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Passover to Pentecost : St Bede explains how the Exodus and the Ten Commandments are related to Easter and Whitsuntide.
Passover to Pentecost

Abridged and translated from ‘A Sermon on the Day of Pentecost’, by St Bede of Jarrow (early 8th century).

Just as the Jewish festival of Passover commemorated the Israelites’ escape from slavery in Egypt, so the Feast of Weeks fifty days later commemorated the giving of the Law to Moses on Mount Sinai. St Bede explains how these two feasts are taken up in the Christian year as Easter and Whit Sunday or Pentecost.

See also The Story of Pentecost.

THE children of Israel, delivered from slavery in Egypt at the sacrifice of a lamb,* set out across the desert towards the Promised Land, and came to Mount Sinai.

There, fifty days after Passover, the Lord descended upon the summit amid the sound of trumpets, and thunderclaps and lightning flashes, and laid down the Ten Commandments.*

Our Passover sacrifice is Christ, the true lamb that taketh away the sins of the world, who redeems us from sin at the price of his blood, setting in his resurrection a precedent for our hope of life and never-ending liberty.*

And today, on the fiftieth day after our redeemer’s resurrection, the grace of the Holy Spirit is given to the disciples gathered in the upper room,* appearing on the outside as fire, but invisibly irradiating their breast with the light of knowledge, and kindling deep down with the ardour of inextinguishable love.*

* See Exodus 12:21-41. A lamb was sacrificed and its blood smeared on the lintels of Israelites living in Egypt. The Angel of Death sent to slay the firstborn of the Egyptians ‘passed over’ these houses. The Israelites ate a hasty meal of unleavened bread, and at once left Egypt for the desert to the east.

* See Exodus 19:16-20:18.

* See Titus 3:3-7. Bede uses the word ‘exemplum’ in its sense of a legal precedent: the resurrection is not merely an example or demonstration to a spectator, but a promise to an adopted heir.

* See The Story of Pentecost, and Acts 2:1-21.

* On the relationship of knowledge to love (‘charity’), see 1 Corinthians 13.

Abridged and translated from ‘A Sermon on the Day of Pentecost’, by St Bede of Jarrow (early 8th century).

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Picture: © Mujtaba Hassan, Wikimedia Commons. Licence: CC-BY-SA 4.0. View original
Lightning lights up the night sky over the White Mountains (Spīn Ghar or Safēd Kōh) of Afghanistan and Pakistan, pictured from Parachinar, capital of Kurram Agency of Pakistan. “The Lord descended upon Mount Sinai amid the sound of trumpets, and thunderclaps and lightning flashes,” Bede writes, recalling Exodus 19:16-20:18, “and laid down the Ten Commandments.”
By Saint Bede of Jarrow
By Saint Bede of Jarrow

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