By Karen Sheehy
The natural world and the divinely inspired Sacred Scriptures are filled with thousands of symbols directing us towards the light of God’s love. In fact, in the book of Genesis, there are many such spiritual indicators. There, we find the familiar story of Noah and his family longing for the receding flood waters in the wake of such profound destruction and isolation. Both the flood waters and the ark itself represent important symbols of God’s saving love, for in them we see a foreshadowing of the sacramental waters of Baptism and the divine protection of God found within the ark of Christ’s Church.
As the story progresses, we find Noah releasing a raven and then a dove. As a bird lover, I am fascinated by the various symbolic meanings or stereotypes associated with various birds. The raven, known to many as a symbol for death and struggle, stands in stark contrast to the dove, usually symbolizing the first fruits of spring, peace or rebirth. In their comparison, do we find a symbolic representation of nature’s cycle of life. A cycle consisting of birth, struggle, growth, maturation, death, and rebirth. A cycle proclaimed by the Lord in Genesis 8:22, “As long as the earth lasts, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, and day and night, shall not cease”.
According to Christian beliefs, this natural cycle simply foreshadows the spiritual and sacramental journey of a soul, for in Christ, we find the joyful birth of Christmas (Baptism), the struggles, growth and maturation process of discipleship (Reconciliation), the sorrowful death and glorious resurrection of Easter (Eucharist and Last Rites), and the ascension to new life. As members of the One Body of Christ, Christians find hope and joy in the Resurrection which, for the faithful, always follows the Cross. This counter-cultural, Christian hope, even in the face of trial, uncertainty, pain and death, is beautifully represented in Noah’s sending forth of the raven and the dove. The raven, indicating struggle and death, is released prior to the dove, which ultimately brings back an olive branch, representing peace and new life for Noah, his family, and all those Christians who place their trust in Jesus. This is why, in Mark 8:25, we read about Christ’s healing of a blind man who could now, “see everything clearly”.
Closing prayer: “May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, grant you a spirit of wisdom and insight to know him clearly. May he enlighten your innermost vision that you may know the great hope to which he has called you, the wealth of his glorious heritage to be distributed among members of the church, and the immeasurable scope of his power in us who believe” (Ephesians 1:17-18). Alleluia, Alleluia.
About the Author:
Karen Sheehy is a devout Catholic, wife and mother, motivational speaker, blogger and developer of spiritualsafariguide.com, your passport to a world of spiritual inspiration and understanding. To learn more about Karen Sheehy and her upcoming book entitled, The Healing Eyes of Mercy. A Journey Towards the Light of God’s Love, visit http://www.spiritualsafariguide.com