Pentecost, the New Babel

Artwork for Pentecost, the New Babel by Scott Pauline

Stained Glass Window Depiction of Pentecost

One of the most beautiful and profound parallels of our dear Catholic faith is the notion of types and analogies. This means that many things in the Old Testament are foreshadowing of things in the New, or that certain things that were negative in the Old Covenant come to find realizations in the New Covenant that remake them, or transform them, into the good. For example, the Old Adam is remade in the New, as St. Paul tells us: that just as through one man, sin came to all, so through one Man, the God-Man, redemption came to call. Similarly, the Flood, which cleansed away sinful humanity from the earth, and the Exodus parting of the Red Sea, in which Pharaoh’s army perished and was cleansed away from ever enslaving the People of God again, are themselves types of the New Covenant Baptism, where our sinful ways, and same enslavement to sin, are washed away, and we rise to New Life in Christ.

The Church’s recent celebration of Pentecost is no exception for types and analogies. For, as we see in the readings for the Vigil of Pentecost, there is a parallel to Pentecost, where the tongues are multiplied in a manner so as to give understanding, whereas the negative version of the parallel appears in the Old Testament, when the Lord confounded the human tongue at Babel so as to take away understanding. Veritably, too, the Church knows what she is doing in drawing this parallel. It is surely no coincidence. For, the division that disrupted humanity at Babel is undone—but humanity is reunited at Pentecost. This is a reflection of God’s ultimate will to betroth himself, not merely to a remnant nation amongst many, (as in the Hebrews subsequent to Babel) but to the whole of humanity, all nations and tongues (subsequent to Christ).

This is most beautifully expressed in another Scripture, chapter seven of the Apocalypse. There, we see the vision of the uncountable multitudes “from every nation, race, language and tongue.” This manifests that from all eternity, God wants to marry the entire world. He desires that as many men as possible, regardless of race or place of origin, language, or culture, may know him as he is, his Truth, his deeds, and his will for man, which is nothing short of this—love: to love God with all one’s heart, and soul, and mind, and strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself.

However, when we return to Babel, we might ask ourselves, if this was God’s desire from all eternity before he made the world, why might the Lord divide humanity in the beginning stages so as to set man up for division, bloodshed, conflict, and hatred? Well, alas, we must remember that whereas God desires to be intimate with his creatures, they are not always as enthusiastic to receive this Divine benevolence.

This, then, gives us the key to understand the division of humanity into separate nations at Babel. The reason is because, firstly, in the beginning stages of human history, the world, precisely because of the Fall, and its effects on the human heart, is not interested in the Divine Marriage. Rather, it is carried away in lust for the things of this world. They do not seek to love God for who he is, and to love other persons for the sake of God’s love. Rather, they seek only what this Creation can give them, what this world can give them. They are selfish, arrogant, and superficial.

Furthermore, this lust for materialistic and superficial glory actually drives man towards a certain “unity,” as it were, although a unity that is entirely different from the unity of God’s People in the Universal Church. Such a sense of unity is perverse, as the Catechism insinuates on the section of beginning Divine Revelation, driven only by a selfish ambition that unites the collective pride, and unbridled passion of human will to set up for itself a kingdom that stands in stark contrast to the Kingdom of God, that blasphemously asserts itself in mocking independence from its Maker, as if it could sustain itself merely on its superficial cooperation, and find its ultimate fulfillment in the Creation, rather than in the Creator:

This state of division into many nations is at once cosmic, social and religious. It is intended to limit the pride of fallen humanity united only in its perverse ambition to forge its own unity as at Babel. But, because of sin, both polytheism and the idolatry of the nation and of its rulers constantly threaten this provisional economy with the perversion of paganism (Catechism of the Catholic Church §57).

Moreover, this mystery of contrast between God’s Plan for human unity, and the dragon’s plan is actually seen in the apocalypse, in the imagery of the “Chaste Woman” of Apocalypse 12, and the counterfeit “Whore of Babylon” in Apocalypse 17. It is one supreme example of teaching that we can recall from our late St. John Paul II, who taught, based on the testimony of Tertullian, that the devil many times takes the desires of God, and his plans for Creation, and twists them through mocking plagiarizism, as if to set up an antitype.

In this regard, we can expand the meaning of the Woman and Whore as follows: the Woman is, of course, on two levels, first the Virgin, the New Eve, and then, in another sense, the People of God, those called to be married to God in eternity, joined as one in love of one another and to God, journeying toward their consummation with their Maker, the Divine Marriage that awaits the Creation at its close.

On the other hand, in opposition to this imagery, is the Whore, who is a reflection of the antithesis of this Divine Union: humanity, when fallen, has no desire to be with God in the next world, and so carries itself away to infatuation with this world, to fornicate with the Creation rather than to seek marriage with the Creator. Also, the aforementioned oneness of the Church, and the People of God, in relationship to one another, and to their Lord, is mocked and twisted in the Whore. As at Babel, the Whore shows forth humanity, like the Church, as “one,” united in a common cause, and “joined” to a partner. However, the partner, far from being a Person of wondrous mystery, depth, and love {God}, is rather a brute thing, as a thing of this world. This “thing” is full of superficialities—pleasures, possessions, and egotistical accomplishments—taken as the final end of man, instead of the Creator, Who is infinite goodness, and the only entity that can truly satisfy human longing.

Therefore, to return to the time of Babel, the anti-Pentecost—since humanity, in the time immediately succeeding the chastising Flood, is still under the strong force and seduction of the Fall—they will, of necessity, be driven to act like the Whore. Gathered together, they attempt to build their own glory, and have spiritual intercourse with the material universe, rather than to turn to God in loving reception and Covenant. Consequently, God is faced with a problem: since humanity is in no wise disposed to even listen to his invitation to spousal love, something must be done to temporarily frustrate the selfish aspirations of man, and to break the unity, at least for a time, so as to perhaps find space to begin to prepare the world for the heavenly marriage. At the same time, God wishes to avoid an annihilation of man, which had hitherto just been exercised in the Flood—a response to the other side of the Fall and man’s total disregard to care what God has to say, and to do what God wants, once again mirroring the wickedness of the world in Noah’s day.

The solution, by infinite Divine Wisdom, is to frustrate human communication, thereby breaking up humanity into many little whores, as it were, instead of a larger one. This wound to the fallen nature, as in Apocalypse 13:3 (“And I saw that one of the beast’s heads was mortally wounded”), then temporarily delays the world’s capacity for a perverse global unity, and affords God the chance to call a remnant nation to introduce the prefiguring Covenant. This Covenant will veil the mysteries of the future Christ, when, at Christ’s coming, the Divine invitation to betrothal can be opened up to all of humanity, and not to the Jews only.

Hence at Pentecost, God reveals this: providing the understanding of tongues, so that humanity can be reunited under the mantle of true unity, love of God and neighbor. It was under the reestablished “Babel” of pagan Rome—an empire that had finally and successfully overcome the Divine barrier to arrogant world unity—that God forged another universal kingdom, the Catholic Church. This universal Church now brought in persons from all the nations under heaven and which, eventually, overthrew the darkness of that pagan Whore, converting much of the world to the true unity, the Catholic Church.

Unfortunately, this unity in faith that had prevailed in Europe in the Middle Ages, has been shattered by modern man, and replaced with the once again illusory and deceptive unity—an arising global secularization. The modern 1st and 2nd world societies reek of this supreme lie, calling all of humanity into a conglomerate “unity,” one that—like Babel, and Greece, and Rome—believes that it can sustain itself while remaining more or less totally deaf to the voice of God. It believes that lasting peace and prosperity in the world can be maintained merely by scientific and materialistic means, independent of any consideration of the questions of religion and its derivative morality. Hence, the totalitarian ideologies of atheism and relativism, respectively, now govern the modern developed world, telling its adherents that religion is now more or less completely irrelevant to humanity’s well-being and that, therefore, the world can sustain itself and even prosper perpetually without it. This is, in fact, as the Catechism corroborates, the supreme lie of the Antichrist, the same lie as at Babel, and subsequent generations of wickedness.

Before Christ’s second coming, the Church must pass through a final trial that will shake the faith of many believers. The persecution that accompanies her pilgrimage on earth will unveil the “mystery of iniquity” in the form of a religious deception, offering men an apparent solution to their problems at the price of apostasy from the truth. The supreme religious deception is that of the Antichrist, a pseudo-messianism by which man glorifies himself in place of God, and of his Messiah come in the flesh (CCC §675).

The Antichrist’s deception already begins to take shape in the world every time the claim is made to realize within history that messianic hope which can only be realized beyond history through the eschatological judgment. The Church has rejected even modified forms of this falsification of the kingdom to come under the name of millenarianism, especially the “intrinsically perverse” political form of a secular messianism (CCC §676).

And why is this secular messianism a lie? Because peace, in the truest sense, does not exist except through men, beginning with every individual, having peace with God! For, authentic love of neighbor, truly caring for the priceless dignity of the human person, is inseparable from love of one’s Creator, from which that same priceless dignity finds its origin.

Therefore, the lie of the beast, as in Apocalypse 13:4—where humanity, gathered together in its perverse, lying “unity,” says to one another “Who is like the beast, and who is able to wage war with it?”—ends in its unveiling, the bowls of wrath of Apocalypse 16, the self-imploding destruction of humanity. For, eventually the illusory unity falls apart, seeing as one who does not love God, who is worthy of all love and praise, can in no way truly love his brother. That is, lack of consideration for God leads a frail and seductive peace to give way to the civil war of man with himself. In other words, the end of a world that is spiritually dead is one that is physically dead. Hence has our great Holy Father Emeritus Benedict so boldly proclaimed to those upon whom he was imposing the Church’s pallium, “The external deserts in the world are growing, because the internal deserts have become so vast” (St. Peter’s Square on Sunday, April 24, 2005). Therefore, the modern world places itself at an absolutely vital crossroads, unique in all of history: choose supernatural life and live in true unity. Or, choose supernatural death and live in a false unity that will inevitably die. There are no alternatives.

For this reason, the only thing “restraining” (cf. 2 Thes 2:6-8) the world from its self-destruction, the “fall of Babylon the Great,” is the Holy Spirit’s action in the Catholic Church, the same Holy Spirit that formed the Church at Pentecost. This same Spirit is the only Person that shows the true unity that can sustain this life. For, to the degree that humanity listens to the voice of God in the Church, and seeks to cooperate with the graces he mediates through his Church, there is hope for humanity—and to the degree that they resist, there is only despair. For, what is spiritual eventually is made manifest in the flesh. The end of a culture of spiritual death is a culture of physical death!

Scott Pauline About Scott Pauline

Scott is a Catholic revert, blessed to have had his story shared in This Rock Magazine in 1999. He is currently attempting to complete a book on the meaning of salvation history in light of analogies from Apocalypse, and other scriptures, and Tradition, a great portion of which can be found at: He is happily married to Linda since 2009 and resides in Portland, Oregon.