Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit… Act 2:3-4
Welcome. Our handout features the readings for Pentecost (June 5, 2022) in Year C of our Lectionary.
The text [Acts 2:1-21] startles us with a scene of almost unimaginable liveliness verging on chaos: sound like the rush of a mighty wind filled the whole house; tongues of fire appeared among the people; and as the crowd was filled with the Spirit of God, they spoke a cacophony of languages. Galileans, Parthians, Medes … a roll call of peoples all represented in the crush of humanity as the winds of God’s Spirit blew and the ecstatic fire spread.
Michael Jinkins in Feasting on the Word, Year C, Volume 2
Pay attention. Keep learning.
View or download the Handout for The Day of Pentecost, Year C including short biographies for Saint Barnabas and Melania the Elder. Also we will celebrate and explore our Book of Common Prayer that was first used on the Day of Pentecost in 1549. Over the centuries and throughout the world the Book of Common Prayer has been, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, revised, renewed, and revitalized to inspire our worship and faith.
Commentary by Hovak Najarian
The Pentecost, Oil on Canvas, c.1600, El Greco, 1541-1614
Domenikos Theotokopoulos, a Greek native of Crete, first studied Byzantine art with the intention of becoming an icon painter. Crete was a Venetian colony at that time and at about age twenty Domenikos went to Venice to study the paintings of masters such as Titian. Following his stay in Venice, he worked and taught in Rome and then moved to Spain where he became known simply as El Greco (The Greek). Spain became his home for the remainder of his life and by the time “The Pentecost” was painted for an Augustinian seminary in Madrid, his style was dramatically different from his earlier work. In this late style, El Greco’s paintings have elements of expressionism and often are described as having a sense of mystery.
In Acts of the Apostles an account is given of the day of Pentecost when the twelve apostles, as well as Mary and people of many nationalities were gathered in one place. All at once the sound of a mighty rushing wind came from heaven and filled the room: “And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” (Acts 2:2-4)
El Greco’s “Pentecost,” (now in the Prado Museum, Madrid) was painted to be an altarpiece. Its height above floor level would place the seminarians at the lower part of the painting and they would see the subject matter increase in complexity as their gaze moved upward toward Mary, the apostles, and the plumes of fire. A dove at the top of the painting represents the Holy Spirit; its wings are spread and the light that surrounds it is radiating downward over the gathering. The two men in the foreground at the bottom of a short flight of stairs have lifted their arms and are leaning back slightly in order to look at the dove. Mary (dressed in red and blue) is seated at the center of the painting with apostles gathered around her; two other women are included in the painting. The woman at Mary’s left shoulder is thought to be Mary Magdalene and the fourth person from the left side may be Martha. [Acts states that when the apostles prayed, they did so with “…women and Mary.”] El Greco also included himself in this painting. His face is second from the right; he is the man with a white beard who seems to be in deep thought and is not looking up toward the dove.
Although the term, “Expressionism,” did not come into use until the twentieth century, it is an apt term for El Greco’s late paintings. Expressionism is the result of an artist’s effort to project emotional intensity and inner feelings into a work. The figures in “The Pentecost” are not posing for a formal group portrait. They are an animated informal mix of people who in body language and facial expression are reacting individually, and yet they are part of the collective experience. They are responding with awe and excited emotional involvement as they take part in this miraculous event.
John 15:26 Jesus said to his disciples, “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf.
Commentary by Hovak Najarian
Post: from May 27,2012
The importance attributed to artists by scholars can be determined usually by how many of their works are projected onto a screen in an art history class. Lazzaro Bastiani’s work is seldom shown or discussed and often he is left out entirely from textbooks. A reason for this is that his contemporaries were the major artists of his time; the fame of Renaissance artists such as Botticelli, Raphael, Leonardo, Michelangelo, and Durer continue to overshadow Bastiani to this day. Bastiani did not work for the Medici in Florence or the pope in Rome; even in Venice where he lived, the artists of the Bellini family were more widely known. Yet, like a good journeyman, he was employed steadily and produced respectable work.
Before the early Renaissance, there was no separation of the arts but in the fifteenth century, painting came to be regarded as being of a higher order. Craft workers were erroneously thought to be occupied only with repetitious handwork whereas the arts of painting, sculpture, and architecture were recognized as having intellectual content. Although the weaving process was associated with the crafts, tapestries in effect were akin to painting and were admired. Artists such as Bastiani, were commissioned to make cartoons (full scale preparatory designs) that were reproduced in woven form. The creator of a cartoon, however, did not participate in the weaving process; a tapestry was made usually by a guild or a family of weavers
In Bastiani’s Pentecost, the fine wool, silk and silver threads make up a richness of texture that differs from the surface of an oil painting. The materials are different yet, in style, the Pentecost is in keeping with fifteenth century Venetian painting. Because contacts through trade had been going on with the Near East for many centuries, the rebirth of classicism during the Renaissance was not as strong in Venice as it was in Florence and Rome. The influence of Greek sculpture in works such as The Birth of Venus by Florentine artist Sandro Botticelli gives his painting a neat, uncluttered effect. Bastiani on the other hand, seems to be determined to fill all spaces with ornate details. In the tapestry, symbols of rebirth, resurrection, immortality, and purity are found in the form of such fauna as a hare, peacock, and stag; in flowers we are reminded of the transient nature of life and eternal life is symbolized by a palm tree. Unlike the setting described in the Book of Acts (2:1-21), Bastiani does not place the apostles in a room but instead he presents the scene as if it were an outdoor stage with Mary enthroned in the center. He places the apostles in two groups but does not place a tongue of fire resting above them individually as described by Luke. Bastiani gives us simply an overall reddish glow above their heads.
The placement of Mary on a throne (an image derived from Byzantine sources) in the center of the tapestry has made her the focus of attention. She is noted in the Book of Acts (1:14) as being in the upper room prior to Pentecost and she was there apparently during the event but Luke does not single her out as being a central figure. Instead, Bastiani’s placement of Mary seems to be a result of the extraordinary growth in the veneration of Mary that started in the early thirteenth century and continued through the Renaissance.
Like information on Bastiani himself, the original setting for the Pentecost tapestry is obscure. At the present time it is on the altar of Santa Maria della Salute (Basilica of St. Mary of Health) but the church had not been built at the time the tapestry was woven.
When preparing to weave a tapestry, strong parallel threads are stretched close to each other and tied onto a loom. These are the warp threads through which the weft – the threads that cross over and under them – are passed. If warp and weft are equal in size, color, and texture the fabric will be uniform throughout. When making a tapestry, however, a wide range of colors are used for the weft as the weavers follow an image that was designed by a painter. The result is like a painting except instead of pigments being placed on a woven piece of cloth (a canvas), the pigments are in the threads themselves and are an integral part of the fabric.
Spirit of life and of pow’r, // Now flow in us, fount of our being, // Light that enlightens us all, // Life that in all may abide.
In many churches, including Episcopal churches, the Day of Pentecost is a day to sing “Hail Thee, Festival Day” with joy and thanksgiving. The hymn is often used on Easter, the Feast of the Ascension, and Pentecost. Here is a version shared on Pentecost.
Want to know more about the hymn? Check out Hymnary.org for more on this hymn. See also, History of Hymns curated by Discipleship Ministries of the United Methodist Church.
Do you have a favorite “Pentecost Hymn”? Let us know in the Comment section.
Genesis 11:1-9 | The story of Babel and legacy of our diversity Psalm 34:11-18 | “Come … listen.” God’s invitation to conversation Acts 2:1-12 | The outpouring of the Spirit, the gift of understanding Luke 24:13-25 | Conversations with the Risen Jesus on the road
To walk humbly with God means to walk as people speaking with one another and with the Lord, always attentive to what we hear. And so we begin our celebration of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity by reflecting on scripture passages which speak of the essential practice of conversation. 2013-WPCU-Readings-and-Prayers
Prayer on Day One
Jesus Christ, we proclaim with joy our common identity in you, and we thank you for inviting us into a dialogue of love with you. Open our hearts to share more perfectly in your prayer to the Father that we may be one, so that as we journey together we may draw closer to each other. Give us the courage to bear witness to the truth together, and may our conversations embrace those who perpetuate disunity. Send your Spirit to empower us to challenge situations where dignity and compassion are lacking in our societies, nations, and the world. God of life, lead us to justice and peace. Amen
Continuing in the breath, wind, and fire of Pentecost here is the meditation of one of my favorite bishops. Brian Prior is the Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Minnesota. You’ll want to read the whole post, of course, but here is how it starts:
It is illusive…but ever present.
Many expect to experience it only as a lighting bolt while missing the still small voice. There are those who believe it is always manifested in a radical, almost “other- worldly” way, while the ‘everyday-ness’ goes unnoticed. Others have no expectations while the truly miraculous goes unacknowledged. Some assume that it is brought forth by their own volition all the while it is unquestionably a gift.
Yet once you have had a moment, an experience, an awareness or an openness to its movement in your life…
They were all filled with the Holy Spirit
and began to speak in other languages as the Spirit enabled them to speak. from Acts 2:1-11 (a reading appointed for Pentecost)
Other languages. Real languages. The disciples, who spoke Aramaic (and with an accent) suddenly were able to speak in other people’s languages. The true miracle and gift of Pentecost is not ecstatic prayer, but conveying love by bridging differences, by reaching out to the Other. Whatever separates us is the place where the miracle of Pentecost happens.
Again I encourage you to take a look at the meditation offered by Steve Garnaas-Holmes on his blog Unfolding Light. Read the meditation with your own experiences of the Holy Spirit (gift of your Baptism) and the prayers of the Church that the Spirit give you an “inquiring and discerning heart, the courage to will and to persevere, a spirit to know and to love you, and the gift of joy and wonder in all [God’s] works.” (Prayer for the (newly) baptized, adapted)
Let the miracle of Pentecost emerge from your daily comings and goings, your work and play, your busy-ness and rest.
Now it is after sunset (in my patch of California). On the Eve of Pentecost I share with you this presentation of the hymn “Come, Gracious Spirit.” Enjoy (more than once) as you prepare for (or celebrate) Pentecost.
So you know: “A Christian hymn of prayer to the Holy Spirit written by Simon Browne, 1720. Sung in the video by the Altar of Praise Chorale.” [YouTube caption]