Like A Dove

Happy Pentecost!

It’s a very exciting Pentecost for sure, because things are starting to re-open… at last! And this makes me happy. While I won’t be going to mass for Pentecost, I’m signed up to go to mass for my birthday in a week (you have to pre-register to go to mass now… not that I am complaining!), and that makes me overjoyed. It strikes me as a lovely coincidence that we are finally starting to be able to go to mass for Pentecost. It is as if God wants to nudge us and remind us that we ought to go out and make disciples! And of course remind us that the Holy Spirit is with us even now.

So, with that said… let’s talk about celebrations!

While I was talking with my friends about traditions, one mentioned that she had a special tradition of having some sort of bird for Pentecost. Bird? Yes, bird! She explained that, since the dove represented the Holy Spirit, some people had a tradition of eating some sort of roast bird for Pentecost, like Cornish hen, for instance. And she adopted that sort of tradition for her family.

What a delicious sort of tradition!

Well! I don’t have Cornish hen stashed away in my refrigerator. But, I do have a whole chicken ready to roast! And so that is now thawing happily away in my refrigerator for tomorrow.

Of course, this made me wonder, is the Holy Spirit actually described as a dove in Pentecost? Because a dove usually makes an appearance in art! In fact, when I showed my book, The Glorious Mysteries (yup, shameless plug, lol) to my Pagan friend, she immediately asked why their were so many birds in the pictures that depicted the Descent of the Holy Spirit.

“Why, it’s because the Holy Spirit is depicted as a dove!” I said.

She was intrigued. (What can I say? Art is a great way to evangelize!)

But, really, there are lots of beautiful images of the Descent of the Holy Spirit that depict a dove. Take a look at this one…

Pentecost Showing the Virgin Surrounded by Twelve Apostles, by Simon Marmion, c. 1480s. The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, United Kingdom.
Pentecost Showing the Virgin Surrounded by Twelve Apostles, by Simon Marmion, c. 1480s. The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, United Kingdom.

Or this one…

Pentecost, by Juan Bautista Maino, c. 1615-20. Museo del Prado, Madrid, Spain.
Pentecost, by Juan Bautista Maino, c. 1615-20. Museo del Prado, Madrid, Spain.

Or this one!

The Pentecost, by Ambrosius benson, c. 16th century. North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, North Carolina, United States.
The Pentecost, by Ambrosius benson, c. 16th century. North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, North Carolina, United States.

In fact, there are a lot of pictures of the first Pentecost in which the flames are of secondary importance to the bird, if they are even there at all!

And the answer to that question is… no. The Holy Spirit is described as tongues of fire that hover over the heads of the disciples. The Holy Spirit is not described as a dove there! Take a look at Acts 2:1-4…

When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.

Acts 2:!-4 (NABRE)

So… where is the Holy Spirit described as a dove?

The Baptism of Christ!

The Baptism of Christ, by Paolo Veronese, c. 1580 – 1588. J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, California, United States.

Yes, as incredible as that picture is, it is somewhat accurate! Check out the Bible verses Luke 3:21-22…

After all the people had been baptized and Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, 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 beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

Luke 3:21-22, NABRE

And so, even though the Holy Spirit came in a different form then, the imagery stuck! And from that point on, the Holy Spirit has been represented by a dove.

And so, I hope you all have a wonderful Pentecost! God bless you! 🙂

Karina Tabone

Karina Tabone is a wife, mother of four, author, blogger, and lover of Christian artwork. She's the author of the Illustrated Rosary series, which pairs every prayer of the Rosary with beautiful religious artwork. She likes also milkshakes, sunshine, and mystery novels. Follow her on Twitter at @illustr_prayer.

One thought on “Like A Dove

  • June 13, 2020 at 2:19 pm
    Permalink

    I’m really happy to have found your site. Congratulations on what you have done. And thank you for sharing the beautiful images.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *