Pentecost Icon Explanation.

King Cosmos

Day of the Holy Spirit

Monday, May 26/Jun 8 2009



Icon of Pentecost by Theophanes



The icon of Pentecost teaches us much more than the fact that the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles in tongues of fire. 


Archpriest David Moser[1] explains:


“This icon not only visually tells the story of the descent of the Holy Spirit in tongues of flame upon the apostles, but it also teaches us the greater meaning of this event in God’s provision for the salvation of the world. See how the circle of the Apostles is not closed but is open both at the top toward heaven – from which they receive the Holy Spirit – and also at the bottom where we see a crowned figure holding a cloth filled with many blank scrolls.[2]


Priest Josiah[3] explains this crowned figure:


“The salvation of the world as rooted in Pentecost is shown on the Pentecost icon by the "King" at the bottom of the icon beneath the apostles.  This King is not a historical one.  He is "King Cosmos[4]"- He is the world, which the anointed disciples are about to harvest. “


Fr David further explains the meaning of the scrolls “King Cosmos” holds:


“In this we see that the Holy Spirit descended first upon the Apostles for they had been prepared by our Lord Jesus Christ to receive this divine indwelling. But the outpouring of the Holy Spirit does not stop there for the crowned man at the bottom and in the center of the Apostles represents all the kingdoms and nations of the earth. Having received the Holy Spirit, the Apostles began to speak and preach the Gospel in a multitude of tongues which were the languages of the nations of the earth. Shortly after this the Apostles divided up the whole of the known world between themselves and began to preach the Gospel to all nations. The scrolls represent the various nations, each of which would be taken up by one or the other of the Apostles. There he would go to proclaim the Resurrection and the defeat of sin, death and the devil and the freedom of all men from their captivity.”



I thank Fr David and Fr Josiah for their consistently excellent writings, which they frequently publish in the Internet. Their wisdom made it easy to explain the significance of the Pentecost icon to my flock. My little partial compilation of the Father’s sermons does not cover all the meaning of this icon. Please read the source documents if you want more information.


Fr David’s weekly sermons are available at:


Fr Josiah has an impressive body of work on his church’s website: and also publishes edifying thoughts on his Blog, which I receive as an RSS feed:



Priest Seraphim Holland 2009.     St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas


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[1] Archpriest David Moser pastor of St Seraphim of Sarov Orthodox Church (ROCOR) (

Fr David has a mailing list in which he published his Sunday homilies:

[2] Homily for Pentecost, 2009,  Fr David Moser

[4] The Greek word “Cosmos” (or “Kosmos”), means “the world”

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St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas