The Seventh Week of the Holy Fifties: The descent of the Holy Spirit
The readings of the seventh week revolve around the Lord’s resurrection and the descent of the Holy Spirit. The readings of the feast of the Pentecost summarize the readings of the seventh week of the Holy Fifties.
The Feast of the Pentecost:
The feast of the Pentecost is one of the three major Jewish feasts and it is known as the Feast of the Weeks. In Hebrew it is known as, “Shavuot” or Festival of Weeks. This day is also the day of the Pentecost, and it takes place on the 6th day of the Hebrew month of Sivan. It is the fiftieth day of the feast of the First fruits, corresponding to the 16th of April. The feast of the First fruits is the third day of Passover (April 14th). This is when the Lord rose from the dead, “But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.” (1 Corinthians 15:20) He became the first fruit as heaven received His Divine body as a first fruit off all who would inherit salvation, “But each one in his own order: Christ the first fruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming.” (1 Corinthians 15:23) “And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the Lord; seven days you must eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall have a holy convocation; you shall do no customary work on it. But you shall offer an offering made by fire to the Lord for seven days. The seventh day shall be a holy convocation; you shall do no customary work on it.’ “And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘When you come into the land which I give to you, and reap its harvest, then you shall bring a sheaf of the first fruits of your harvest to the priest.” (Leviticus 23:6-10) The fiftieth day is the feast of the harvest when the harvest has ripened. In the spiritual sense, Christ meant that the harvest is the start of the service and the preaching, “Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comesthe harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields,for they are already white for harvest!And he who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, thatboth he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together.” (John 4:35-36) However, when Christ was about to ascend, “And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, “which,” He said, “you have heard from Me…” (Acts 1:4) “Andyou are witnesses of these things.Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the cityof Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.” (Luke 24:48-49)
On the fiftieth day, the day of the harvest, Christ sent them the Father’s promise as He promised them, by the descent of the Holy Spirit upon them. In this, He gave them the signal to the start of the spiritual harvest. Therefore, the church was established on that day by the strength of the Holy Spirit.
The fiftieth day in Jewish tradition is the festival of harvest, it is the commemoration of the day when Moses received the law from on top of Mount Sinai in two tablets of stone. On this same day, we commemorate the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples – they received the New Testament, not upon tablets of stone, but upon their hearts, “Then there appeared to them [a]divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them.” (Acts 2:3) “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them,” (Hebrews 10:16) As such, the prophecy of Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled, “ But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their [a]hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” (Jeremiah 31:33) And by this New Testament that they received in tongues of fire, the church was born.
The Pentecost Readings:
“Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, And uphold me by Your generous Spirit. Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, And sinners shall be converted to You. Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God, The God of my salvation, And my tongue shall sing aloud of Your righteousness.” (Psalm 51:12-14) The joy of salvation is the song of the Virgin St. Mary, which emanated from her after the descent of the Holy Spirit upon her, “And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.” (Luke 1:47) The church – the bride asks for the joy of salvation by the descent of the Holy Spirit.
Vespers Gospel, “On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said,out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” (John 7:37-39) Notice the relationship between Christ’s ascension and the believers receiving the Holy Spirit.
Matins, “You send forth Your Spirit, they are created; And You renew the face of the earth. May the glory of the Lord endure forever; May the Lord rejoice in His works.” (Psalm 104:30-31) “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.” (John 14:26) “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit Hetakes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bearmore fruit.” (John 15:1-2) The matins gospel clarifies the other angles of the work of the Holy Spirit, for He knows everything. The Holy Spirit is also the source of steadfastness in the vine that is Christ, for He transfers the vine juices to the branches to nourish them by Christ’s work of Salvation.
The Pauline Epistle, “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. For in fact the body is not one member but many.” (1 Corinthians 12:13-14) The Pauline epistle continues to speak about the oneness, which is the result of the spirit of oneness that we were quenched with during our steadfastness in the vine. Each person’s steadfastness in Christ leads us to become branches and members of the one body Who is Christ, by receiving the Holy Spirit in baptism.
The catholic epistle, “But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things.” (1 John 2:20) It completes the readings of the Pauline epistle about baptism by discussing the anointing from the Holy One and the work of the Holy Spirit.
The praxis, “And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them.” (Acts 2:2-3) The book of acts is the main source for the events of the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples. It harbours richness with the teachings about the Holy Spirit and His descent upon the disciples on the day of Pentecost. The book of Acts itself is considered to be the book of the works of the Holy Spirit through the disciples. The tongues of fire touched everyone and filled them with fire that ignited within their souls, and they now had fiery tongues that speak by the Holy Spirit. “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you. “However, when He,the Spirit of truth, has come,He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you.All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that Hewill take of Mine and declare it to you.” (John 16:13-15) The helper, the Holy Spirit is the general lawyer; He defends the truth because He is the Spirit of truth, and by the Holy Spirit we testify to Christ in truth. “And when He hascome, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:of sin, because they do not believe in Me; of righteousness,because I go to My Father and you see Me no more;of judgment, becausethe ruler of this world is judged.” (John 16:8-11)
The Prostration Prayer
The prostration prayer is a church tradition that the church practices on the feast of Pentecost at 3 pm. During the Holy Fifties, there is no prostration, and the synixarium is not read, because during this prayer, those who departed are commemorated, who were victorious by Christ’s resurrection and so He opened paradise for them.
On this same day, the Holy Spirit ascended upon the disciples, “Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them.” (Acts 2:3) For you have not come to the mountain that may be touched and that burned with fire, and to blackness and darkness and tempest, and the sound of a trumpet and the voice of words, so that those who heard it begged that the word should not be spoken to them anymore. (For they could not endure what was commanded: “And if so much as a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned [c]or shot with an arrow.” And so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I am exceedingly afraid and trembling.”) But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels…” (Hebrews 12:18-22)