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Biblical Beasts: Dove

Tuesday, July 19, 2011
In the last decade it has become rather popular to release doves at funerals. Whilst I personally find this a rather vulgar novelty, it does have some grounding in the funeral practices of early Christians. There are many examples in the Roman Catacombs of sepulchres marked with a dove and the Greek inscription "ΕΙΡΗΝΗ"(peace). This is of course a prayer for the peace of the deceased's soul but throughout the centuries the dove became associated with civil peace. This association with peace is never mentioned explicitly but many references point towards this connotation.

Doves were offered as sacrifice by the Jews pointing towards the peace between God and his people in the temple system. A dove was also the bird that brought the first news to Noah of the ending of the flood. The abating of the waters was the first step towards a return to peace between God and his creation. The olive branch carried back to the ark by the dove is also a foreshadowing of the the full realisation of this peace: the Christ, the anointed one.

We see this most clearly during the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan. All four evangelists describe the descending Holy Spirit as being like a dove. True peace is found in the person of Jesus Christ and being open to the Holy Spirit. If we live in Christ we not only have peace within ourselves but with each other.

Mark Davoren


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