Holy Fire: The Faces of Pentecost

Holy Fire: The Faces of Pentecost May 22, 2015


There are a number of Pentecost images that I love to meditate on. I read the Scripture passage and then pretend I’m there, letting my mind picture the people and happenings of the decent of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles and those gathered with them in the Upper Room.

I can “see” all 120 or so of the men and women, praying and perhaps fearful and uncertain about what would happen to them after Jesus’ Ascension.


Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a sabbath day’s journey away.

When they entered the city they went to the upper room where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James.

All these devoted themselves with one accord to prayer, together with some women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers. (Acts 1:13-14)

Then, the wind howling through the house and the mysterious tongues of fire hovering about their heads.

When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim. (Acts 2:1-4)

I love trying to imagine the signs of transformation on their faces – from scared and confused to courageous and joyful. How incredible it must have been! Newly transformed by the Spirit, they went out from the Upper Room, began proclaiming the Good News and baptizing converts.

He testified with many other arguments, and was exhorting them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand persons were added that day. (Acts 2:40-41)

However, my favorite scene from the Pentecost story doesn’t appear in Scripture. It’s one that appears in my own heart and mind, but that I think is plausible, if not probable.

I meditate on what Mary’s reaction to these miraculous happenings might have been.

She was there in the Upper Room with the apostles and more than a hundred other followers of her Son. She experienced the wind and fire with them, and witnessed their transformation in the Spirit.

She also was there during Jesus’ Passion and Crucifixion. She saw the torture, the pain in her Son’s eyes, and his excruciating death. In her mother’s heart, she experienced his suffering. She also saw the way the apostles abandoned him – all but the beloved John. She experienced the all-alone-ness of their cowardly denials.

Now Mary was seeing a complete turnabout in the apostles. They weren’t cowering anymore; they were full of zeal and boldly proclaiming the message of Christ.

These were her Son’s closest followers, his friends, his confidants, companions, and students. Jesus’ spent the last three years of his life teaching, forming, inspiring, and living among them. He loved them. Mary must have loved the apostles, too, because of her love for Jesus. She loves all who he loves.

And that’s precisely why I like to picture Mary at Pentecost as the proud mama.

I mean that in a way that’s probably different from what you’d expect. Let me explain:

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