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Holy Spirit

dove christian seven operates

As developed in Christian doctrine, the Holy Spirit is the third person of the *Trinity. In the Old Testament, a rather general spirit or breath of *God operates at the *Creation, and inspires humans with strength, success, virtue, *wisdom, prophetic ability, creativity, and intellectual powers. In the New Testament, the more personified Holy Spirit operates at the miraculous incarnation of Jesus, through Jesus’ life and *miracles, and, as the Holy Paraclete (Greek: “comforter”; promised by Jesus to his disciples in *John 14:16) supports and consoles believers. A topic of copious discussion among early Christian and medieval theologians, the relationship between the three persons of the Trinity was also the subject of continual dispute between the western and Byzantine churches through the Middle Ages.


In art, the Holy Spirit is most often symbolized by a white dove, following the descriptions of Jesus’ *Baptism , when the spirit descended upon him “in a bodily shape like a dove.” This iconography appears in early Christian art and remains consistent through the medieval period. The dove of the Holy Spirit also appears in images of the *Annunciation to Mary and in scenes of the *Pentecost (Descent of the Holy Spirit), although some early depictions of Pentecost depict the Holy Spirit as “tongues of fire” descending   upon the *apostles, as described in Acts 2:3. The dove of the Holy Spirit may also appear in scenes of the *Coronation of the Virgin. Seven doves symbolize the *Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit, and numerous *saints are depicted inspired or accompanied by the dove (e.g., Saints *Catherine of Siena, *Gregory the Great, *Scholastica, and *Thomas Aquinas).

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