ON THE FEAST OF PENTECOST
CHRISSIE: This weekend is going to be the
festival of Kataklysmos and Father Christopher Klitou explains it is a
festival that is unique to Cyprus and a few of the Greek islands.
FR. CHRISTOPHER: I think that first we
should explain that the Church celebrates the feast of Pentecost and not
the festival of the Kataklysmos even though the two have become as one
feast. The feast of Pentecost is celebrated 50 days after Easter which the
name implies - Pentecosti means the 50th day. The festival of Pentecost
has its origin in the Old Testament and it was celebrated 50 days after
the Jewish Passover. Then it was celebrated to commemorate the giving of
the law on Mount Sinai - God making a solemn covenant with his chosen
people - and it was also as a thanksgiving for the first fruits of the
earth and a new harvest. With the New Testament the feast took on a
different meaning. Christ promised that after his Resurrection and
Ascension into heaven he would send another Comforter, the Spirit of Truth
who would abide with us for ever. This new covenant was fulfilled on the
day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit descended upon the Holy Apostles
and other disciples in the form of tongues of fire. Since that day The
Holy Spirit abides in the Church and leads her into all truth, it performs
and sanctifies the divine mysteries and through these it sanctifies the
faithful. Christ established the Church when he chose His Twelve
Disciples, but this was only the nucleus of the Church. The Church as a
divine institution was founded by the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost
so in fact we can say that Pentecost is the celebration of the Church’s
Birthday. The Church celebrates her birthday with a two day feast, the
Sunday which is also dedicated to the Holy Trinity and the Monday which is
dedicated to the Holy Spirit. On the Sunday immediately after the Divine
Liturgy, we continue with the Vespers service for Monday which we call the
Kneeling service. It is called the Kneeling service because we kneel
during the reading of some very long prayers.
Now the festival
of the Kataklysmos is something completely different. Kataklysmos means a
disastrous flood and it refers to the Old Testament Flood during Noah’s
days when God punished the world by sending a flood over all the earth. In
Cyprus, there must have been a pagan festival to ward off another flood
which was celebrated around the same time as the Christian feast of
Pentecost. When Cyprus became Christian the pagan feast was replaced with
the Christian feast, but it left behind traces of its origin.
CHRISSIE: This year it falls on the Roman
Catholic festival of Pentecost is it linked in any way?
FR. CHRISTOPHER: Yes it is the same feast.
Pentecost is always 50 days after Easter and most years the Orthodox
Easter is celebrated on a different date than the Roman Catholic Easter.
This year we celebrated Easter on the same day so it follows that we also
celebrate Pentecost on the same day.
CHRISSIE: What happens in Cyprus at
FR. CHRISTOPHER: Basically Katyklysmos is a
festival of water so for many families it is the signal to begin visits to
the beach or swimming pools. For those who don’t like water they can
stroll along the sea front where they will find hundreds of stalls set up
selling various Traditional Cypriot sweets, lace, baskets and other
products. It is also time for another family get together so the meat will
be on the barbeques served with lots of ice cold beer.
I’ve heard that it is lucky to sprinkle family and friends with sea water
FR. CHRISTOPHER: Sprinkling of throwing water
at each other is part of the fun of the festival. I’m not sure if it’s
supposed to be lucky but it’s great for a few laughs. But we can give it a
spiritual and Christian meaning: Christ said that “whoever drinks of the
water that I shall give him will never thirst; the water that I shall give
him will become a spring of water welling up to eternal life” and “He that
believes in me, as the scripture has said, out of his belly shall flow
rivers of living water. (But this he spoke of the Holy Spirit, which they
that believe on him should receive.” Christ symbolically speaks of water
as representing the Holy Spirit, so pouring water on each other can be
symbolic of the pouring out and receiving of the Holy Spirit which is the
theme of Pentecost.
CHRISSIE: Is there a particular greeting we
should use during this festival?
FR. CHRISTOPHER: We don’t has a special
greeting for Pentecost as we do for Easter, but we greet everyone with the
common greeting that we use for most feasts or anniversaries, just simply
Xronia Polla which means many years or many happy returns, and being that
Pentecost is the Church’s Birthday, many happy returns is very
appropriate. So Chrissie, Xronia Polla to you and all your listeners.