By The Very Revd. Jane Hedges - 10 May 2018
On Pentecost Sunday in most churches you are likely to see clergy robed in red vestments decorated with flames or a dove. 

This is the day the Church celebrates the coming of the Holy Spirit, calling to mind the story recorded in Chapter 2 of the Acts of the Apostles. In this story we hear about the first disciples several weeks after the Resurrection gathered together in one room. This was probably behind locked doors as they were still feeling very fearful following the trauma of witnessing the crucifixion of Jesus.

The writer of Acts, who is believed to be St Luke, records how suddenly the room was filled with a rushing wind and what appeared to be tongues of fire. It’s likely that he used such imagery because it was hard to explain exactly what the disciples experienced.  The effect it had on them however was both extraordinary and clear to see.

This frightened group of men were so transformed by what they had experienced that, filled with confidence they came out from behind these closed doors into the public square and began to proclaim to the crowds gathered there the good news of Jesus’ resurrection. 

So you might see images of flames at Pentecost or you might find a dove pictured on robes or banners carried in procession. The dove is another symbol of the Holy Spirit associated with the account of Jesus’ baptism at the start of his ministry. Matthew, Mark and Luke all tell of how, when Jesus came up out of the water that the heavens were torn open and the Spirit descended on him in the form of a dove.

In addition to the symbols of the dove and flames, another symbol we could also use on Pentecost Sunday is that of a Birthday Cake. Pentecost is traditionally called the birthday of the Church because it was from that day onwards that the message of the gospel began to spread across the region and then into the wider world, with thousands of people each day becoming Christians.

As we celebrate the feast of Pentecost in our Cathedrals and Churches we pray that we may open ourselves anew to receiving God’s Holy Spirit into our lives.

Join us Sunday 20 May when we celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit and we celebrate too the Norfolk & Norwich Festival with our Festival Eucharist on the Feast of Pentecost. Find out more here.

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