IN those days, when the day of Pentecost had come, the disciples were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.
Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs - in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s works of power.”
"All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages."
The descent of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost and the gift of speaking in foreign languages is parallel to the story of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9). There, God confused the the one language that the people had and scattered them because, in their pride, they wanted to build a tower to the heavens and make name for themselves (basically, they wanted to become little gods).
God, knowing that this would lead to complete madness and chaos, in His mercy "confused" the language of the people, so that from speaking one language, they spoke now many different, and would not be able to agree on a plan. People were scattered and divided.
On the feast of Pentecost, ten days after Christ's ascension, the Holy Spirit descended upon all the disciples and enabled them to speak many different languages. These were the existing languages, not some gibberish, as we can see from the reaction of the people who, all of a sudden, heard their own language or dialect.
Just like with Babel, God made one group of people who spoke the same language, speak many languages, and the disciples would also be scattered, not to divide, but rather to unite all people in Christ.
The story with the tower of Babel and the descent of the Holy Spirit are significant because they show that every gift that God has given us (language being one of these gifts) is meant to be used for the glory of God, to bless and worship His Name.
What did the crowd here the disciples say in their own language? "...we hear them speaking about God’s works of power." Language is a gift that is meant to unite us in one faith in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. No matter what language we speak and pray in, we are still able to be the disciples of the same Jesus Christ.
The people who desired to build the tower of Babel misused and abused this gift. On Pentecost, God reminds us of this gift and shows us the proper way to use it.
Yours in the Lord,
Father Aleksey - your friendly Singac priest