Pentecost (in Greek, pentekoste) means the “fiftieth day”. It is on this day that the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles in the form of tongues of fire, fifty days after the resurrection of Christ, which is represented in this icon. While the apostles, Mary, the mother of Jesus, and many others, were all assembled in one place, a rush of wind came into the house and the Holy Spirit filled each of them.
In the Holy Spirit, the apostles and Mary, first among the apostles, represent the communion of the saints, which makes the Church into one body, the Body of Christ animated by the Holy Spirit. In the Holy Spirit, the apostles are united, but not confused, for each keeps their own identity and diversity. They are united, but they are all different.
Mother Mary is enthroned as the God bearer. She is always identified by the Greek letters that abbreviate Her title Theotokos, which means Mother of God. The colors of Mary’s garments link her to the Incarnation. Her mantel (veil) is red for her humanity and her tunic is blue as she is the chosen one of God. As in the Holy Crucifixion icon, she wears red shoes showing her royalty and lineage from the House of David. Her hands are raised in the orans or praying position. This position of prayer is also used during each mass by the priest as a call to prayer.
The apostles are seated in a traditional arrangement with St. Paul, apostle to the Greeks, replacing Matthias who was selected to replace Judas. Names to identify the individual apostles are written next to each of them.
The crowned person standing at the bottom of the icon, holding a length of cloth, represents the cosmos, the entire universe. The descent of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles is a cosmic event, and all creation will be penetrated by the luminous rays, the divine energies which God communicates. The length of cloth represents the expectation of the world, ready to receive the gifts of the Spirit. It is from the Church, the center of the world that comes the fire that will consume the whole universe. Christ and the Spirit are sent by the Father from heaven to transfigure the world.