ONE @ 50: Pentecost in the East

In honor of ONE magazine’s 50th-anniversary year, the CNEWA blog series, ONE @ 50: From the Vault, aims to revive and explore the wealth of articles published in ONE magazine throughout its history. As we look toward Pentecost this Sunday, learn more about the Eastern churches' understanding of this holy day in this article, originally published in Summer 1980.

Read an excerpt from “Pentecost in the East” below, then read the full story.

Eastern Christians have always had a special relationship to the Bible. After all, it was they — and their ancestors — who wrote it, under God’s inspiration. No wonder, then, that they have preserved an approach to the Holy Scripture that is uniquely their own. The Christian East especially finds the Old Testament teeming with images that prefigure or foreshadow persons, places and events that will come to fulfillment in the New Testament. This approach is called typology. An excellent example is the story of Pentecost as narrated by St. Luke in the Acts of the Apostles.

The Mystery Foreshadowed

To understand the meaning of Pentecost, one must first turn to the Old Testament. How does it prefigure the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the world? Among the Jewish forebears of Christianity, Pentecost (from the Greek word for ‘fiftieth’) was the feast day that occurred fifty days after Passover, which recalled the deliverance of God’s people by the sacrifice of the Paschal Lamb and the crossing of the Red Sea. Pentecost commemorated the giving of the Law by God to Moses on Mount Sinai. At the same time it was a festival of the first fruits. The very first crops that grew were sacrificed to God as a sign of hope in the harvest to come.

In typically Eastern fashion, St. Luke weaves his narrative of the Christian Pentecost with the themes that foreshadow it in the Hebrew Scriptures. In the New Testament, the sacrificial victim is the Spotless Lamb of God, Christ Himself, Who rises from the dead and delivers men from the bondage of sin in the waters of Baptism. Fifty days later, the descent of the Holy Spirit marks the giving of the New Law, the New Covenant sealed by God Himself. Even the first-fruits figure in the narrative of the Acts. The three thousand who were converted by St. Peter’s first sermon are a pledge of the harvest of believers to come.

Read more.

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