Monday, 27 January 2014

The Blood of Doves

The horrifying attack on two doves released by the Pope this weekend upset many people: it had an element of pure Gothic horror. Subconsciously, we feel a particular chill at seeing a white, clean innocent dove killed in a religious setting. It seems an omen of some kind, a divine communication - but we are unsure what.

BBC bird experts have tried to quench any symbolism by saying that white doves are the poorly camouflaged regular prey of city sparrowhawks. In Rome, they are the prey of audacious and predatory gulls who usually feed on sandwiches.

Jesus noted the harmlessness of domestic doves. Doves are like sheep among wolves - sparrowhawks being wolves in the world of birds. Doves belong to the pigeon family. This may be why Noah sent a white homing pigeon out from the Ark, to see if there was dry land, any hope. The dove returned bearing sprig of an olive tree in its mouth, which proved somewhere had not been flooded and that one fruitbearing tree still grew. The dove signified “hope” and “new life”. Jesus used animal images to say something about Christian vulnerability:

“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Be as shrewd as serpents and as innocent as dovesMatthew 10

Jesus pointed out how how naked and vulnerable are those who preach and share the Gospel in a world which rejects Him and the Gospel: sheep among wolves without defence. A wolf can outrun a sheep and cleverly works cooperatively, in hunting packs. There is only safety for a “stupid” sheep in the midst of a flock. Weaker outsiders are easy to separate and pick off. Jesus recommends how His "sheep" and "doves" should deal with the cunning, tribal cleverness and speed of His enemies. In this, he means:
  • pursue innocence and purity - so that one gives no foothold to enemies eager to find a crack in the armour of the righteous. 
  • employ shrewdness, which is knowledge of the world, wisdom, realism. 
This mixture of personal purity and courage in the face of God-hating behaviours, added to knowledge of human character and faith, is exactly how Jesus dealt with evil himself. Jesus always outwitted his enemies, remaining in control. He was not “picked off” early, before His time, due to being shrewd, in many ways:
  • He spoke indirectly, using surprise 
  • He knew the Scriptures better than his opponents 
  • He turned their arguments against them 
  • He knew what was in their hearts and who to trust and who not to trust. 
One sympathises with the Vatican, that their well-intentioned, symbolic action intended to speak of peace, the Holy Spirit, purity and love - turned into a spectacle of horror. It shows a certain "other worldliness" about bird behaviours in Rome where, if one eats a sandwich in public, one risks being dive-bombed by a gull.

The fact is that the innocent dove is the main sacrificial victim in the Old Testament. It was the blood of the dove that justified the poor, sacrificed on the altar. Though Jesus talked about His Cross being “the sign of Jonah” (Jonah's name meaning “Dove”), the blood of the dove is no longer powerful or valid as before.

Only the blood of Christ covers the sin of the modern poor -  who are us. If the Vatican is like Noah, using doves to proclaim “dry land” and “peace” and “hope” in the world, we are obliged to suggest that the real message of this event is actually:
  • There is no “peace” or “dry land” or “hope” in this rebellious and evil world - save through the blood of Christ and through His Cross.

No comments:

Post a Comment