Dove-Like Motion

From “Baptism with the Holy Ghost” (ca. 1860)

The Church, we know, is the body of Christ. His natural body is in many respects a kind of type of that spiritual body of which his person is the head, and which has all its life from him… The water therefore poured on his visible body by St. John was a token and type of the baptismal water, by which sinners in all times would be born again and made members of him.  And the Holy Ghost which descended in bodily shape like a dove and lighted upon was a type and token of that same Holy Spirit which descended as cloven tongues like fire with a hovering, perhaps dove-like motion, and settled on his mother and his disciples, the first member of his mystical body…

Thus it may appear that our Lord’s baptism by St. John was the pledge and in a manner the beginning of his Church’s baptism by himself. He then, as our head, received the Holy Ghost for us. He was anointed with the Holy Ghost… And as the precious oil upon the high priest’s head ran down to the beard and down to the skirts of his clothing, so the Holy Spirit, poured upon the head of the church [at Christ’s baptism], did on [on Pentecost] begin to flow over her members one and all, and shall do so until the end of the world…

Behold here, as in all things, the merciful condescension of our Redeemer: how when he wanted nothing, he condescended to receive all, that we might receive it through him. That he might baptize us, he consented to be baptized himself… For so the Holy Scriptures and the church represent deep meanings of his baptism by St. John. By his heavenly touch he sanctified the waters, not only Jordan but of all the earth, to the mystical washing away of sin… Christ received the Holy Ghost without measure, that unto every one of us he might give grace according to the measure which he saw to be proper for each.

John Keble (1792-1866) was an Anglican priest, theologian, and poet, one of the principal leaders of the Oxford Movement, Anglicanism’s nineteenth century Catholic Revival. He is best known for The Christian Year, a popular set of devotional poems that inspired support for liturgical renewal, and for his 1833 Assize Sermon, widely regarded as the spark of the Oxford Movement. He was among the principal authors of The Tracts for the Times, a series of 90 pamphlets that announced the Oxford Movement’s aims to the wider church. He served for many years as rector of All Saints’ Church, Hursley, and a posthumous collection of Sermons for the Christian Year gathers some of his preaching from this period. Keble is commemorated on March 29 on the liturgical calendars of many Anglican churches.


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