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.

This entry was posted in Guite (Malcolm) and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.


  • Literature is as vital to our lives as food and shelter. Stories and poems help us work through the challenges we face, from everyday irritations to loneliness, heartache, and death. Literature is meant to mix it up with life. This website explores how it does so.

    Please feel free to e-mail me [rrbates (at) smcm (dot) edu]. I would be honored to hear your thoughts and questions about literature.

  • Sign up for weekly newsletter

    Your email will not be shared or sold.
    * = required field

    powered by MailChimp!
  • Twitter Authentication data is incomplete