Pentecost,
Painted by El Greco (Domenikos Theotokopoulos, 1541-1614),
Oil on canvas,
Painted circa 1600
© Museo del Prado, Madrid, Spain

Pentecost,
Painted by El Greco (Domenikos Theotokopoulos, 1541-1614),
Oil on canvas,
Painted circa 1600
© Museo del Prado, Madrid, Spain

Gospel of 28 May 2023

Pentecost - Receive the Holy Spirit

John 20:19-23

In the evening of the first day of the week, the doors were closed in the room where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews. Jesus came and stood among them. He said to them, ‘Peace be with you’, and showed them his hands and his side. The disciples were filled with joy when they saw the Lord, and he said to them again, ‘Peace be with you.

‘As the Father sent me, so am I sending you.’ After saying this he breathed on them and said: ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven; for those whose sins you retain, they are retained.’

Reflection on the painting

Today is Pentecost, the day we celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit, 50 days after Easter. The name ‘Pentecost’ comes from the Greek pente-koste, which means fiftieth. As Jesus sends the apostles on their mission ('As the father sent me, so I am sending you'), he gives them the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Throughout art history, artists have used fire/flames, wind, the breath of God and a dove as the main symbols to represent the Holy Spirit. In today’s painting we see a combination of three of these elements: the dove (at the top of the painting), the wind flowing from the heavens, and the flames that have descended upon the apostles and the Virgin. The flames in our painting are what we notice first. Fire has long been a symbol of God, not only in the Bible itself (think of the burning bush for example), but also in our churches (the sanctuary candle or when we light a candle when saying a prayer).   These flames remind us of the presence of God.

El Greco, by assigning a flame to each individual depicted, masterfully shows us how the Holy Spirit dwells in each of the disciples... and in us too. The bearded Apostle who looks out at us from the right of the canvas has been identified as a self-portrait. El Greco was a Greek painter, sculptor and architect of the Spanish Renaissance. El Greco was his nickname as 'the man from Greece', and the artist normally signed his paintings with his full birth name in Greek letters, often adding the word Κρής (Krḗs), which means "Cretan". El Greco's dramatic and expressionistic style, as visible in our painting, was met with puzzlement by his contemporaries, but found appreciation by the 20th century. It is true, his paintings still have that modern and innovative appeal to them. Our  work was painted as part of the main altarpiece for the church of the Augustinian College of María de Aragón in Madrid. Its strong verticality further enhances the spiritual side of this work.

Wishing you a very happy Pentecost Sunday.

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Elinor Dandrea
Member
Elinor Dandrea
10 months ago

Visited the Prado in Spain and have always admired the works of El Greco. As for the fire within Pentecost ought to be every Christians most beloved holy day, for it was then that we were given the Gift of the Spirit of Christ.

Estrellita Picart
Member
Estrellita Picart
1 year ago

Happy Pentecost Sunday!

Antonio ML
Member
Antonio ML
1 year ago

Patrick, I think this painting is in El Prado. Sounded strange me living in Madrid, not to have known that college. So I googled it and seems to be in El Prado.

God bless!

Patricia O'Brien
Member
Patricia O'Brien
1 year ago

Great hymns at Mass this morning…all the favourite Holy Spirit ones.
Something that I have always pondered, if you don’t have the gift of tongues, does that mean you have not received the Holy Spirit? My husband has – me, no.
Can someone enlighten me please.

Anthony
Member
Anthony
1 year ago

We receive the gift of the Holy Spirit in Baptism. It means you have received glossolalia, a ‘language’ given by the Holy Spirit. It is a wonderful form of prayer and is sometimes used to give a prophetic word in a prayer meeting, another person will have the interpretation. If you want it you should be open to it and ask the Holy Spirit for it. It is a beautiful and uplifting way of praying.

Mark Crain
Member
Mark Crain
1 year ago

“To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.” (1 Cor) Thank you Deacon Patrick for pointing out that El Greco assigns a flame to each individual depicted. How can I miss such obvious and key messages? I will keep trying.

Andy Bocanegra
Member
Andy Bocanegra
1 year ago

Come Lord Jesus! Send out Your Spirit and renew the face of the Earth! Happy Pentecost Sunday to all.

Anthony
Member
Anthony
1 year ago

Thank you Deacon Patrick. May the Holy Spirit infuse all your life and love and ministry. I will commend you to the Holy Spirit each day until the 24th.

spaceforgrace
Member
spaceforgrace
1 year ago

I love El Greco- his distinctive, fluid style was way before his time I think. No wonder he is appreciated more now . Pentecost Sunday marks the end of the great celebrations of the year, after Trinity Sunday next week we fall back into Ordinary Time and progress to Advent again. I shall endeavour to mark this time by being more aware of the Holy Spirit, flowing through the church and into our lives and our communities.
‘Come Holy Spirt, fill the hearts of your faithful and enkindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your spirit, Lord, and they shall be created and you shall renew the face of the Earth.’
What a beautiful prayer. God bless everyone this feast day.

Chazbo M
Member
Chazbo M
1 year ago

El Greco – the Greek. We learnt about hime when we lived in Spain in the 60s. El = the (Spanish) and Greco = Greek (Italian) which shows where his artistic influences came from – Crete, Ravenna and Toledo. His style his quite peculiar (meaning specific not odd) and he cannot be bracketed with any other artist. Philip II did not appreciate him and did not want him as court painter but today he is much admired and an essential part of the history and culture of Toledo and Spain in general.
Now I have said that it’s time to say that our church is called the Holy Ghost so it our patronal festival today. “Come Holy Ghost , Creator come, from thy bright heavenly throne!”

spaceforgrace
Member
spaceforgrace
1 year ago
Reply to  Chazbo M

‘Come take possession of our souls and make them all thine own… ‘how I miss some of those old hymns, and I still know them word for word. Happy Feast Day!

Chazbo M
Member
Chazbo M
1 year ago
Reply to  spaceforgrace

🙂

Mark Crain
Member
Mark Crain
1 year ago
Reply to  Chazbo M

Thank you for sharing your knowledge and insights.

Chazbo M
Member
Chazbo M
1 year ago
Reply to  Mark Crain

Thank you for thanking me!

Alba G
Member
Alba G
1 year ago

Hello to all, I am always amazed at EL Greco’s colours and his dramatic figures, very appropriate for this Sunday’ feast, Pentecost. I hope that this painting will illumine our paths when making difficult decisions. Kind regards.

spaceforgrace
Member
spaceforgrace
1 year ago
Reply to  Alba G

Amen

Anthony
Member
Anthony
1 year ago
Reply to  Alba G

I love El Greco’s work also.
I have heard Pentecost referred to many times as the birthday of the Church. So, happy birthday all.

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