Wind, Fire, and Dove
Pentecost Sunday (B)

Antonio P. Pueyo
Reproduced with Permission

The day of Pentecost is full of symbols which may interest symbologists. Symbology is a discipline about arcane matters. The books by Dan Brown are popular because they deal with matters that are mysterious. Without going into the merits or demerits of his work of fiction, The Da Vinci Code, except to say that it denigrates what is very sacred to Christianity, we have to admit that even modern readers are caught up in the quest for the meaning behind symbols, whether it is the Holy Grail or the painting of the Last Supper.

Action starter: Do not be timid about your faith. Proclaim it with courage.

Certainly, the Catholic Church is rich with symbols. Our catechism books are filled with all kinds of symbols. There are the early Christian symbols of the Chi Rho, the fish, the lamb, and of course the cross. There are the seasonal symbols such as the liturgical colors , the alpha and omega, the crib, the crown of thorns, the wheat and the grapes. One can come up with a one-hour quiz bowl just focusing on the meaning of symbols. As usually done in these contests, the questions may be categorized into easy, difficult, and very difficult.

Among the easy questions, even for grade school pupils is, “ What are the symbols for the Holy Spirit?” “Dove” (Mt. 3:16) and “tongues of fire” (Acts 2:3) are the most common answers. A few bright ones will come up with “wind” (Acts 2:2). There are many more possible answers such as water which signifies the Spirit’s action in baptism, the act of anointing and the laying of hands, by which the Spirit is bestowed, There is also the cloud which is a symbol of the overshadowing by the Holy Spirit. These symbols speak of the actions or the powers of the Holy Spirit.

Like fire, the Holy Spirit ignites and transforms what it touches. The Spirit of the Lord gives warmth. The Paraclete gives light. On the day of Pentecost, a once fearful group of disciples became courageous. Those who were hiding in the dark went out into the light and publicly proclaimed. “Jesus is alive.” Like fire, the good news spread to the ends of the earth. We ask for this fiery presence as we say the traditional prayer, “Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and enkindle in us the fire of your love.” Like wind, the Holy Spirit is the breath of life or in Hebrew, the “ruah” which means breath, air, and wind. Jesus even used this image of the wind to teach Nicodemus about the new life that comes upon the disciple (Jn. 3:5-8). Just as we need air to live, so do we need the Holy Spirit to vivify and freshen the Church and the world. A good sailor or a good farmer has a delicate sense of where the wind blows. The Christian disciple must also be sensitive to where the Spirit blows and be able to read the signs of the times and the challenges of renewal they bring. We ask for new life as we pray, “Come Holy Spirit, renew the face of the earth.”

The dove is a symbol of peace and hope. It is a symbol of new beginnings. It was the dove that brought to Noah a freshly plucked olive after the flood (Gen. 8:11). The Holy Spirit appeared in the form of a dove during the baptism of the Lord Jesus in the Jordan which signaled the beginning of the public life of Our Lord and his proclamation of the Kingdom. This kingdom is characterized by peace, unity and harmony. This peace and unity comes about as a gift of the Holy Spirit (1Cor. 12:12). Thus we pray, “Come Holy Spirit, make as one.” The Holy Spirit is the life-giver, the animator, and the unifier. Wind, fire, and dove.