Happy Feast of Pentecost!
Today the Universal Church celebrates the Feast of Pentecost (from the Greek for 50th). The Feast of Pentecost has its roots in the Jewish feast of Shavout, the Festival of Weeks. The parallels between the Catholic faith and Judaism are amazing and the more one learns of Judaism the more one can see the foreshadowing of the Church that Jesus established. To think that Catholicism and Judaism are opposites is to miss out on a perspective that can truly enhance our understanding of our own faith. As our popes have told us, the Jews are our "elder brothers" in the faith and we will appreciate our faith all the more when we realize that Catholic Christianity is the tree sprung from the root of Judaism. Jewish converts to the faith often remark how much the Mass mirrors their services. From a Jewish website on Pentecost we learn that:
"Shavu'ot, the Festival of Weeks, is the second of the three major festivals with both historical and agricultural significance (the other two are Passover and Sukkot)....Historically, it celebrates the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, and is also known as Hag Matan Torateinu (the Festival of the Giving of Our Torah). The period from Passover to Shavu'ot is a time of great anticipation. We count each of the days from the second day of Passover to the day before Shavu'ot, 49 days or 7 full weeks, hence the name of the festival. See The Counting of the Omer. The counting reminds us of the important connection between Passover and Shavu'ot: Passover freed us physically from bondage, but the giving of the Torah on Shavu'ot redeemed us spiritually from our bondage to idolatry and immorality. Shavu'ot is also known as Pentecost, because it falls on the 50th day."
As Catholics, we celebrate the descent of the Holy Spirit, fifty days after the Passion and Resurrection of the Lord. Theologically it is said the Church was birthed at the moment Christ was pierced on the cross, but traditionally Pentecost is celebrated as the birth of the Church because of the empowerment that came upon Mary and the disciples to preach the gospel while praying the first novena.
BTW, I have discovered that a novena is not a "Catholic invention" but represents the nine day period of prayer that Christ instructed his disciples to commence in anticipation of the coming of the Holy Spirit. As a protestant, I thought a novena was some scary superstitious repetitous prayer but now I know that, once again, the Catholic Church was following scripture "to the T", as it always has!