Put away those birthday cakes for the Church on the 50th day after Easter Sunday. It is time to snuff out the candles on a cake made from non-Catholic ingredients. The Church was NOT born at Pentecost.
Traditionally, Catholics have held that the Church was born three days before Easter on Good Friday. Yet, many Catholics and most Protestants are celebrating the ‘Birthday of the Church’ at Pentecost based upon the Protestant ideal of Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone) interpretations. Informed Catholics somberly recall the venerable and authoritative Traditional teaching based on Sacred Scripture that the Church was born amidst blood and water from the wounded side of our Lord and God, Jesus Christ on Calvary.
The ultimate foundation for our One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Faith is not based on Sacred Scripture alone. It is based on the twin pillars of truth: Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition. We may recall the teaching of the Second General Council of Constantinople (553 AD) on Sacred Tradition:
“We firmly hold and teach the Faith which from the beginning was given to the Apostles by our great God and Savior Jesus Christ and by them proclaimed to the whole world. The holy Fathers confessed it and explained it and handed it on to the Holy Church …”
In Sacred Scripture, Saint Paul the Apostle (d.67 AD) declared that Adam foreshadows the coming of the Son of God, thus first evidencing the Apostolic Tradition of interpreting the first man as a ‘type’ of our Lord Jesus Christ.
- “The first man, Adam, became a living soul; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit.” (I Cor 15:45)
- “… yet death reigned from Adam unto Moses, even over those who did not sin after the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a figure of Him Who was to come.” (Romans 5:14)
The Fathers of the Church and others have expounded upon Saint Paul the Apostle’s typology between the first Adam from the Garden of Eden and the second Adam Whose Garden of Gethsemani (aka: Gethsemane) led to Calvary. Their instruction forms the foundation of the Church’s Sacred Tradition. In addition, a number of these Church Fathers are also Saints honored as Doctors of the Church recognized for being of particular importance in their contributions to theology or doctrine.
Tertullian (d. 223 AD) considered to be the ‘founder of Latin theology’ was a Latin Father of the Church who expressed: “If Adam is a type of Christ then Adam’s sleep is a symbol of the death of Christ and by the wound in the side of Christ was formed the Church, the true Mother of all the living.”
Origen of Alexandria (d. 254 AD) the head of the Catechetical School of Alexandria and a Greek Father of the Church explained: “Christ has flooded the universe with divine and sanctifying waves. For the thirsty He sends a spring of living water from the wound which the spear opened in His side. From the wound in Christ’s side has come forth the Church, and He has made Her His Bride.”
St. Ambrose of Milan (d. 397 AD) was a Bishop and Latin Father and Doctor of the Church. Ambrose professed: “He (Moses) also taught that God made woman: for He made Adam sleepy, and he fell asleep, and He took a rib from his side, and covered it with his flesh. And the Lord God fashioned the rib which He took from Adam into woman … that they should be two in one flesh and that a man shall leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife and that we are members of His Body, of His flesh and of His bones … The Church, who is gathered together from the gentile peoples, leaves Her parents … for the sake of which Man … from Whose side, while asleep God took a rib … when the soldier opened His side, immediately there poured out Blood and water for the life of the world … This life of the world is Christ’s rib, the rib of the second Adam … Therefore we are members of His Body, of His flesh, and of His bones … This is Eve, the mother of all the living … therefore the mother of the living is the Church.”
St. John Chrysostom (d. 407 AD) was a Greek Father of the Church who was also the Patriarch of Constantinople and a Doctor of the Church. The renowned speaker known as the “golden-mouthed” deepened our understanding: “The Gospel records that when Christ was dead, but still hung on the Cross, a soldier came and pierced His side with a lance and immediately there poured out water and Blood. Now the water was a symbol of Baptism and the Blood of the Holy Eucharist … From these two Sacraments the Church is born … Since the symbols of Baptism and the Eucharist flowed from His side, it was from His side that Christ fashioned the Church, as He had fashioned Eve from the side of Adam … As God then took a rib from Adam’s side to fashion a woman, so Christ has given us Blood and water from His side to fashion the Church, God took the rib when Adam was in a deep sleep, and in the same way Christ gave us the Blood and the water after His own death.”
St. Augustine of Hippo (d. 430 AD) was a Bishop who earned the titles of Latin Father and Doctor of the Church. Augustine elucidated:
- “When [Christ] slept on the Cross, He bore a sign, yea, He fulfilled what had been signified in Adam: for when Adam was asleep, a rib was drawn from him and Eve was created; so also while the Lord slept on the Cross, His side was transfixed with a spear, and the sacraments flowed forth, whence the Church was born. For the Church, the Lord’s Bride, was created from His side, as Eve was created from the side of Adam.”
- “Adam sleeps, that Eve may be born: Christ dies, that the Church may be born. When Adam sleeps, Eve is formed from his side; when Christ is dead, the spear pierces His side that the sacraments may flow forth whereby the Church is formed.
- “The first woman was called Life and Mother of the living. The second Adam with bowed head slept on the Cross, in order that a spouse might be formed for Him from that which flowed from His side as He slept. Death, by which the dead come to life again! What could be more cleansing than this blood? What more healing than this wound?”
Quodvultdeus (d. 453 AD), Bishop of Carthage, was a disciple of Augustine who instructed his flock: “Now let our Bridegroom climb onto the Cross and sleep there in death, and let His side be opened and the Virgin Bride come forth. As once from the side of Adam Eve was formed, so let the Church be formed now from the side of the dying Christ, as He hangs on the Cross. Oh wonderful mystery! The Bride is born from the Bridegroom!”
Venerable Pope Pius XII (d. 1958 AD) in his Encyclical on the Mystical Body of Christ, Mystici Corporis Christi, authoritatively proclaimed:
- “As we set out briefly to expound in what sense Christ founded His social Body, the following thought of Our predecessor of happy memory, Leo XIII, occurs to Us at once: ‘The Church which, already conceived, came forth from the side of the second Adam in His sleep on the Cross, first showed Herself before the eyes of men on the great day of Pentecost.’ For the Divine Redeemer began the building of the mystical temple of the Church when by His preaching He made known His Precepts; He completed it when He hung glorified on the Cross; and He manifested and proclaimed it when He sent the Holy Ghost as Paraclete in visible form on His disciples.”
- “That He completed His work on the gibbet of the Cross is the unanimous teaching of the Holy Fathers who assert that the Church was born from the side of our Savior on the Cross like a new Eve, mother of all the living … One who reverently examines this venerable teaching will easily discover the reasons on which it is based.”
Pope Pius XII also expounded upon the subject of Pentecost in Mystici Corporis Christi, without once mentioning the words, birth, born, or birthday: “The Church which He founded by His Blood, He strengthened on the Day of Pentecost by a special power, given from Heaven … He wished to make known and proclaim His Spouse through the visible coming of the Holy Spirit with the sound of a mighty wind and tongues of fire … Christ our Lord sent the Holy Spirit down from Heaven, to touch them with tongues of fire and to point out, as by the finger of God, the supernatural mission and office of the Church.”
The Post-Vatican II Catholic Catechism holds to this Tradition of the Fathers of the Church: “The Church is born primarily of Christ’s total self-giving for our salvation, anticipated in the institution of the Eucharist and fulfilled on the Cross. ‘The origin and growth of the Church are symbolized by the Blood and water which flowed from the open side of the crucified Jesus.’ ‘For it was from the side of Christ as He slept the sleep of death upon the Cross that there came forth the wondrous sacrament of the whole Church.’ As Eve was formed from the sleeping Adam’s side, so the Church was born from the pierced Heart of Christ hanging dead on the Cross.”
The visionary Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich (d. 1824 AD) saw Adam after his expulsion from the Garden of Eden weeping at Mount of Olives (Gethsemani) where Jesus would have His ‘Agony in the Garden.’ She also had a vision in which she received insight into why Calvary (in Greek) also known as Golgotha (in Hebrew) was known as the “Place of the Skull.” She saw the tomb of Adam and Eve at an immense depth below the rock which constitutes Mount Calvary. She beheld the Cross of Christ placed vertically over the skull of Adam. In addition to the foregoing authoritative sources, including Fathers and Doctors of the Church, the typology of the first and second Adam is attested to by this acclaimed mystic of the Church.
The ‘Vision of Tuy’ of the Most Holy Trinity with Our Lady of Fatima on June 13, 1929, showed to Sister Lucia our Crucified Lord shedding His Precious Blood onto a Communion Host, then pouring forth into a Chalice, both suspended in the air. The Blessed Virgin Mary with Her Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart was at the foot of the Cross at Tuy, just as She was at Calvary. Under the left arm of the Cross were large letters, as if of crystal clear water, which formed the words: “Grace and Mercy.”
- The Traditional teaching on the Birth of the Church with the Blood and water flowing from our Savior on Calvary could well be reinforced at Tuy.
- Perhaps the dreadful situation that the Mystical Body of Christ finds itself today was also predicted in that Tuy vision of which Sister Lucia would say: “… I received lights about this mystery which I am not permitted to reveal.” Consider that at Bethlehem, Our Lady felt no pain at the Virgin Birth. Conversely, at Golgotha, Our Lady experienced great pain as the Church was born. As the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church, is being crucified in our time, Our Lady is afflicted once again – as She is Mother of the Church. Perhaps Our Lady of Sorrows appeared at Fatima to console the faithful members of the Church who are undergoing a horrific crucifixion today. She is standing by our side, just as the Mother of God stood near the Cross of Her Divine Son.
- The Vision of Tuy can also refer to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, especially in that the apparition appeared over the Altar in Sister Lucia’s convent and was a powerful re-presentation of Calvary. One of the many distressing deviations from the venerable Traditional Latin Mass was that for centuries of not ever having referred to Pentecost as the ‘Birthday of the Church’ in the liturgy, the Novus Ordo Mass in its initial Preface for Pentecost referred to “At the Church’s beginning …” and later, after Pope Benedict XVI’s reform, revised it to “ …as the Church came to birth …” The introduction of such novelties inconsistent with Church Tradition is a source of great distress for those of us who profess what should be unchanging Catholic truths.
Also be aware that various publications – even some written before 1960 – lamentably evidence that many Catholics of different ranks and most Protestants adhere to the innovation that the Church was born at Pentecost. The Catechism Explained is a book written 118 years ago that has the gratuitous unsupported undocumented sentence: “Pentecost is the birthday of the Church.” This is a ‘red-flag’ that goes along with the Modernistic sub-title of the book: “An Exhaustive Exposition of the Christian Religion, with Special Reference to the Present State of Society and the Spirit of the Age.” No wonder Pope Saint Pius X had to write the Encyclical Pascendi Dominici Gregis on the doctrines of the Modernists in 1907. Modernism existed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and has become even more virulent today.
Many of the people celebrating the Birthday of the Church at Pentecost are good souls who are simply misinformed. In charity, we have a duty to instruct them in the truth of Tradition, even if it ruins their party. Others, such as Modernists, deliberately seek to attack venerable Traditions of the Church in order to weaken the One True Faith founded by Christ. As the Church Militant, we have a duty to refute Modernism.
None of the Fathers of the Church ever said that the birth of the Church was at Pentecost; nor did they offer any recipes for any such birthday cakes. Neither should we. It is time to put an end to such nonsense that undermines Church Tradition.
We conclude with this quote from the ‘Oath Against Modernism’ prescribed by Pope Saint Pius X: “I reject any way of judging or interpreting Holy Scripture which takes no account of the Church’s Tradition … So I hold, and I shall firmly hold till my dying breath, the faith of the Fathers …”
Always remember my Three R’s of Modernism: Recognize it; Refute it; and Return to Tradition.