Are You Ready for Pentecost yet?
In the United States, we are used to hearing questions like, “Are you ready for Christmas yet?” or “Are you ready for Easter?” The assumption is not that we have been spending time in spiritual preparation for these wonderful feasts, but rather that we’ve done our shopping, wrapped our gifts, mailed surprises to our loved ones, sent the Christmas cards, and so on and on and on. There always seems to be one more thing that must be done to assure a perfect holiday experience for ourselves and our families. Spiritual preparation often takes a back seat in the excitement of getting ready for a holiday. Yet, if the holiday is all about the material gifts and the perfect meal and the family all being on best behavior, it is bound to be a disappointing experience. No matter how wonderful the toy looked in the catalog, or the meal looked in the recipe book, they cannot fill the empty spot in our hearts that is longing for the Divine. And certainly, no one can control the behavior of children, family or friends who may not always act in kind, loving, patient ways. If celebrating the feasts requires that all be perfect, the celebration will certainly not be joyful.
Pentecost is a different sort of holiday. It isn’t even seen as a holiday by the culture as a whole. We never see “Pentecost Sale” in the newspaper or on TV, for example. We don’t have special dishes we prepare for Pentecost. No candies are stacked by the check-out stands to tempt the unwary. No cards or wrapping paper displays vie for our attention. It is almost a secret festival – an un-event.
This year, Pentecost comes very early, because Easter was very early. Pentecost comes on the 50th day after Easter every year. It was originally a Jewish feast. It became a Christian feast because that was the day the Holy Spirit came to the Apostles and others who had been hiding out in the upper room, afraid of what would happen to them because they had been followers of Jesus. With the coming of the Holy Spirit, the fear that had bound them was dispelled. They went out and witnessed boldly to what they had seen and heard. That Jesus who had been crucified had been raised from the dead and, in Peter’s words, “… God has made him both Lord and Messiah…” (Acts 2:36)
Pentecost is the birthday of the Christian Church. If the Holy Spirit had not come, the followers of Jesus would never have found the courage to go out into the world and share the Good News. But as He promised, Jesus asked the Father and the Father sent the Advocate, the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit of Love to us. And so, two thousand years later, we can celebrate Pentecost, our birthday.
So how do we celebrate? Certainly with liturgy. Make time in your day to join with the larger community for Mass. Make a joyful noise, sing praise. Invite the Spirit to come into your life in a special way. Join often in that ancient prayer, “Come Holy Spirit,” both in the days leading up to Pentecost and on the feast itself. Be as open as you can be to the coming of the Spirit and you will receive wondrous gifts. Then, take time to enjoy nature. Spend time with your family and friends. Light a candle for dinner – maybe a red one. Use a table cloth – red any one? Bake a birthday cake. Wear a touch of red in your clothing or jewelry. Every reminder of the coming of the Spirit in “tongues as of fire” (Acts 2:3) is good.
And this year, when Pentecost and Mother’s Day fall on the same day in the United States, celebrate the love of your mother, and remember that although God is neither masculine nor feminine, the Holy Spirit of Love is often described in terms of qualities seen as feminine in our culture – loving, tender, wise, compassionate, patient.
So … are you ready for Pentecost yet?