Faith News

A message from St George parish church


All God’s Creatures

Introduction

Last year I presented a series on the trees of the Bible which ran all through the season of Trinity or Ordinary Time. This year we will engage with the members of the animal kingdom that appear in the Bible.

In this occasional series I may suggest that you to do some additional reading and investigation for yourself and I may not use the most obvious texts.

The list of animals in the account of Creation in Genesis chapter 1 is very familiar but there are other descriptions of creation in different books of the Bible and many more animals appear throughout the text. I will take a very broad approach including living creatures from smallest to largest; virus and gnat to elephant and whale; vertebrates and invertebrates; and various borderline cases. Texts are from the New Revised Standard Version, Anglicized Edition, with the Apocrypha and Deutero Canonical Books. The collection of animals included in this series is not exhaustive and the names for some creatures may differ in other translations.

Do take some time to look at our creation window: the great west rose window in St George’s.

Consider the variety and beauty of the creatures depicted there.

In the song of praise sung by the three young men, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, who were thrown into the burning fiery furnace we find:

The three with one voice praised and glorified and blessed God in the furnace:
“Blessed are you, O Lord, God of our ancestors,
and to be praised and highly exalted for ever.

Bless the Lord, you whales and all that swim in the waters;
sing praise to him and highly exalt him for ever.
Bless the Lord, all birds of the air;
sing praise to him and highly exalt him for ever.
Bless the Lord, all wild animals and cattle;
sing praise to him and highly exalt him for ever.

All who worship the Lord, bless the God of gods,
Sing praise to him and give thanks to him,
For his mercy endures for ever.

                                           [Prayer of Azariah. 28, 29, 57 – 59, 68 (Apocrypha)]

Doves and Pigeons

The dove is often used as a symbol of the Holy Spirit [Mat 3. 16; Mark 1. 10; Luke 3. 22; John 1. 32]. Look around St George’s Church and you will see many images of doves.

Listen to this hymn – Enemy of Apathy:

Returning to the story of Noah we read that, when the raven did not return, Noah decided to send out a dove. The dove came back so Noah waited another week and sent out the dove again. This time the dove brought back ‘a freshly plucked olive leaf’ [Gen 8. 11]. From this Noah knew that green plants were growing. After a further seven days, Noah sent out the dove again and this time it did not return so Noah knew that it must have found somewhere to roost. Now Noah could feel sure that the waters were abating.

The turtle dove features in the cutting of a covenant, a double sided promise. Various creatures might be used in this ceremony. God’s promise to Abram concerning the land involved the use of animals including a turtle dove and a young pigeon. Abram could walk between the mammals, whose bodies were split and placed on either side of the path way and the birds which were placed uncut, several on each side, to make the covenant with God [Gen 15. 9 – 10; Lev 1. 14 – 17].

On the fortieth day after his birth, Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to the Temple, to offering of the two turtledoves or young pigeons [Luke 2. 23 – 24] for the purification of Mary [Lev 12. 1 – 8]. This was required for all births. There seems to be a conflation of this ceremony with the presentation of Jesus as a first born son but there is no mention of the payment for the redemption of the firstborn. Later when Jesus visited the Temple at Passover he found doves and other animals being sold there: read what happened [Mat 21. 12; Mark 11. 15; John 2. 14 -16].

The dove is described by Jesus as ‘innocent’. When he sends out his disciples to proclaim the good news, he tells them to be ‘wise as serpents and innocent as doves’ [Mat 10. 16]. The dove is often used as a symbol of peace, new life, purity, grace and gentleness [Song of Songs 1. 15; Ps 68. 13; Ps 55. 6].

Blessed are you, O Lord our God,
Maker of all living creatures:
fish in the sea, birds in the air,
and animals on the land.
May we always praise you
for all your beauty in creation.
Blessed are you, O Lord our God,
in all your creatures.
Amen