No Dove, no church

Daily Reading for October 2

The Holy Ghost is a Dove, and he makes Christ’s Spouse, the church, a Dove, a term so oft iterate in the Canticles, and so much stood on by Saint Augustine and the Fathers, as they make no question. No Dove, no church.

And what shall we say then to them that will be Christians, and yet have nothing in them of the church, nothing in them of the dove; what shall we say? You may see what they are, they even seek and do all that in them lies to chase away this Dove, the Holy Ghost. The Dove, they tell us, that was for the baby-Church, for them to be humble and meek, suffer and mourn like a dove. Now, as if with Montanus they had yet “another Holy Ghost” to look for, in another shape, of another fashion quite, with other qualities, they hold these be no qualities for Christians now. Were indeed, they grant, for the baby-Christians, for the “three thousand” first Christians, this day; poor men, they did all in simplicitate cordis. And so too in Pliny’s time: harmless people they were; the Christians, as he writes, did nobody hurt. And so to Tertullian’s, who tells plainly what hurt they could have done, and yet would do none. And so all along the primitive churches, even down to Gregory, who in any wise would have no hand in any man’s blood. But the date of these meek and patient Christians is worn out, long since expired; and now we must have Christians of a new edition, of another, a new-fashioned Holy Ghost’s making.

For do they not begin to tell us in good earnest that they are simple men that think Christians were to continue so still; they were to be so but for a time, till their beaks and talons were grown, till their strength was come to them, and then this dove here might take her wings, fly whither she would; then a new Holy Ghost to come down upon them that would not take it as the other did, but take arms, depose, deprive, blow up; instead of an olive branch, have a match-light in her beak or a bloody knife.

Methinks, if this world go on, it will grow a question problematic, in what shape it was most convenient for the Holy Ghost to have come down? Whether as he did, in the meek shape of a dove? or whether, it had not been much better he had come in some other shape, in the shape of the Roman eagle, or of some other fierce fowl de vulturino genere?

But lying men may change—may, and do; but the Holy Ghost is unus idemque Spiritus, saith the Apostle, changes not, casts not his bill, moults not his feathers. His qualities at the first do last still, and still shall last to the end, and no other notes of a true Christian, but they.

From “Sermon VIII of the Sending of the Holy Ghost” by Lancelot Andrewes, quoted in Love’s Redeeming Work: The Anglican Quest for Holiness, compiled by Geoffrey Rowell, Kenneth Stevenson, and Rowan Williams (Oxford, 2001).

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