What every Christian should understand about the great Feast of Pentecost

… the Jewish Feast of Pentecost—which literally means “Fifty”, taken from the fifty days counted after Passover—was the Jewish liturgical celebration of the Giving of the Law at Sinai.  If one makes a careful count of the passing of time in the Book of Exodus, one discovers that the Sinai theophany (appearance of God) occurs exactly fifty days after the Israelites departed from Egypt.  So, Pentecost was not only an agricultural festival celebrating the end of the harvest, but also a sacred historical memorial of the day of the establishment of the Old Covenant.

This parallel and its significance is missed by modern readers, but not by ancient Jewish readers of Acts!  At Sinai the Law was given in a fearsome storm, and on tablets of stone.  At Pentecost, there is a “peaceful storm” of the Spirit (the rushing wind, the lightning-like tongues of flame) and the giving of the Law on the Heart.

As St. Thomas says in his treatment of the Old Law in the Summa, “the law of the New Covenant is nothing other than the Holy Spirit.”  The Spirit is the Law written on the heart promised with the New Covenant…

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