patty kirk

patty kirk lying down, getting up, sitting at home, walking down the road doing deuteronomy 6:7

Thursday, January 3, 2013

i saw the spirit come down from heaven as a dove

Then John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. And I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ (John 1:32-33 NIV)

I am a birdlover, so, of course, in rereading the opening chapter of John’s gospel, John’s vision of the Holy Spirit as a dove sent me to “birds of Israel” websites to see what kind of dove that might have been. I found five possibilities: The laughing dove, the Namaqua dove, the Eurasian collared dove, the stock dove, and the rock pigeon. Except for the turtle dove, which is decorated with black and white striped epaulettes and orangey wings, the current doves of Israel are all more or less grey, with minor markings in darker grey or black. None are even partly white, as the Holy Spirit is always depicted.
Israel has changed as a habitat for doves—as for people—in so many ways, so the current birds may be different from those that once lived there. And perhaps the Hebraic dove references in the Old Testament—where it is often featured as a bird of sacrifice and also the bird that brings the olive branch to Noah—indicate a specific species of dove that John, writing in Greek, might have meant. Also, there would have been albinos of all species, as now. Still, I’m guessing grey doves then were commoner than white ones and the dove John saw in his vision was grey.

Just another instance, it seems to me though, of how we make all things holy into something out of the ordinary. Something special. Not anything we ourselves might see or hear or experience. And thus we miss out, I fear, on daily visions and miracles and moment-to-moment visitations of the divine.


  1. I find that God talks to me out of ordinary things - always giving me the chance, it seems, to choose to see his message as coincidence or luck or due to anything else but Him. This has frustrated me in the past - Why don't you just reveal yourself to everyone in some unmistakable way?! But I've come to understand that if he did, then his presence would be fact and not require any faith - but he is looking for faithfulness. That understanding has opened my mind to accepting his presence in very ordinary circumstances - and the probability that the person next to me won't understand or notice - it was meant for me and not them.

  2. I like this idea of custom-fitted miracles (or communications). That said, it seems to me that some miracles are meant for many to witness. Consider Jesus' answer when John sends from prison to ask, "Are you who I think you are?" Jesus sends the messengers back to John, saying, "Go tell him about all the miracles you've seen me perform."

  3. No doubt that you are right - some miracles ARE meant for many to witness. In the New Testament, for example, God audibly expresses his approval of Jesus. Some heard his voice. Some dismissed it as thunder. I think that they all heard the same thing - that God intended the miracle for everyone - but sadly some chose to dismiss the extraordinary as something ordinary.

  4. Yes. Exactly that. And I find myself doing what you said in your first comment: dismissing miracles as coincidences. Hard to resist. It's like superstition. For years I have tried to prevent myself from saying, "Knock on wood," and stuff like that, but it still, still, enters my mind every time, inviting me to read every situation as relevant to anything but God's company and attention in my life.