Pentecost: From Law to Grace

Christ is Risen!

The Feast of Pentecost occurs this year on Sunday, June 11, fifty days following Pascha. We know the Scriptural reference from Acts, Chapter Two, when on the Day of Pentecost, the Apostles were gathered in Jerusalem and the Holy Spirit descended upon them as “tongues of fire” and they began to speak in various tongues. Peter preached about Christ to a great crowd, each of whom heard him in their own native dialect. On that day some 3,000 people were baptized and thus, the Church began.

What we may not know is that Pentecost was not originally a Christian Feast. It was a Jewish Feast. It was celebrated 50 days following Pesach (Passover). Its Hebrew name was Shavu’ot or “Festival of Weeks”. It had an agricultural and religious significance. On the one hand, it was a harvest feast of first fruits (of wheat or corn) with a harvest thanksgiving offering brought to the Temple. Religiously, it commemorated the giving of the Torah or the Law to Moses on Mt. Sinai following their release from bondage in Egypt. Jews from the entire region would gather in Jerusalem to offer their harvest first fruits and read all night from the Torah. Judaism still celebrates this Festival, counting daily from the second day of Pesach to the Eve of Shavu’ot, 49 days or seven full weeks, reminding them of the important connection between the two feasts. Passover freed them from physical bondage, but the giving of Torah redeemed them spiritually from bondage to idolatry and immorality. Pentecost is the Hellenized word for the Feast referring to 50 days. It was and is for Jews a thanksgiving harvest feast of first fruits and a celebration of the giving of Torah and the Law.

Is Jesus the Messiah, the Christ, the Savior? We of course believe that He is. Please note then, for those who believe He is, how the feasts of Pesach (Pascha or Passover) and Shavu’ot (Pentecost) are transformed or rather fulfilled in Christ. The Passover lamb sacrifice in Egypt of old, the marking of the doorposts of the Hebrew homes with the lamb’s blood and the Angel of Death passing over them allowed Jews freedom after 400 years of bondage. Christ, the Messiah, becomes the New Paschal Lamb. His Perfect blood sacrifice, death on the cross and His glorious three day resurrection allows His followers to be set free from eternal bondage to sin with a Passover to life eternal, following death.

The Feast of Shavu’ot (Pentecost), in Christ and by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, is transformed or rather fulfilled from a celebratory feast of the giving of Torah or the Law to a feast celebrating the receiving of the Grace of the Holy Spirit; from a harvest feast of thanksgiving, in offering the harvest’s first fruits, to a feast celebrating the fruits and gifts of the Holy Spirit. Through Christ – The Messiah – The Savior and in the Holy Spirit, the People of the Law are transformed or fulfilled to and in the People of Grace.

In the words of St. Paul, “…the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith, but after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. For you are sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you who have been baptized in Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:24-29).

May you and I, through the Love of God the Father and the Power of the Holy Spirit, put on Christ, become heirs according to the promise and live as People of Grace.

Christ is Risen!
Fr. Lou