This Sunday will feature a survey of how the Holy Spirit is ‘represented’ in Scripture, and beyond. To begin consider this definition of what a symbol is and how a symbol functions;
- A symbol is a mark, sign or word that indicates, signifies, or is understood as representing an idea, object, or relationship. Symbols allow people to go beyond what is known or seen by creating linkages between otherwise very different concepts and experiences.
Last Sunday we suggested that the Holy Spirit can be unsettling because we cannot completely wrap our minds around it. So we are left to our experiences and to various symbols to speak of the Holy we cannot see. Below are six short scripture references pertaining to the Holy Spirit and one early enduring symbol that comes from the Celtic Christian tradition.
1 Corinthians 12:13
For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.
Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord.
John answered and said to them all, “As for me, I baptize you with water; but One is coming who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to untie the thong of His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
Then Moses climbed up the mountain, and the cloud covered it. And the glory of the Lord settled down on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it for six days. On the seventh day the Lord called to Moses from inside the cloud.
Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I am a virgin?’ The angel said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God.
Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the 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 Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’
And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.
Interestingly, the ancient Celtic people saw the Holy Spirit not as a hovering white dove but as a “wild goose.” The meaning behind this peculiar choice is because they saw how the Holy Spirit has a tendency to disrupt and surprise. The Holy Spirit moves in our lives in an unexpected fashion, similar to the actions of a wild goose.
Of these 7 symbols which one comes closest to how you experience the Holy Spirit?
What is the linkage of your experience to this particular symbol?
Do you experience the Holy Spirit in way that is different than any of these 7 symbols?
If you were to use ‘words’ instead of symbols to describe the Holy Spirit what words would you use?