With each holiday in the church come the beautiful and colorful customs. From colored eggs on Easter to the many different Serbian customs at Christmas time, we look forward to both the feast and those beautiful things we busy ourselves doing during the festal days. Thus, when we come to church on Pentecost Sunday we will see grass spread throughout the church. in the Russian tradition they do more than grass – they bring trees in and the church is transformed into a forest of sorts.
The Jewish feast of Pentecost marks the beginning of the harvest feast. For Christians the harvest we seek is a renewed humanity and the renewal of creation. Thus the trees and grass are a representation of the created order; assembled together with the people of God, awaiting and receiving the gift of the Spirit through whom everything is made new. The Jewish Pentecost also commemorates God giving the Ten Commandments fifty days after the Exodus.
The Christian Pentecost is the commemoration of the Descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles and the birth of the Church. This is the new law which God gives us. Or, as we read at Vespers on the eve of the feast, the prophet Ezekiel writes: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws” (36: 26-27).
As we busy ourselves making wreaths during the kneeling prayers on Pentecost we hear and pray what must be some of the most powerful prayers read in Church. Thus, among other things, we ask to be “cleansed of our secret sins”,we pray for all of our deceased loved ones “for it is not the dead who praise Thee but we the living”. And, truly, in those prayers and in the life of the Church, all of our customs and traditions – and even we, ourselves – come to life.