Like a Dove
thousand years ago, as Jesus' apostles gathered in
Jerusalem, the Holy Spirit descended upon them "like
a rushing mighty wind," flickering in dancing flames
upon their heads. Literally or metaphorically, the
image is a powerful one. The Spirit transformed the
apostles as explosively as a spark bursts to flame.
It burned within them as evangelical fire, making
believers by the thousands; healing the sick;
working miracles. It branded into the apostles,
mostly uneducated Galileans, the gift to speak God's
word in every listener's native tongue: perhaps a
deeply private language kindled in the heart.
Until that day, people thought the Holy Spirit
touched high priests and chosen kings
not you and me. Yet the Spirit's presence within the
ragtag band of apostles was clear to thousands
around them. Its presence within our own lives can
seem equally unmistakable
be it mystifying, frightening, joyous, or simply
inexplicable. How do we react?
For this exhibition, we sought art to respond to,
and reflect, artists' ideas of the Holy Spirit
the divine mystery
and how it moves within and upon us. Some
contributors engaged the experience of the Spirit
directly, portraying the rustle of dove's wings,
tongues of flame. Others chose to show the workings
of that which is wonderfully simple, yet defies
reduction to what we can explain or quantify. We are
shown a crocus unfurling in morning dew; and a
dragonfly, still wet from hatching, too new to take
wing. Another artist paints the magical, evocative
fall of light from a window; and the luminous
expression on a little girl's face when, surrounded
by spangles of childish finery, she suddenly sees
herself as beautiful. A photographer captures a
heart formed by lashings of silk at a cathedral
Pentecost service. That heart existed in one
fleeting second; it will never come again.
In the accompanying artist statements, some artists
write overtly of their spirituality; others are more
reticent. The unspoken can be equally profound.
One artist comments, "Working with glass is a
transforming process. The pieces are broken, change
shape, fit together, and then are made whole
again..." Who among us has not felt broken? Isn't
the experience of brokenness, then changing shape
and fitting together, the very fabric of our lives?
Another says, "I paint because I do not understand.
I love, but I do not understand the ground of the
love. Illuminating light bumps up against the most
Illuminating light indeed. What is the Spirit, if
not the essence of light, wind, fire, a shaking of
the earth and a movement upon the waters? Those are
the elements of our existence.
I chose this exhibition's content in hopes of
evoking the Spirit's presence in our world. No two
of us define or experience that presence in the same
way. Perhaps we each meet the unknowns of the holy
in the native language of our own heart.
As I was drafting this essay, a small miracle of
delight descended. A scarlet-red cardinal perched at
my window, gazed at me, bobbed his orange beak a few
times; then fluttered away. He's never been here
before, and he hasn't been back since. Joy lands in
the most unexpected places.
May we welcome the mystery.
Dodson is a realist painter who seeks to convey a
sense of the "unseen eternal" in her work. She lives
in Virginia with her husband and sons, and is
honored to serve as ECVA's Director of
Communications. Please feel welcome to contact her
through her website,