Have you ever noticed the lack of regal pagentry in American Protestant churches? I understand and agree with the fear of symbolism becoming empty tradition, but I wish we wouldn’t throw the baby out with the bath water. I’m aware that there are plenty of both Catholic and Protestant churches who use beautiful symbolism to celebrate different holy days. But this lovely practice has never been part of the tapestry of my spiritual formation. In case you have recently joined my journey toward epiphany, I’ve been intrigued by the idea of a liturgical calander. It’s been interesting as a non-denominational evangelical dare I say Pentacostal, to explore what the church fathers thought as important rembrances throughout our year. Pentacost is no exception.
Pentacost is generally recognized as the time when the believers in Christ met in the Upper Room, (historically thought to be the same room as the Last Supper), to wait for the promise of the infilling of the Holy Spirit. After the Ascension, Jesus had promised that He would not leave His followers alone, but would send a Comforter. The disciples gathered in the Upper Room to wait for the promised Comforter.
The Holy Spirit Comes at Pentecost
1 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues[a] as the Spirit enabled them.
This was a very pivotal, and historical moment for the early Church. After this portion of Scripture, Peter preached to the people in Jerusalem and many came to believe in Jesus as the Son of God that day.
My quest was to find out how the church has continued to memorialize this date throughout history.
- To the Western Church, (as opposed to the Eastern Orthodox Church), Pentacost is considered the Birthday of the Church.
- Western Churches (both the Catholic Church and many Protestant denominations) use the color red to symbolize this holy day.
- Eastern Churches use the color green.
- Red flowers are often brought into the church to celebrate a newness of life.
- The early Church used this date as the most common Baptismal date on the Church calendar.
- The dove is also used as a symbol.
- In Italy rose petals are often tossed over the congregants from the balconies.
- In some more casual Protestant churches red balloons are dropped as a celebration for the birth of the church.
- The Scriptures are often read in several languages in order to commemorate the disciples speaking with other tongues.
I find it ironic that most Pentacostal churches do not celebrate Pentacost, seeing that the doctrines which define them as different from others are foundationally based on that first Pentacost. I would personally love to see a movement towards implementing some of the ancient and meaningful practices into our services.
What are your thoughts? Does your church celebrate Pentacost? Can you share ways in which they do?