes outlining the head could be seen. A stranger stopped in and asked curiously, “When will the picture be finished?”
A workman replied. ”That picture? It is finished.”
“Finished?” repeated the startled visitor. “Why all it is, is the outline of a head. Most of it is still missing – the eyes, mouth, arms, legs and feet – the whole body is missing!”
“You won’t see that on a wall,” the workman replied. “The body of Christ is the congregation of people who will be worshipping in this church. The Body of Christ is the Church.”
St. Paul writes, “He (Christ) is the head of the body, the Church” (Col. 1:18). St. [John] Chrysostom said, “Christ is the head of the body, but what can the head do without hands, without feet, without eyes, without ears, without a mouth?”
As the Head of the Body, Christ issues orders to the various members. He is the brain; the One in Whom all the fullness of God dwells bodily. What a privilege God bestows on us when He ties us so intimately with Christ and with each other as to make us constitute one Body with Him as the Head. When we meditate on this analogy, we come to look at prayer as the members of the Body (the Church) reporting for duty to the Head (Christ). He continues to be present in the world today.
The Holy Spirit
Finally, parents may explain that Pentecost is the day on which the Holy Spirit came to us in His fullness. On this day we kneel three times during the church service as we pray together with the priest that the same Holy Spirit Who filled the first apostles with God’s presence and power may fill us today with the same power that we may experience the reality of God in our lives.
The Holy Spirit must be constantly attained. He should be received daily. To achieve this, it is necessary to wait prayerfully and expectantly for Him as the apostles did before Pentecost. “All these with one accord devoted themselves to prayer…” (Acts 1:14). This kind of prayerful waiting is essential if we are to receive the Holy Spirit.
St. Seraphim of Sarov describes the whole purpose of the Christian life as nothing more than the receiving of the Holy Spirit: “Prayer, fasting, vigils and all other Christian acts, however good they may be in themselves, certainly do not constitute the aim of our Christian life; they are but the indispensable means of attaining that aim. For the true aim of the Christian life is the acquisition of the Holy Spirit of God. As for fasts, vigils, prayer and almsgiving, and other good works done in the name of Christ, they are only the means of acquiring the Holy Spirit of God… [Ed. Note: emphasis mine]. Prayer is always possible for everyone, rich and poor, noble and simple, strong and weak, healthy and suffering, righteous and sinful. Great is the power of prayer; most of all does it bring the Spirit of God and easiest of all is it to exercise.”
It has been said that St. Seraphim in the above words sums up the whole spiritual tradition of the Eastern Church. For, what is greater than to possess the Holy Spirit? And what is easier than the means by which He comes to us: prayer?
No prayer is complete unless it includes a petition to the Holy Spirit that He come to dwell in us. Thus, through prayer every day becomes Pentecost.
This would be a good time to teach your children one of the best known and most used prayers of the Eastern Church. Almost every one of our church services begins with it. It is a prayer to the Holy Spirit and should be used often in your family devotions:
O Heavenly King, the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, Who are everywhere present and fills all things, Treasury of good gifts and Giver of Life, come and abide in us, and cleanse us of all impurity, and save our souls, 0 Good One.
[Ed. Note: In the Scriptures, Jesus tells His Disciples that He must leave so that the Spirit, the Comforter, can come. This is lived out in the Eastern Church in the following way: this prayer is not recited between the Feasts of Pascha and Pentecost as we await the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost.]
Copies of Making God Real in the Orthodox Christian Home can be purchased online.