What about the dove?

Every time I think “oh I got that” about scripture I am wrong. It unfolds, it layers, it deepens, it ripens. Recently I treated myself to Consider the Birds by Debbie Blue and wouldn’t you know she starts right off with John the Baptist and the baptism of Jesus and to John testifying “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him” which is just a few verses further on than the passage I’ve been dwelling in lately.  I’ve read this many times, I’ve heard and seen the image of God as a dove, many times, and I never once actually thought about it. Dove. Spirit from heaven live a dove. Love, dove, sweetness, bland. Right?

Yet not an eagle, not an ostrich, not a falcon, not a peacock — a dove. A symbol of purity and, don’t you think, of weakness? Debbie Blue drills into many many aspects of Dove-ness but the most interesting to me were the facts: archeologists have uncovered sites of humans breeding doves/pigeons (they are the same bird) several thousand years ago. Doves/pigeons were used for communication — sending messages — for thousands of years, as well as food and sacrifice. Doves like to have sex and thus they have lots of chicks but they also tend to mate for life. They kiss. They fight with each other too; they get aggregated and irritated at each other. A child can catch and kill a dove. A dove is not a predator. Doves/pigeons can be and are overlooked, taken for granted.

So God descended from heaven like a dove — small, fragile, useful, loving, easily caught, easily over-looked. Doves are mixed up with people, pigeons are a part of the story. Let’s never overlook the ordinary, it might just turn out to be a part of God.

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2 thoughts on “What about the dove?

  1. Aren’t they also the poor man’s (and woman’s) sacrifice — the one used to redeem Jesus, as firstborn, at the temple?

    I especially like the idea of dove as messenger. Although the Holy Spirit is in some ways a messenger (or perhaps a communicator), I hadn’t thought of that connection.

  2. Yes indeed — you know I think it isn’t so much the poor people’s sacrifice but that forgiveness is available to everyone, it is as easy as a dove.

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