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Fifty Days since the Resurrection


O God, on this day You once taught the hearts of Your faithful people by sending them the light of Your Holy Spirit. Grant us in our day by the same Spirit to have a right understanding in all things and evermore to rejoice in His holy consolation; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.



An Overview

Pentecost is a most curious holiday in the life of the Church. Its name literally translates to "Fifty Days," which is to say "Fifty Days" since the Resurrection. But the festival originally began in the Old Testament Church, when the "Feast of Weeks" (Shavuot) was celebrated about fifty days after Passover.

How beautifully mysterious, that our Lord chose to send His Son into the womb of the Virgin Mary around Passover (March 25), and that Jesus first taught in the temple during Passover (Luke 2:41-52), and that Jesus taught about the Bread from heaven during Passover (John 6), and that Jesus died during the Passover celebration. All of this shows us that the true meaning of Passover is deliverance, not only from Egypt by the teaching of Moses, the spreading of blood, and the eating of meat, but more importantly deliverance from the Egypt of Sin by the teaching of a Greater Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15-19), the drinking of blood, and the eating of flesh.

Christ changes everything, and so if Christ reinvents Passover into Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday, so too the Holy Spirit reinvents Shavuot into the Christian Pentecost.


Artwork: St. Peter Preaching in the Presence of Saint Mark, Fra Angelico. Italian, 15th century. From the Museum of San Marco.


The Old Testament

Genesis 11:1-9

  • v. 2 - Shinar, probably a city in modern-day Iraq (Bablyonia in the Old Testament). Note that people are migrating (literally: journeying) from the east, that is, somewhere east of modern day Iraq/Kuwait

  •  v. 4 "lest we be dispersed," the people seem to know that they will spread over the entire earth, and thus they want to make sure that their descendants remember them by constructing a giant memorial.

  • v. 5-6 - the LORD (YHWH) can move and see. He explicitly mentions that a unified people has no limit to their technological advances.

  • v. 7 - "Let us," more early evidence for the later-revealed truth that the LORD exists as multiple persons (Father, Son, Holy Ghost).

  • v. 7-9 - Not only is this the origin of multiple languages, it is the true explanation of how humans came to be present in all corners of the earth. This is not a folk tale, but a real, historical account of how things came to be.

Translation Notes

  • v. 9 - Babel: from a Hebrew root (B•B•L) that can mean multiple things. While it is obvious that we should read this as "confuse," it may be worth mentioning that the root can also mean "fodder," or "to give fodder [to animals]" or most curiously, snail (shablul in Hebrew)

The Epistle

Acts 2:1-41

  • Unlike most Sundays, on Pentecost, the theme, mood, and general focus of the day is not found in the Gospel reading.

  • The lectionary appoints verses 1-21 as the reading for Pentecost, but I think it's always a good thing to expand the reading. We get to hear all of Saint Peter's sermon as well as its effects.

  • v. 1 - Pentecost, Fifty Days since Passover (called "Shavuot" in Hebrew, see Leviticus 23:15-21). In modern Judaism (the religion that grew out of the destruction of the temple and the rejection of Jesus as the messiah), Shavuot commemorates the giving of the Law to Moses on Sinai. It is unclear if this was part of the practice in the first century

  • v. 2-3 - the sights and sounds of Pentecost sound like an apocalyptic vision: mighty rushing wind and tongues of fire resting on everyone.

  • v. 4 - The Spirit undoes the confusion and scattering of Babel by removing the language barriers of those gathered "in one place" (v.1).

  • v. 2-13 - No one seems to understand what's going on.

Peter's Sermon 

  • v. 21 Peter's sermon begins by rebuking the accusation of drunkenness, and proving that this miraculous sign is not insanity, but was indeed promised by the prophet Joel.

  • v. 22-28 Once Peter has the attention of the crowd, he recounts the historical death of Jesus, which was carried out by the hands of the Jews. Again, Peter proves that this was a fulfillment of Scripture by quoting Psalm 16

  • v. 29-35 David proves that the resurrection of Christ was foreseen in the Old Testament by expounding Psalm 110.

  • v. 36 - Peter "drives the knife in" by re-stating that this same Christ, spoken of by King David, was killed by "your hands"

  • v. 37 - the true miracle of Pentecost, indeed of any Christian sermon, is that people hear and believe. The crowds don't say "how dare you talk to me that way!" or "you're not as nice as the last preacher we heard!" No, they were cut to the heart and asked their newfound Pastor for guidance, who leads them only into repentance and Baptism.

  • v. 41 - three thousand people were added to the number of Christians that day.

  • Though we will not read verse 42, it is worth committing to memory, to remind yourself every day what it means to live your life as a baptized Christian: devote yourselves to true doctrine, to the prayers, to the fellowship (gathering together), and to the breaking of the bread in the Lord's Supper. 

The Holy Gospel

John 14:23-31

  • Since the Fourth Sunday of Easter, the Sunday Gospels have remained in the upper room with Jesus on the night He was betrayed. His "farewell discourse" focuses much on the Holy Spirit, so it makes sense that the Church would read passages from that sermon in the weeks leading up to Pentecost. This is the final sunday with a reading from the Upper Room. We should read this passage with the disciples on that most holy of nights, but so too we should read it as Christians on this side of Pentecost who understand what it means that "The Helper" has brought us the peace of Christ.

Translation Notes

  • n/a

Poetry Used in the Liturgy of Reminiscere

  • Psalm 68- The opening words of the Introit are from Wisdom 1:7 (one of the books of the Apocrypha), which are then paired seamlessly with those of Psalm 68. The entirety of Psalm 68 is about the victory that the Lord has exercised over his enemies, which brings about singing and rejoicing. This sentiment is echoed in the first Pentecost, when God triumphs over the nations who rejected Him, and even His own people who chose tradition over Faith.

  • Veni Creator Spiritus (Come, Holy Ghost, Creator Blest) by Rabanus Maurus - This is part of a collection of ancient hymns called "Sequence Hymns" that were meant to replace the typical sung portions of the psalms between readings. While Sequence Hymns have largely fallen into disuse among Christians, this is a beautiful confession of the Holy Ghost and the gifts He brings and is appropriate at anytime during the short, seven day Season of Pentecost

  • Psalm 104- Psalm 104 praises God for His creation, and though we only sing a small portion of it in the liturgy, the entire Psalm should be invoked in our minds: praising God for all He has made, and confessing that the Holy Spirit fills it all.

Artwork: Pentecost, from Old and New TestamentsAugustin Hirschvogel. German, 1548. From the Metropolitan Museum of Art.


Further Reading & Listening

  • Pastor Benson's sermon from Pentecost 2022 (adapted from a sermon by Bl. Martin Luther)



Artwork: The Tower of Babel, Anton Joseph von Prenner. Austrian, sometime between 1683–1761. From the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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