The Dove Descends, the Spirit Soars

Joachim Patinir, "Baptism of Christ" (early 16th c)

Joachim Patinir, “Baptism of Christ” (early 16th c)

Spiritual Sunday

Christians are currently observing the season of Epiphany where we recognize that God has come to dwell amongst us—or to put it another way, our epiphany, our joyous discovery, is that we have God within us. We have but to open our hearts to find Her there.

This truth is metaphorically captured in the image of the star above the birthplace of a new baby and also in the image of the dove that Jesus witnesses as he is being baptized by John. In both instances, the veil between the spiritual and the mundane is rent and God’s holy spirit enters the human realm.

Or as today’s Gospel reading describes the baptism (Matthew 3:16-17),

And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”

I stumbled across the following sonnet by Malcolm Guite, Cambridge poet and priest, which reflects upon the incident:

Jesus’ Baptism

Beginning here we glimpse the Three-in-one;
The river runs, the clouds are torn apart,
The Father speaks, the Spirit and the Son
Reveal to us the single loving heart
That beats behind the being of all things
And calls and keeps and kindles us to light.
The dove descends, the spirit soars and sings
‘You are belovèd, you are my delight!’

In that quick light and life, as water spills

And streams around the Man like quickening rain,

The voice that made the universe reveals

The God in Man who makes it new again.

He calls us too, to step into that river

To die and rise and live and love forever.

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