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Where Was The Church Founded?

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I was going through the pages searched in this blog and found one query that was intriguing.  It is expressed in a question that I found so strange, it made me reflect.  “Where was the Church founded?”  Every Catholic knows of course that the Church was publicly inaugurated in Jerusalem on the Feast of Pentecost sometime in the first half of the first century (c. 33 if we follow the traditional dating of Jesus having been crucified that year).  This public inauguration is recounted by Luke in the Acts of the Apostles.  The Feast of Pentecost, originally a feast of the Jews commemorating the gift of the Law, now becomes for Christians, the celebration of the gift of the Holy Spirit who begins to act in history in and with the Church.

One can argue that a public inauguration is distinct from the foundation of an institution.  Perhaps if we follow the post-resurrection narrative of John 20:19–23 we have a private inauguration in the room where the apostles were hiding for fear of the Jews.  The place is once more in Jerusalem, on the first Sunday after the Crucifixion.  Here, Jesus breathes the Spirit upon the disciples, in a way similar to God’s act of breathing upon Adam to make him a “living soul.”  At the same time, it is here where Jesus gives the disciples the mandate to forgive, or to be more exact, to apply to individuals the graces received through His Death and Resurrection. 

Again, one can argue that here, Matthew has a different view in that he places the commissioning of the disciples in a mountain in Galilee.  One can respond, on the other hand, that Matthew’s account, written for Jewish converts to Christianity residing in Palestine is a theological narration emphasizing the mission to the Gentiles from a place that was already Gentilic (Galilee of the Nations).  In this sense, the narration of Matthew in Matthew 28:16–20 is a commissioning narrative that specifically justifies the sending forth of missionaries outside of Palestine and is similar in meaning, if not in content, to the narrative in Acts about the apostolic proclamation being understood in the different tongues of the nations (cf. Acts 2:7–11).  In other words, the account of the commissioning in Matthew does not intend to say anything about where the Church began but about how the Church should expand:  outwards of Palestine, towards the nations.

There are those who make a distinction between the Christ of history and the Christ of faith, who say that Jesus started preaching the Kingdom of God, but the Christian missionaries built up the Church.  The problem with this however is that the Church would seem not to have been in the mind of Jesus of Nazareth.  If we follow this line of thinking, Jesus never founded the Church.  The Church was founded by Peter and Paul, an after-thought that became an institution after it became clear that the parousia is going to be delayed.  But even the methodology that underlies this theory is not taken seriously anymore.

The Catholic liturgy of Easter (this includes the Triduum) gives us  a three-panelled picture of the foundation of the Church: at the foot of the cross where the new Man and Woman completely undo the first sin, the breathing of the Spirit upon the disciples in the closed room, making them the first-fruits of the new creation, and the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, where human history, already redeemed, begins anew with the age of the Church.  Here, the cross, the barred door and the Cenacle, all point to one place:  Jerusalem.  Jesus knew it as the place where he was to die and rise again.  And it is from Jerusalem that the new Temple, Christ’s Body, will extend its embrace to include the whole world.




Originally posted 2008-06-27 18:10:36. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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