What’s an Advent symbol got in common with my husband’s favourite German word?
That word is ‘Luftkissenfahrzeug’ and it literally translates as ‘a vehicle that travels on a cushion of air’, or as we know it, a hovercraft. And the symbol for today is the Holy Spirit hovering as a dove, signifying God’s wisdom.
It’s a great word, ‘hover’ (although part of me wishes it was ‘hoover’ so that I could share one of my favourite silly songs ‘Last Night My Wife Hoovered My Head’ by Fat & Frantic – check it out here: http://www.fatandfrantic.com/front/Videos/fat-and-frantic-videos/214247).
To hover means ‘to remain floating, suspended, or fluttering in the air’. It’s a gentle concept, delicate even. The most beautiful jewel coloured creatures come to mind with the word: dragonflies and damselflies hover; hummingbirds hover.
And yet there’s an immense degree of control for something as small as a hummingbird or as large as a helicopter to hover, concentrating on its task of collecting nectar or rescuing a wave lashed sailor, yet revealing so little effort. Power and strength underpin the whole ability to hover.
So isn’t it the same for the Holy Spirit hovering? It’s not a forceful imposition of personality or power but a gentle offering of nearness. But underneath the solicitude ad tenderness hide strength and fire that can be called on when needed.
It’s easy to get caught up with the image of the Holy Spirit like a flame, almost a wildfire leaping from person to person at Pentecost, or like an unpredictable wind ‘blowing wherever it will’. Those are untamed but simple concepts, but a hovering bird? Gerard Manley Hopkins’s poem isn’t about a dove but he puts it so well: http://www.bbc.co.uk/poetryseason/poems/the_windhover.shtml.
May our hearts in hiding be stirred by the bird that is the hovering Holy Spirit.