Our “Fiftieth Day”

“You shall count seven weeks; begin to count the seven weeks from the time the sickle is first put to the standing grain. Then you shall keep the festival of weeks to the Lord your God, contributing a freewill-offering in proportion to the blessing that you have received from the Lord your God.” – Deuteronomy 16:9-10
 
Pentecost is a term that holds deep meaning for both Jews and Christians. In the Hebrew Bible, Pentecost, literally the “fiftieth day”, is also known as the Feast of Weeks, a festival dedicated to celebrating the first fruits of the harvest. During this time, closely associated with Passover, the faithful would gather to give thanks to G-d for agricultural bounty and spiritual abundance. Jerusalem would be filled with the bustle of crowds from neighboring towns, injecting energy and rousing appreciation. After blessed, a cornucopia of food would be shared in a divine feast.
 
For Christians, Pentecost took on an even deeper meaning, as depicted in the second chapter of the Acts of the Apostles. On the particular harvest festival chronicled, the Holy Spirit descends upon the gathered, filling them with newfound understanding and insight. Fire is seen dancing on the heads of the faithful, stirring up a vision of G-d that kindles passion and renews life. This unifying event, for some, marks the birthday of the church and a pivotal catalyst that propels Christianity forward. This year, the Day of Pentecost will be observed on Sunday, May 23, the “fiftieth day” of Easter.
 
While reflecting on Pentecost this year, I was struck by the elasticity of the observance; that the same festival could hold such profound, but varied, significance for different faith traditions.
 
Such it is with the nature of G-d.
 
As an Episcopal school, we lift up this elasticity, believing that G-d can be seen in a myriad of ways, and that no single person or group has a monopoly on spiritual truth. This crucial part of Berkeley’s identity strengthens our community and emboldens us to a spirit of exploration and wonder. Our collective cornucopia thus images G-d in a variety of fruits and grains, calling us to come to the table together in gratitude and celebration.
 
In a literal sense, we will be coming together is such ways over the next couple of weeks. Athletes from a variety of sports will gather to commemorate successful seasons, each division with gather to honor various achievements, and the Class of 2021 will gather for Baccalaureate and Commencement. Our “fiftieth day” of Pentecost is soon approaching, giving us the tremendous opportunity to be grateful for the bounty of our students and their families, as well as mark the “birth” of a new season to come. 
 
In doing so, may the innumerable images of G-d be stirred up in our gatherings, provoking us to move forward with new life.
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Founded in 1960, Berkeley is an independent, Episcopal, college-preparatory day school located in Tampa, FL, for boys and girls in grades Pre-Kindergarten through 12. Approximately 1,380 students gather here from the greater Tampa Bay area to form ONE Berkeley.