Pentecost icon

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Orthodox icon of Pentecost, Descent of the Holy Spirit, by Theophanis the Cretan (1535), Stavorinikita Monastery Mount Athos.

Celebrated every year 50 days after Pascha. Always on Sunday.

The Orthodox icon of the Feast of Pentecost is not only about the commemoration of an historical event, but represents a celebration of a present reality: the presence of the Holy Spirit in the Church. The icon depictsu00a0the event described in the Book of Acts (Acts 2:1-4) when the Holy Spirit descended as tongues of fire upon the Apostles gathered together and enabled them to preach in different languages.

The gathering of the Apostles is a representation of the Church who are seated in a semi-circle, representing a unity and harmony, drawing us into the unity. Another semi-circle at the top of the icon represents the descent of the Holy Spirit. with rays of light shining down to illumine them. The tongues of fire described in Acts are shown above the heads of each of the seated Saints.

At the bottom of the Icon is another semi-circle, showing an old king against a dark background. He is often named as Kosmos and represents the world. He is crowned as a symbol of earthly authority  i.e. he represents all the peoples of the world, rather than the whole of creation. He is sat in darkness and the shadow of death (Luke 1:79), and is aged to show the corruptibility of the world. Yet he also holds a blanket containing scrolls representing Apostolic teaching.

The Empty Seat is a striking aspect of the Pentecost Icon is the empty space at the centre, between the Apostles Peter and Paul. This central seat is a place of honor, the Teacher's Seat around which the Apostles are gathered. It is empty because it is the seat Christ should be sitting in, Who has ascended physically into Heaven. Jesus promised many times that though He would leave them physically, He would instead give to them the Holy Spirit as a comforter, advocate, and guide. This promise was first realized at Pentecost, and is still true today. 

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