A dove is a powerful symbol, perhaps most universally recognized as a sign of peace.
For Christians the dove is also one of the many symbols of the Holy Spirit of God, the Life-Giver. The reason for this is because of the gospel accounts of Jesus' baptism in the River Jordan by his cousin John the Baptist. The Baptism of Christ is celebrated today, the Sunday following the Feast of the Epiphany.
Here is what Luke writes about Jesus' baptism:
"Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, 'You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased." Luke 3: 21-22Something mysterious is revealed in Christ's baptism. It is much more than a sense of affirmation for Jesus at the start of his public ministry. It is more than a ritual in which Jesus identified with humanity's need for repentance, cleansing and renewal. It tells us something about who God is, as Holy Trinity, a loving community of oneness in Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I'm struggling for the right words to express what is at heart a mystery I don't understand but want to know in a lived way more deeply.
These words from a sermon by Fr. Steve Gunrow shed some light on this for me:
"Remember Christians, you do not believe that God is merely an idea in your mind or a projection of your best self. God is not for you some unknown and unknowable force in the universe or a feeling that you contain in your heart. The one, true God has revealed himself in Christ as the Trinity- the mysterious communion of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, a communion of Divine Love "in which we live and move and have our being." It is this Divine Love that brought all into existence, and because of Christ, it is to this Divine Love that we will all one day return."
Image Credit: Ian Burt on Flickr, CC License