After the Saviour's ascent to heaven the eleven Apostles, the rest of the Disciples, the pious women who were accustocned to follow him from the begining, his most holy Mother the Virgin Mary and his brothers returned from the Mount of Olives to Jerusalem. Altogether they were about one hundred and twenty souls. When they had entered the house in which they lived, they went up to the upper room to await the coming of the Holy Spirit, according to the promise of their divine Master, continuing in prayer and supplication. About that time the election fell on Matthias who was counted among the eleven Apostles.
On a corresponding Sunday, which is the tenth day after the Ascension, and the fiftieth after the Passover, falling then on the thirteenth of May, about the third hour of the day, there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where the Apostles were sitting. And immediately there appeared to them cloven tongues like as of fire, and sat upon the head of each of them. And all those who were there were filled with the Holy Spirit, and they began to speak, not with the tongues of their ancestors, but with other tongues with which the Holy Spirit supplied them as He inspired them.
And by divine provision, there were gathered in Jerusalem for the feast great multitudes from about eighteen different nations and tongues, such as Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and others, who were all Jews by race and religion, but, because they had been born and brought up in various places among strange nations, they were dispersed from ancient times, and each was called after the place of his birth. When these heard the sound from heaven, descending, to where the Disciples of Christ were gathered, they all hastened thither to find out what had happened. And as each heard the Apostles speaking in his own language, they were all amazed and marvelled saying one to another, Behold are not all these which speak Galileans? And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born?
And there were others (perhaps the blind Scribes and Pharisees), who, because of their great wickedness and folly, mocked the miracle, saying that the Apostles were drunk.
Then Peter, standing with the Eleven, lifted up his voice and spake before the multitude, explaining that what had happened was not due to intoxication, but to the fulfilment of God's promise, speaking to Joel which says, And it shall come to pass in the last days I will pour of my spirit upon all flesh and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, etc. (Acts 2:2-28). Then he preached Jesus the Nazarene, explaining with many proofs that he was Christ the Lord whom the Jews crucified and whom God raised from the dead.
Many then were touched in their hearts because of his words, and, accepting them, were baptized. And on that day there were added to the faithful about three thousand souls. (Acts 1:12 to 2 :4).
This then is the object of the present Feast, namely, the coming of the Holy Spirit into the world, the fulfilment of the promise of Jesus Christ, and the completion of the undefiled Disciples' hope. It is the sequel and the conclusion of the Feasts of the great mystery of th divine Incarnation. On the day corresponding to this day of salvation, the day of Pentecost, the Saviour Apostles, who were formerly simple fishermen and illiterate, were suddenly instructed by the advent of the Holy Spirit, becoming possessed of the greatest wisdom and speaking plainly of heavenly doctrines. They became preachers of truth and teachers to the whole world. From that day they began the work of their great mission, the wonderful and delectable first-fruit of which was the conversion of three thousand souls an that very same day.
Some hold that the above mentioned upper room, which the Jews used to consider a place of worship and prayer, since it was designated for that purpose, was the same upper room in which the Savior delivered the divine Sacrament of the Eucharist. But others hold that it was in the house of John the Evangelist. Still others think it was in the house of Mary the mother of John, who was known as John Mark (Acts 12:12), where afterwards a church was built and named the Upper Church of the Apostles (mentioned in the 16th Sermon of St Cyril of Jerusalem). Again, there are others who say that it was one of the many upper rooms in the outer court of the Temple, which were open to people who were gathered in the he Temple, and prepared for those who cared to enter them. They cite as proof of their claim the words of St Luke, "And they were continually in the Temple, praising and blessing God" (Luke 24;53). Here the name of Mary the Mother of God is mention at this point for the last time in the New Testament.
The first day of Pentecost, always a Sunday, the Church dedicates primarily to the glory of the All-holy Trinity; hence this day is popularly known as Trinity Day. The second day is dedicated to the glory of the All-holy Spirit, and therefore it is known as Spirit Day.
In celebrating the Holy Spirit the Church begins with the usual Vespers service on Trinity Day. During this service three compunctionate sets of prayers written by Saint Basil the Great are read while the entire congregation kneels. In them we confess our sins before the Heavenly Father and, for the sake of the great sacrifice of His Son, we implore mercy. We also ask the Lord Jesus Christ to grant us the Divine Spirit, to the enlightenment and confirmation of our souls. Finally, we pray for our deceased, that the Lord might grant them repose in a place of light and refreshment.
Acts 2: 2-28
And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language. Then they were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another, 'Look, are not all these who speak Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born? Parthians and Medes and Elamites, those dwelling in Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya adjoining Cyrene, visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs; we hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God.' So they were all amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, "Whatever could this mean?" Others mocking said, "They are full of new wine." But Peter, standing up with the eleven, raised his voice and said to them, "Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and heed my words. For these are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: 'And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions, your old men shall dream dreams. And on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days; and they shall prophesy. I will show wonders in heaven above and signs in the earth beneath: blood and fire and vapor of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the coming of the great and notable day of the LORD. And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.' Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know; Him, being delivered by the determined counsel and foreknow-ledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it. For David says concerning Him: "I foresaw the LORD always before my face, for He is at my right hand, that I may not be shaken; therefore my heart rejoiced, and my tongue was glad; moreover my flesh will also rest in hope, because You will not leave my soul in Hades, nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption. You have made known to me the ways of life; you will make me full of joy in Your presence.''
As mentioned above, the Great Feast of Pentecost celebrates the Descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles, (as well as again manifesting the Holy Trinity, hence the Feast's other name - Trinity Day) and the second day of the feast is kept as a special feast of the Holy Spirit. The Gospel Reading for the Liturgy on the feast, begins, 'In the last day, that great day of the feast...' This refers, of course to the whole period of the Pentecost, the fifty days beginning at Pascha, but it is perhaps surprising that the last day, rather than the first is referred to as the 'great day of the feast'. This is because on this day, through sealing in the Holy Spirit, those great and ineffable mysteries celebrated on the preceding days are made our own. St John Chrysostom picks up this theme and says: 'Recently we celebrated the feast of the Cross, the Passion, the Resurrection, then the Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ to heaven. Today we have reached the very summit, the capital itself of the feasts, to the very maturing of the promise of the Lord.' Had it not been for the Gift that this feast bestows, all those other sacred events that we celebrate throughout the Church Year, would have been great and wondrous, but would have remained exterior to us. By the Holy Spirit they are made our own.
It is customary on this feast day to adorn the church building and one's home with tree branches and flowers and to stand in church holding flowers. This adornment of home and church with living plants is both a confession of the vivifying power of the life-creating Spirit and a dutiful consecration to Him of the first fruits of spring.
Troparion, in the Eighth Tone
Blessed art thou, O Christ our God, who hast revealed the fishermen as most wise, having sent upon them the Holy Spirit, and through them thou hast fished the universe, O Lord of mankind, glory to thee.
Kondakion, in the Eighth Tone
When the high One descend, confusing tongues, he divided the nations. And when he distributed the fiery tongues he called all to one unity. Wherefore, in unison we glorify the most Holy Spirit.
Koinonikon: Thy good Spirit shall lead me into the right land.