Where There’s Smoke…

For my books, I like to start off each mystery with an in-depth scripture passage that relates to the mystery. After all, the Rosary is quite firmly based in scripture, and I wanted to bring the scripture to mind with every decade. That way, while you prayed with it, you would be immersed both in the vivid imagery of the mystery and the Word of God.

Choosing the scripture passages for the first two Glorious Mysteries were fairly easy. Choosing the scriptures for the third Glorious Mystery, the Descent of the Holy Spirit, on the other hand? That was hard.

The problem is, that mystery is just too awesome. It’s not just the flames of fire coming down to rest on the disciples. That would be exciting enough! No, it’s also how the Holy Spirit affects them and sets their hearts on fire and causes them to go out into the world and make disciples of all nations.

So, the Pentecost is described at first in this way in the Book of Acts:


Acts of the Apostles 2

1 When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. 2And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. 3Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. 4And they were all filled with the holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.5Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven staying in Jerusalem. 6At this sound, they gathered in a large crowd, but they were confused because each one heard them speaking in his own language. 7They were astounded, and in amazement they asked, “Are not all these people who are speaking Galileans? 8Then how does each of us hear them in his own native language? 9We are Parthians, Medes, and Elamites, inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya near Cyrene, as well as travelers from Rome, 11both Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretans and Arabs, yet we hear them speaking in our own tongues of the mighty acts of God.” 12They were all astounded and bewildered, and said to one another, “What does this mean?” 13But others said, scoffing, “They have had too much new wine.”

And I love it how immediately people think that the disciples are crazy. And, honestly, if people were calling me crazy under their breath after something happened, I would clam up and decide that maybe they were right and I was wrong.

But no! St. Peter does not clam up! Quite the opposite, in fact!

Check out the words that he speaks next:


Acts of the Apostles 2

14 Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice, and proclaimed to them, “You who are Jews, indeed all of you staying in Jerusalem. Let this be known to you, and listen to my words. 15These people are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. 16No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:17‘It will come to pass in the last days,’ God says,‘that I will pour out a portion of my spiritupon all flesh.Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,your young men shall see visions,your old men shall dream dreams.18Indeed, upon my servants and my handmaidsI will pour out a portion of my spirit in those days,and they shall prophesy.19And I will work wonders in the heavens aboveand signs on the earth below:blood, fire, and a cloud of smoke.20The sun shall be turned to darkness,and the moon to blood,before the coming of the great and splendid day of the Lord,21and it shall be that everyone shall be saved who calls on the name of the Lord.’

Look at him, just cite the Prophet Joel without hesitation! Wow! And look at that prophecy! Blood, fire, and smoke… prophecies uttered by the servants of the Lord… it is as if the Prophet Joel could see the first Pentecost.

And then, the whole chapter goes like this, where St. Peter interprets the Old Testament in the light of the New Testament in this awesome way where it makes complete sense and which turns the hearts of the people. Whereas initially they thought him drunk, by hearing him speak the word of the Lord, their hearts are converted.

It’s just an incredible chapter, and honestly, I was tempted to put the entire chapter of Acts 2 in it.

Alas! When making a book, you have pesky things like formatting issues and page count and all of that little stuff. There was only room for one page of scripture. And so I was only able to put the sections which I quoted above. Acts 2:1-21, to be precise.

Still, while I was reading through the scripture, it occurred to me that the Pentecost was quite a huge moment, for it was the moment where Christ’s disciples went out to the world to preach to everyone the Good News. The Holy Spirit gave them everything that they needed for this too!

But it was also a moment where their lives were completely changed. There was no going back after this moment. They would go out and preach the gospel and there was a good chance that they would become martyrs.

The Holy Spirit gave them the strength to speak and the strength to overcome adversity, but the Holy Spirit never promised comfort or easiness.

And so one of the things that I loved while I perused the Pentecost pictures was how so many of them were… violent. For instance, take a look at this artwork:

The Pentecost, by Follower of Bernard van Orley, c. 1530. North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, North Carolina, United States. Via IllustratedPrayer.com
The Pentecost, by Follower of Bernard van Orley, c. 1530. North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, North Carolina, United States.

It almost looks like a scene from a war, and were it not for the white dove, signifying the Holy Spirit, and the Virgin Mary calmly receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit, it might be mistaken as such. The sky is black with smoke and the flames seem to be shooting forward to land on the people. Most of the disciples looked astonished and a little bit afraid and many of them seem to be ready to run away as soon as they can.

And I think it’s so oddly appropriate because, when the Holy Spirit enters our lives, it can feel a bit like a war zone at times. After all, we tend to go to God and ask Him for things when we need something in our lives, or are struggling, or just need to feel God’s presence. And when God’s presence does finally come into our lives, sometimes it feels like our whole world is about to end.

After all, the world is at odds with God.

And God demands us to act. We are not simply here to exist. We are here to be the Body of Christ and to serve the world in the way that Christ would serve it, partly by performing works of charity, but also by boldly proclaiming the Gospel.

That can be scary.

And yet! That dove of peace is a reminder that with the Holy Spirit comes the gift of peace. Not the peace of the world, which is physical comfort and ease, but rather the peace of God, which assures us of His love.

May we learn to love and yearn for this peace and find true comfort in the Holy Spirit and God’s love. And may we also seek to serve God in whatever capacity we can.

This blog is part of a blog series about meditations of the Rosary, in honor for October, which is the month dedicated to the Rosary! This artwork, as well as many others, are available in my book, The Glorious Mysteries, which allows you to pray the Rosary prayer by prayer, with each prayer illustrated with gorgeous religious art. If you would like to learn more about the books, click here

Karina Tabone

Karina Tabone is a wife, mother of four, author, blogger, and lover of Christian artwork. She's the author of the Illustrated Rosary series, which pairs every prayer of the Rosary with beautiful religious artwork. She likes also milkshakes, sunshine, and mystery novels. Follow her on Twitter at @illustr_prayer.

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