Did you know the Resurrected Christ appeared to St. Paul? Did you know Jesus is the one who directs Paul to setup The Church in Rome? Did you know the center of Christianity moves from Jerusalem to Rome? Did you know that's why it's called "The Roman Catholic Church?" I didn't speak of this Resurrection Appearance in the last article because it's later than The Ascension and caught up in a whirlwind of other issues. In St. Paul's First Epistle to the Corinthians, he gives a chronological, but non-exhaustive list of Christ's Resurrection appearances:
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.
-1 Corinthians 15:3-8
When did this happen? We'll have to go to Acts of the Apostles to see.
54 AD - Paul's Third Missionary Journey
St. Paul settles the issue of whether or not Gentiles can be followers of The Way (Christianity) at the Council of Jerusalem in Acts 15. His Third Missionary Journey starts. He ends up at Macedonia which brings Catholicism to Europe, having already brought it from the Mediterranean to Africa through the Ethiopian Eunuch. He is scourged at Philippi, then travels to Thessalonica. St. Paul's Epistles to the Philippians, and his First and Second Epistles to the Thessalonians are Scripture to this day. He then argues with the philosophers in Athens, Greece, which is how you know the Greeks were Catholic before they were Orthodox. He then travels to Ephesus and Corinth. His letters to them: Ephesians, 1 Corinthians, and 2 Corinthians are also Scripture to this day.
And when these things were ended, Paul purposed in the spirit, when he had passed through Macedonia and Achaia, to go to Jerusalem, saying: "After I have been there, I must see Rome also."
Macedonia is where Alexander the Great came from, just north of Greece. Ironically, his spreading of Hellenism, Greek Culture, ushered in the perfect time for Christ's arrival, and here Paul returns the favor by bringing them Christ some 300 years later. Achaia may sound familiar too; it is the home of the Homeric Achilles and the long-haired Achaeans of the ashen-spear. While The Iliad is all about war, it ends at the gates of Troy wishing for peace. Here the Peace of Christ finally comes to their people.
So Paul decides to go to Rome. So what? He also decided to go to all those other cities. Why is Rome special according to The Scriptures?
58 AD - Paul on Trial in Jerusalem
Paul is in Jerusalem for a little R&R after his third missionary journey, establishing Catholic parishes across the Mediterranean. It is rumored he has abandoned The Law entirely so he is asked to keep a fast and cut his hair (Nazarite vow) to prove he is still a son of Abraham. He does so, knowing it does not contradict his freedom in Christ, and can win some fellow Jew's approval. After a fiery salvation narrative that culminates with Christ as Israel's consummation the Sanhedrin want to scourge him. He narrowly avoids it by informing them he's a Roman Citizen. In the time of the Roman Empire being Roman had certain advantages.
Paul then realizes the Pharisees and Sadducees are both present. The Pharisees follow The Law/Torah strictly and as such are supposed to be master exegetes of it: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, & Deuteronomy. They believed in souls, forms, angels, and therefore were open to the idea of a resurrection. After all, a resurrection is only possible if a soul can be recombined with the body. The one whole that consists of body and soul we call a "person." E.G. "Sally" is a person; the soul of sally is an element of Sally but not Sally (Sally ain't a ghost), the body of Sally is an element of Sally but not Sally (Sally ain't a corpse). To be one whole, a person, the body and soul must be as one: ensouled flesh or enfleshed soul, however you want to think of it, for there to be the person "Sally." This is the importance of Jesus' Resurrection, unless the soul reenters the body, in some sense, "I ain't." If I resurrect, then "I am."
The Sadducees think there are no souls, no forms, no spirits, no angels, and therefore no logical possibility of Resurrection. Paul, being a smart aleck, says he's on trial for the resurrection since it means he believes in souls. He's not lying; he is on trial for The Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. This sparks a huge fight between the Pharisees and the Sadducees at the Council. Paul is free to sit back and watch the two who had come to persecute him, tear each other up. For fear Paul might be attacked, the guards escort him out of the council and to the castle for the night.
The Resurrected Christ appears to St. Paul
Nightfall. Paul is in prison awaiting his fate the next day.
And the night following the Lord standing by him, said: Be constant; for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome.
This is the 1 Corinthian reference to the Resurrected Jesus appearing to Paul. The word for "bear witness" is from the Greek marturios, from whence we also derive the word martyr. To witness to Christ in the early days of The Way meant to die like him, to take up one's cross and follow him. In other words, Christ is telling Paul he must go to Rome to be martyred.
Are we sure about this though? How do we know? This isn't the first time the Resurrected Christ has foretold an Apostle's martyrdom. Last Sunday's Gospel (Eastertide III) showed Jesus foretelling Peter's death:
Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you girded yourself and walked where you would; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish to go.” (This he said to show by what death he was to glorify God.) And after this he said to him, “Follow me.”
60 AD - Paul arrives in Rome
It's important to note that in the last chapter of Acts, 28, Paul arrives in Rome and Christians are already there. But Christians do not make "a church." This requires a head and body to form the 'whole Christ' in a particular area. Note in Acts that St. Paul goes about setting up presbyters (priests) at each place. Once the Mass can be said, there's a priest and laity, there's one in the person of Christ the head and a group as his body, then you have "a church." Christ is present wherever two or more are gathered in a spiritual way, but the fulness of the resurrected Christ included his body, and so this must become mystically yet corporally present to us via the sacraments. If Jesus' "spiritual presence" is enough for a group of our Protestant brethren to claim to be a church, then we don't need The Resurrection of Jesus, nor his Crucifixion, hell - nor his Incarnation. But if those were necessary, then we must rethink what it means to "be a church."
Thus Paul and Peter plant The Church at Rome. Presumably they gather Christians already there in town and at the end of Acts we hear of Paul teaching the Doctrines of The Church for two years. Luke tells us that Paul realizes his fellow Jews are done listening and in fact it fulfills a prophecy that they won't hear The Gospel. Luke ends Acts by saying 'but the Gentiles will hear it..." And the story ends in Rome, 62 AD.
62-68 AD: Paul's Pastoral Epistles, 2nd Arrest, & Martyrdom
Paul writes a letter to his priests Timothy and Titus, and then he is arrested. From prison he writes his Second Epistle to Timothy and his writing before his death. Hear the ending of his letter:
Do your best to come before winter. Eubulus sends greetings to you, as do Pudens and Linus and Claudia and all the brethren. The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you.
2 Timothy 4:21-22
After Paul and Peter's death, the Linus mentioned in the Scripture above becomes the second Pope, serving from 68 to 79 AD.
From historical documents from Pope Clement (88 AD), St. Irenaeus of Lyon, Origen, Eusebius of Caesarea, archaeology, etc. etc. we know that Sts. Peter and Paul ended up in Rome teaching together. They were martyred on the same day, June 29th, on the same year (or on the same day, one year apart). Paul, being a Roman Citizen, received the mercy kill: decapitation by sword. This is why to this day in much artwork he is depicted holding a sword. Peter, not being a Roman Citizen, received the death of suffering and humiliation.
An old tradition says that the Resurrected Christ appeared again to Peter. Persecution broke out under Emperor Nero. The Great Fire of Rome. The Christians became the scapegoat. Peter was said to have fled, and on his way out of the city the Resurrected Christ descended from heaven before him but was walking the opposite direction that Peter was running. The dialogue was said to have gone something like this:
Lord, where are you going?
Why, I'm going to Rome to be crucified.
Well then I'm going with you this time.
Peter turned around and the Risen Lord reascended into the heavens. Peter realized he was to be martyred in Christ at Rome. He told the guards he was not worthy to be crucified like his Lord and asked to be crucified upside down. They gladly fulfilled his request. He was taken outside the walls of Roman by the Tiber River where he was crucified upside down. The Tiber is the river that separates Rome, Italy from England. For this reason, when an Anglican becomes Roman Catholic we say "They swam the Tiber."
The Roman Catholic Church
As we began I mentioned that it was The Resurrected Lord who setup the Roman Catholic Church. It always was this, it just took time for us to realize that was part of the Divine Economy, God's plan. In Acts 15 Peter, James, and John are the "Three Pillars of Jerusalem" thus making the city the center of The Way (early name for Christianity). When Peter and Paul work out the Gentile problem, Peter says that Paul is sent to the Gentiles just as he, Peter, is sent to the Jews. When the Council closes and Peter gives Paul the "hand of Fellowship," its a sign of Common Life between Jews and Non-Jews. Their combination means, 'everybody in the world can now be a follower of The Way.'
In Luke's Gospel, and the other Gospels, the phrase "Jesus and the Twelve" is common. After the Resurrected Lord commands Peter to 'feed my sheep, tend my sheep, feed my sheep' Peter becomes the first Pope, the "Vicar of Christ." Vicar just means a representative, but one who is "vicariously one," that is, an ontological representative, meaning his Person has a special office. Henceforth in Acts the new phrase is "Peter and the Eleven." It's repeated over and over.
Peter and Paul end up at Rome. Since Peter was given charge over the whole flock of Christ, but especially the Jews, and Paul over the Gentiles, their sitting in Rome signifies "all the people." The Pillars are no longer in Jerusalem. You can thus read St. Luke's Gospel and Acts of the Apostles as the birth, development, and moving of The Church from the Three Pillars at Jerusalem to Peter and Paul at Rome.
By the end of Luke's story Rome has become the Capitol of Catholicism. And I say "Catholicism" and not "Christianity" because the former is concrete, you can point to it, just as you could point to an incarnate, crucified, or resurrected Jesus. But "Christianity" is an abstraction, it cannot be pointed to, and thus doesn't need a Resurrected Jesus at all. It's all "spirit," which is to say, Gnostic.
The Church thus became known as "The Roman Catholic Church" and our people went from being called "Followers of the Way" to "Christians" to "Roman Catholics."
Sts. Peter and Paul were martyred as priests of the Roman Catholic Church on June 29th.
Deacon Gregory will be ordained to the Catholic Priesthood on June 29th, their Feast Day, please pray for him and his family.
Illustration: The Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls, the Tomb of St. Paul rests within