Dear Mother Miriam, I know that Pentecost celebrates the birth of the Church, but I was taught also that the Church was born from the pierced side of Christ on Calvary. Can it be both?
Perhaps in a sense, dear Zelda. Just as with human birth, life begins at the moment of conception in the mother’s womb. Yet the fullness of its manifestation, so to speak, takes place nine months later at the birth of that child from its mother’s womb.
In his encyclical, Mystici Corporis Christi (the Mystical Body of Christ), Pope Pius XII, quoting Leo XIII, writes:
“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.”
Saint John Chrysostom, in his teaching on the power of Christ’s blood, writes:
“There flowed from His side water and blood . . . symboliz(ing) baptism and the Holy Eucharist. From these two sacraments the Church is born: from baptism, the cleansing water that gives rebirth and renewal through the Holy Spirit, and from the Holy Eucharist.” (Liturgy of the Hours, Vol. II, p. 474)
In his homily on the Solemnity of Pentecost, (Sunday, June 12, 2011), our beloved Pope emeritus Benedict XVI said:
In the liturgy of Pentecost Psalm 104, which we have heard, corresponds with the account in the Acts of the Apostles of the birth of the Church (cf. Acts 2:1-11, emphasis mine): a hymn of praise of the whole creation which exalts the Creator Spirit who has made all things with wisdom . . . This is what the Church wants to tell us: the Spirit Creator of all things and the Holy Spirit whom the Lord caused to come down from the Father upon the community of the disciples are one and the same. Creation and redemption belong to each other and constitute, in depth, one mystery of love and of salvation. The Holy Spirit is first and foremost a Creator Spirit, hence Pentecost is also a feast of creation.
“If I am lifted up,”said our Lord, “I will draw all men to myself” (John 12:32). God, through His Son’s death on the Cross, rescued humanity from sin and death. But it was the coming of the Spirit into human hearts and minds on the Day of Pentecost that would enable and empower the People Israel to become a new people in Christ – a new Israel – an Israel of the Spirit (Galatians 6:16) that would include Jews and Gentiles alike.