The Acts of the Apostles (2:1-41) describe the disciples gathered together on the 50th day after Easter. They receive the Holy Spirit that enables them to talk in different languages. Peter summons the crowds to conversion and baptism; three thousand are baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins and Christian community comes into existence.
Christians first did not give any particular importance to the 50th day, other than concluding the Easter season. It was the Church in Eastern Syria and Palestine that in the 3rd / 4th century focused on the Ascension of Christ on this day. Thus, Christians in Jerusalem would celebrate both Ascension and Pentecost on the 50th day. A morning liturgy (9am) would commemorate the sending of the Holy Spirit, followed by an afternoon gathering at the Church of Ascension (on the Mount of Olives) and reading of the text about the ascension of Jesus. Gradually, towards the end of the 4th century, the focus went on the sending of the Holy Spirit. An extra octave was added, extending thus the Easter season by one week.
Further development stressed the parallel between Easter and Pentecost (beginning and end of the Easter season): besides Octave, Pentecost also received a vigil, similar to the Easter Vigil (with readings, etc.). The Pentecost Vigil also became the second major date for baptism of catechumens.
COMMUNION WITH CHRIST
Pentecost means fulfillment of the 5o days, marked by joy from the resurrection and the new life. These 50 days are time of a particular closeness with the Lord, who continues his presence with his disciples. But the tone is also set for the new mode of his presence, a new stage on the way of the people of God. After Jesus’ departure, the Holy Spirit will always allow the Christians to have communion with him.
SENDING OF THE SPIRIT
John’s gospel describes the sending of the Spirit not as an isolated event, but as a new way for the Risen Christ to be present with his disciples: those who believe in him will participate on his passage through suffering and death to life.
The story of Jesus is not over with his ascension into heaven and with the descent of the Holy Spirit, but it continues in the people of God and in every singular believer. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, they make the story of Jesus continue in various moments and situations of human life. The Spirit enables future generations to participate in the same story.
Pentecost is not the end, it is just the beginning and everybody’s turn now.