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Friday, May 28, 2010

Babel and Pentecost

Lodewyk Toeput
[ ca.1550-1605]
The Tower of Babel 1587
Oil on canvas 167 × 217 cm
Private collection

Hendrick van Cleef (1525 - 1589)
The Building of the Tower of Babel
Oil on copper
The Kröller-Müller Museum, Hoge Veluwe

Rodolfo Papa,
Torre di Babele 2005

"[W]hen a person or a community limits itself to its own way of thinking and acting, it is a sign that it has distanced itself from the Holy Spirit.

The path of Christians and of the particular Churches must always coincide with the path of the one, catholic Church, and harmonize with it. This does not mean that the unity created by the Holy Spirit is a kind of egalitarianism.

On the contrary, that is rather the model of Babel, or in other words, the imposition of a culture characterized by what we could define as "technical" unity.

In fact, the Bible tells us (cf. Gen 11: 1-9) that in Babel everyone spoke the same language.

At Pentecost, however, the Apostles speak different languages in such a way that everyone understands the message in his own tongue. The unity of the Spirit is manifest in the plurality of understanding. The Church is one and multiple by her nature, destined as she is to live among all nations, all peoples, and in the most diverse social contexts. She responds to her vocation to be a sign and instrument of unity of the human race (cf. Lumen gentium, n. 1) only if she remains autonomous from every State and every specific culture.

Always and everywhere the Church must truly be catholic and universal, the house of all in which each one can find a place. "


"The Acts of the Apostles show us the first Christian community united by a strong bond of fraternal communion: “All who believed were together and had all things in common; and they sold their possessions and goods and distributed them to all, as any had need” (Acts 2:44-45).

There is no doubt that the Holy Spirit is at the root of this demonstration of love.

His outpouring at Pentecost lays the foundations of the new Jerusalem, the city built on love, quite the opposite of the ancient Babel.

According to the text of Genesis 11, the builders of Babel had decided to build a city with a great tower whose top would reach the heavens. The sacred author sees in this project a foolish pride which flows into division, discord and lack of communication.

On the day of Pentecost, on the other hand, Jesus’ disciples do not want to climb arrogantly to the heavens but are humbly open to the gift that comes down from above. While in Babel the same language is spoken by all but they end up not understanding each other, on the day of Pentecost different languages are spoken, yet they are very clearly understood.

This is a miracle of the Holy Spirit. "