Pentecost is often spoken of as the “birth” of the Church. It is an apt metaphor: The Church, which you could say had been growing in utero in the persons of Mary, the Twelve, and the small community of disciples, now emerges into the world. And when she does, we can already glimpse all of the distinguishing features by which she will be known as an adult.

The Church’s most obvious feature is that she is Charismatic — she has received the Gift, the Holy Spirit, and the manifold gifts He bestows, as evidenced by the charisms of tongues and preaching. Receiving the Holy Spirit as the common Gift of the Father and the Son (Acts 2:33-36) also immediately distinguishes her as Trinitarian. She is not a political body, nor a social service, but a living Tabernacle, making pilgrimage to the Father, through the Son, in the Spirit.

The Church that the Spirit rushed upon in tongues of fire is also Marian, Apostolic, and Petrine. We find her gathered in prayer with the Mother of Jesus — the Church’s strong, silent backbone. Just as the Spirit overshadowed Mary and formed Christ within her womb, so He overshadowed the nascent community, birthing them as the Body of Christ into the world.

The Church of Pentecost is built upon the Twelve. The apostolic “office” left vacant by Judas’ defection and death had to be filled before she began her mission to the world (Acts 1:15-26). And it was Peter, designated first among Christ’s apostles (Mt 10:2; 16:17-20), who lead the Church in this first act of apostolic succession.

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