OUR DOVES OF PEACE
READ: Genesis 8:6-12
“Then it came about at the end of forty days that Noah opened the window of the ark. He then sent out from the ark a raven, and it flew here and there until the flood waters were subsiding. Then Noah sent out a dove to see if the flood waters had abated from the face of the land; but the dove found no resting place, so she returned to him, for the water was still covering the land. So Noah put out his hand and took the dove back into the ark. Noah waited another seven days, and again sent the dove forth from of the ark. This time, the dove returned to Noah in the evening, and behold, in her beak was the leaf from an olive tree. So Noah knew that the flood waters had abated. Noah then waited another seven days, and once more set loose the dove, but this time the dove did not return to him again.” – Genesis 8:6-12
I am of the belief that God inspires the telling of the great Story. I believe God inspires our Scriptures, communicating the truth to the people of God, those people who lived centuries gone by and those who live in our present time. I believe God inspires both the writing of the Story and the reading of the Story, both the telling of the Story and the hearing of the Story, in both the discovering of the Story and in the remembering of the Story. I believe God reveals the higher and deeper Truth through both the broad sweep of the Story and also in the details of Its telling.
In the well-known story of Noah’s ark, I am intrigued, hopefully, to some measure inspired, by the details in the telling of it. Here, in the closing days of the Flood, here on the verge of the New Beginning of the renewed earth, the Story slows it pace in order to provide us with certain details, seemingly insignificant details necessary to the larger sweep of the Story, yet for a reason, here placed. First, a raven is sent forth … a raven who scouts the aftermath, ranging far and wide, soaring above the waters in search of dry land. Then, a dove is sent forth, a dove that keeps returning, first, she returns with only weariness, then she returns with an olive leaf. It is as if that olive leaf were a token of peace sent from the realm of New Beginning back to the Ark of Yesterday’s Hope. You might think that the story would end there … but it doesn’t. The dove is sent forth once more … this time, the dove does not return – the dove does not return. Now, my friends, this is inspired, divinely inspired storytelling!
A raven sent forth once, a dove sent forth three times. The first time, the dove returns having found no resting place; the second time, the dove returns bringing with it a proof of life returning; the third time, the dove flies off into the New Beginning itself, to find its own place to nest. In a certain poetic sense, this dove, first brought onto the ark for the sake of keeping sacrifice, is given back to the Lord in a sacrifice of thanksgiving for this Second Chance.
In the Abbey Gardens, I came upon a statue of a lovely lady returning a dove to the air. From her open hand, a dove takes flight. It is as if this soul is returning to the heavens this gift of a peaceful dove that had once settled upon her. It is as if this woman, (maybe she is Mary, maybe, Mary Magdalene, maybe, the spirit of the Benedictine Sisters, maybe, she is the embodiment of all gentle Christian souls), whoever she might be, she is returning into the realm about her the Peace that had once landed upon her soul. Peace received is best appreciated when that Peace also given.
The Christian disciple as thought of in the Benedictine approach is to be constantly in the ministry of placing God’s Peace in the world about him or her. We believe that Peace is something bestowed, not something achieved. As Christ has given to us a gift of Heaven’s Peace, so we in turn offer that gift of Peace to others, to the world itself. As we believe Christian love is God’s love made tangible; so we also believe that our gifts of Peace are bits of God’s Peace made tangible. And by tangible … we mean that it has “substance”, it becomes an enduring element in this world, a bit of divinity, a thread of God’s glory placed into the fabric of Time.
Oh, sometimes our offers of Peace return to us as weary and tired doves, unable to find a resting place. Yet, at other times, our offers of Peace return to us with an olive leaf, a token of reassurance and encouragement that our dove did find a place upon which to rest. And still yet, at others times, we experience the ironic joy of our offers of Peace taking flight, never to return, finding homes of their own out there beyond us.
So we are always offering sincere words of Peace to others, friends and enemies alike. So we are always working for reconciliation and peace, usually in seemingly small ways, so insufficient. So we are always sending forth doves into a stormy world flooded with hostility and violence … hoping and praying that our doves might find a place to nest … out there, somewhere.
Pax (our dove of peace),
Brother Anthony of the Cross
— Visit my poetry site, Willow Words, by clicking www.willowwordspoetry.wordpress.com .
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