Shavuot and the Coming of the Holy Spirit

Sunday is the feast of Pentecost. It is the celebration each year of the coming of the Holy Spirit to the Church fifty days after the Resurrection.

However, Pentecost didn’t originate in the New Testament. That’s just the Greek name for it. In the Old Testament it was known as the feast of Shavuot, or Weeks. It was the counting of the weeks from Passover to the giving of the Torah, the Law of Moses. God had rescued them from Egypt. They needed instruction on how to be His chosen people and live in a society distinct from those around them.

In the Church, we count the weeks from our rescue in Christ, sacrificed as our Passover, to the giving of the Holy Spirit, who guides us in the truth of the Torah and of all the Scriptures. Through the Holy Spirit we see that it is the story of God’s redemptive plan, made possible through the perfect Israelite who perfectly kept the Law, Jesus. That’s what Jesus meant when he told His twelve closest companions that the Spirit would guide them in all truth.

We, too, need instruction on how to be His chosen people and love distinctly as a witness to those around us. It is through the work of the Holy Spirit that God writes His Law on our hearts, so that we want to do what is good and pleasing in His sight. The Holy Spirit continues the process of saving us through the work of sanctification, shaping us bit by bit into the image of Christ. The Spirit convicts us of where we come up short and provides the means for us to get back on the straight and narrow.

Shavuot also celebrates the first fruits of the wheat harvest. This is something the disciples would have been thinking about when Jesus had told them that the fields were ripe for harvesting. It would not have been a surprise to them that on the Shavuot after His resurrection, three thousand souls were brought into the kingdom of God. They were the first fruits of the harvest that would continue through the ages, as God set His whole redemptive plan for the world into motion.

It is the Holy Spirit who provides the harvest of souls for the kingdom, then and now. It is the Holy Spirit who empowers us to be witnesses, to share God’s love. He moves upon the hearts of those who have separated themselves from God’s love, calling them back to the Father, a journey made possible through the death and resurrection of the Son.

All of this happened with the sending of the Spirit at that Pentecost seven week after the Resurrection and ten days after the Ascension, just as Jesus promised.

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