Pentecost

8 Jun

(reposted from 2012)

Today is Pentecost, the day that commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit and the divine enlightenment of the gathered Apostles, when they were suddenly given the wisdom to speak all languages and that marks the institutional beginning of their mission and the Church generally.  What the New Testament doesn’t say is that the Apostles were gathered to celebrate Shavuos (lit. “weeks”), “Shvuyes” in deep Yiddish pronunciation, the day God gave the Torah to the people of Israel.   The Christian feast of a gift of divine wisdom was based on the existing Jewish feast of a gift of divine wisdom, and Shavuos comes seven weeks after the first day of Passover, like Pentecost comes seven weeks after Easter – it means “fiftieth” – a name Greek-speaking Hellenistic Jews were already using for the holiday long before the Christian era.

I always loved the reading for Pentecost from the Book of Acts (below in English, the original Greek and the Vulgate Latin).  In its endless list of peoples I always felt a kind of Pax Romana yearning for unity that still moves me, especially when it’s properly recited.  It’s a bit of a sad holiday too because it marks the official end of the Easter cycle (like it does the end of the Counting of the Omer in Judaism).  Significantly, the day before is one of the several “soul Saturdays” on which the Orthodox Church commemorates the dead; old folk beliefs held that the dead dwell among us from the Resurrection until the eve of Pentecost and then depart again.  And tonight at vespers, people kneel for the first time since Holy Week; the joy of the Easter season prohibits any kneeling or prostrations during the seven weeks it lasts.  It’s the return to Real from Divine time.  And from the period of renewal where death has been defeated to real existence again where it still holds full sway.  Until the promise of the next Resurrection.

I couldn’t find a recitation of the actual second chapter.  But here’s a beautiful Arabic recitation of the first chapter of Acts — which uses the same phrasing as a Greek reading would — where Christ preps the Apostles on what’s in store for them and, like a good rabbi, tells them not to ask too many questions:

 

And here’s Giotto’s depiction of the event from the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua, which probably contains more spectacular art than any other equivalent square footage of space in the world:

And El Greco’s more violent, Cretan-Spanish imagining (it became a tradition to include the Virgin in the scene, especially in the West, though Acts doesn’t mention her):

2 And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.

And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.

And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.

And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven.

Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language.

And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans?

And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born?

Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia,

10 Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes,

11 Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God.

12 And they were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, What meaneth this?

 

2 Καὶ ἐν τῷ συμπληροῦσθαι τὴν ἡμέραν τῆς πεντηκοστῆς ἦσαν πάντες ὁμοῦ ἐπὶ τὸ αὐτό, καὶ ἐγένετο ἄφνω ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ ἦχος ὥσπερ φερομένης πνοῆς βιαίας καὶ ἐπλήρωσεν ὅλον τὸν οἶκον οὗ ἦσαν καθήμενοι, καὶ ὤφθησαν αὐτοῖς διαμεριζόμεναι γλῶσσαι ὡσεὶ πυρός, καὶ ἐκάθισεν ἐφ’ ἕνα ἕκαστον αὐτῶν, καὶ ἐπλήσθησαν πάντες πνεύματος ἁγίου, καὶ ἤρξαντο λαλεῖν ἑτέραις γλώσσαις καθὼς τὸ πνεῦμα ἐδίδου ἀποφθέγγεσθαι αὐτοῖς.

Ἦσαν δὲ ἐν Ἰερουσαλὴμ κατοικοῦντες Ἰουδαῖοι, ἄνδρες εὐλαβεῖς ἀπὸ παντὸς ἔθνους τῶν ὑπὸ τὸν οὐρανόν· γενομένης δὲ τῆς φωνῆς ταύτης συνῆλθε τὸ πλῆθος καὶ συνεχύθη, ὅτι [ἤκουον εἷς ἕκαστος τῇ ἰδίᾳ διαλέκτῳ λαλούντων αὐτῶν· ἐξίσταντο δὲ καὶ ἐθαύμαζον λέγοντες· Οὐχ ἰδοὺ πάντες οὗτοί εἰσιν οἱ λαλοῦντες Γαλιλαῖοι; καὶ πῶς ἡμεῖς ἀκούομεν ἕκαστος τῇ ἰδίᾳ διαλέκτῳ ἡμῶν ἐν ᾗ ἐγεννήθημεν; Πάρθοι καὶ Μῆδοι καὶ Ἐλαμῖται, καὶ οἱ κατοικοῦντες τὴν Μεσοποταμίαν, Ἰουδαίαν τε καὶ Καππαδοκίαν, Πόντον καὶ τὴν Ἀσίαν, 10 Φρυγίαν τε καὶ Παμφυλίαν, Αἴγυπτον καὶ τὰ μέρη τῆς Λιβύης τῆς κατὰ Κυρήνην, καὶ οἱ ἐπιδημοῦντες Ῥωμαῖοι, 11 Ἰουδαῖοί τε καὶ προσήλυτοι, Κρῆτες καὶ Ἄραβες, ἀκούομεν λαλούντων αὐτῶν ταῖς ἡμετέραις γλώσσαις τὰ μεγαλεῖα τοῦ θεοῦ. 12 ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηπόρουν, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες· Τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;

 

2 et cum conplerentur dies pentecostes erant omnes pariter in eodem loco

et factus est repente de caelo sonus tamquam advenientis spiritus vehementis et replevit totam domum ubi erant sedentes

et apparuerunt illis dispertitae linguae tamquam ignis seditque supra singulos eorum

et repleti sunt omnes Spiritu Sancto et coeperunt loqui aliis linguis prout Spiritus Sanctus dabat eloqui illis

erant autem in Hierusalem habitantes Iudaei viri religiosi ex omni natione quae sub caelo sunt

facta autem hac voce convenit multitudo et mente confusa est quoniam audiebat unusquisque lingua sua illos loquentes

stupebant autem omnes et mirabantur dicentes nonne omnes ecce isti qui loquuntur Galilaei sunt

et quomodo nos audivimus unusquisque lingua nostra in qua nati sumus

Parthi et Medi et Elamitae et qui habitant Mesopotamiam et Iudaeam et Cappadociam Pontum et Asiam

10 Frygiam et Pamphiliam Aegyptum et partes Lybiae quae est circa Cyrenen et advenae romani

11 Iudaei quoque et proselyti Cretes et Arabes audivimus loquentes eos nostris linguis magnalia Dei

12 stupebant autem omnes et mirabantur ad invicem dicentes quidnam hoc vult esse.

* See next post

 

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

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