Spiritus Sanctus
colored pencil and watercolor

The drawings of the Spiritus Sanctus series are a personal visual meditation on the third person of the Holy Trinity, the Spirit of Love that binds us together with God and each other. Using traditional Christian iconography as a starting point, I chose birds, animals, and plants to symbolically describe and explain the Gifts and Fruits that the Spirit bestows on us.




In Christianity, Pentecost is the feast celebrated 50 days after Easter. It commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles (Acts 2:1-42) as foretold by Christ (John 16:7). It is the beginning of active apostolic work and is considered the birthday of the Church.

In Matthew 3:16 and Luke 3:22 the Holy Spirit is compared to a dove at the Baptism of Jesus and so the white dove became the most widely used visual symbol of the Holy Spirit. The angel trumpet flowers and windflowers indicate the “great rush of wind” that preceded the descent of the Spirit (Acts 2:2). The red hot poker plants represent the tongues of fire that came to rest on the apostles (Acts 2:3). The cardinals and the pomegranate—in which many seeds are united in one place— represent the Church. The wheat pattern in the border reminds us that the Apostles were observing the Jewish feast of Pentecost, which was a celebration of thanksgiving for the harvest and the ending of Passover.

18” x 24”

White Dove: Columba livia domestica, Range: Worldwide


At our Baptism we receive the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit (Isaiah 11:2-3). When, through faithful practice, we allow these Gifts to become established habits, we will see the Nine Fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) budding forth in our lives.

The Gift of Wisdom strengthens faith, fortifies hope, perfects charity, and brings light to the heart, mind, and action. It helps us to love the world properly, as the creation of God.

The diamond, represented by the Diamond Dove, is a symbol of clarity and wisdom that transcends the banality of everyday life. The design of the border is based on a southwest U.S. tribal symbol of wisdom: the “Eye of the Medicine Man.” The all-seeing wisdom of eyes is also represented by the peacock feather and the pearly-eye butterfly. The mulberry tree was traditionally thought to be the last tree to bloom, wisely waiting until all danger of frost was past. Sunflowers, standing in for the sun, indicate enlightenment. The crocus is a symbol of healing and foresight.

10” x 15”

Diamond Dove: Geopelia cuneata, Range: Australia


The Gift of Understanding helps us to grasp the meaning of divine truths. By faith we know them, but Understanding allows us to appreciate and cherish them.

Stones—and the Stone Doves—represent prudence, from Proverbs: “A most pleasing stone is the hope of the seeker; he prudently knows which way to turn.” The flame vine indicates the light of truth. The sword, in the guise of the sword lily/gladiolus, is a symbol of discernment—the cutting edge of the sword allows one to separate issues from one another so that each may be evaluated. The border contains the West African linked hearts pattern that indicates understanding. The nasturtium, with its helmet-shaped flowers and shield-shaped leaves, represents faith’s protection of heart and mind against false doctrine. The spiral shape, as in a seashell, describes the discernment of a spiritual journey within.

10” x 15”

Rock Dove: Columba livia, Range: western and southern Europe, North Africa, and South Asia


The Gift of Counsel enables us to judge promptly and rightly, especially in difficult circumstances.

The Emerald Doves bring to mind the emerald gem, symbolic of prudent reflection and balance. The stag, as represented by its antlers and the staghorn beetle, is an animal that has to make prudent choices so that its antlers don't get caught in the brush. In pagan mythology the hyacinth was an attribute of Apollo, the god of the Muses and wisdom. Arrows—represented in the border and in the arrow-shaped leaves of the manihot tree—point to the right direction to choose.

10” x 15”

Emerald Dove: Chalcophaps indica, Range: Australia


The Gift of Fortitude gives us special strength of will to persevere in the face of difficulties.

Palms, and the Palm Doves, symbolize the courage of the martyrs. The laurel wreath was awarded to the victors of arduous races. The lion, represented here by dandelion flowers, is a well-known symbol of courage. In the language of flowers, the sweet pea indicated fortitude. The bee is fearless and tenacious when defending its nest.

10” x 15”

Palm Dove: Spilopelia senegalensis, Range: Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, western India


The gift of Knowledge enables us to evaluate things for their true worth, revealing the emptiness of pretense.

Spectacled Doves remind us that spectacles are symbols of the well-informed person. Books are containers of knowledge. The flame calla lily represents the torch of knowledge. The acacia tree was the source of wood for the Ark of the Covenant. The apple tree is traditionally identified with the Tree of Knowledge. Eyes, seen on the wings of the io moth, indicate knowledge and awareness. The border design is the Celtic Triquetra—emphasizing the number 3, which in the Jewish Kabbalah refers to knowledge.

10” x 15”

Spectacled Dove: Metriopelia ceciliae, Range: Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, and Peru


The Gift of Piety enables us to see in God not only one’s Master but a loving Father. It inspires us to respect and love the things consecrated to him.

Sapphire Quail Doves stand in for the sapphire gem which is a symbol of joyful devotion to God. They are meditating on the Passion flowers that represent Christ’s sacrifice on the cross that saves us from sin. The praying mantis represents prayer. The staghorn fern indicates the stag that is a symbol of longing for the Lord (Psalm 42:1 “As the hart panteth after the waterbrook, so panteth my soul after thee, Oh Lord”). The honeycomb pattern reminds us that honey represents the sweet blessings of piety (2Cor 3:6 “As honey flows from the comb so should devotion flow from the words.”)

10” x 15”

Sapphire Quail Dove: Geotrygon saphirina, Range: Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru


The Gift of Fear of the Lord (also called Awe and Wonder) inspires profound reverence for the majesty of God and dread of offending him through sin.

Biblically, the metal bronze speaks of judgment, represented here by the Bronze-winged Dove. The crown imperial flower speaks of the glory and majesty of God. The quaking aspen trembles before the glory of God. Fear or respect of the Lord is the expectation of judgment coupled with trust in God's mercy—the lemon balm plant—and love—the red rose.

10” x 15”

Bronze-winged Dove: Phaps chalcoptera, Range: Australia


The Fruit of Charity is expressed by our unselfish devotion and care for God and our neighbor. It is self-giving and does not ask for anything in return.

The Bleeding Heart Dove and bleeding heart flowers exhibit the compassion of charity. The sweetness of the fig tree suggests the sweetness of charity. St. Anthony of Padua used the fig tree as an example of love and mercy, the combination of which he called fraternal charity. The wallflower, in Greek myth, was a symbol of divine love. One variety of wallflower is named charity.

8” x 8”

Mindanao Bleeding Heart Dove: Gallicolumba crinigera, Range: the Philippines


The Fruit of Joy is obtained when we recognize that true happiness comes not from material things, but from knowing and following Christ.

The Laughing Dove reminds us of the outward expression of joy. Lemons, because of their zest, imply joy. The ancient Druids saw wood sorrel as a symbol of joy. St. Hildegard of Bingen in her 12th century herbal recommended the geranium as an antidote to sadness. The frog is a symbol of transformation and its resulting joy. The final movement of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony “Ode to Joy,” based on the poem by Friedrich Schiller, is one of the most beloved pieces of music ever written.

8” x 8”

Laughing Dove: Spilopelia senegalensis, Range: Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, western India


The Fruit of Peace frees us from worry over trivialities and allows us to come together in harmony and unity.

The dove, specifically the Peaceful Dove here, and the olive branch are well-known symbols of peace. In classical mythology, Iris was the divine messenger and the goddess of the rainbow. In Christianity the rainbow is a sign of peace. Therefore the iris flower symbolizes Christ as the messenger of God who brings peace to the earth. The blue sapphire gem, represented here by the sapphire showers flower, indicates peace of mind.

8” x 8”

Peaceful Dove: Geopelia placida, Range: Australia and New Guinea


The Fruit of Patience helps us to treat others with thoughtfulness and tolerance.

Blue is the color associated with patience, worn here by the Blue-headed Quail Dove. Due to its hard shell, the almond represents patience and endurance. In Christian symbolism, the elephant—suggested by the elephant ear plant—is an icon of temperance, patience, and chastity. The luna moth stands in for the moon which is a symbol of patience because of its long journey around the earth each month. The ox eye daisy reminds us of the industrious and patient beast of burden, the ox.

8” x 8”

Blue-headed Quail Dove: Starnoenas cyanocephala, Range: Cuba


The Fruit of Kindness is the active expression of mercy and helpful service to others.

The Golden Heart Dove suggests compassion. The pineapple is a popular symbol of hospitality and welcome. The deer, represented by the deer tongue plant, is a symbol of kindness in Native American lore. The plant is also used by herbalists for its soothing properties. The candle plant brings to mind lighted candles: in giving light the candle is consumed in the same way as a kind person wears himself out in service to others.

8” x 8”

Golden-heart Dove: Gallicolumba rufigula, Range: West Papua, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea.


The Fruit of Goodness prompts us to seek to do good to everyone and to do what we know is right.

The Jambu Fruit Dove reminds us that “by the fruits of their labors shall you know them.” (Matt. 7:16) The cherry represents the sweetness of good works, while the marigold flower is a symbol of good works renewed. The amaranthus caudarus flower is a symbol of virtue because its deep red color never fades in the same way that time does not diminish virtuous action.

8” x 8”

Jambu Fruit Dove: Ptilinopus jambu, Range: southern Thailand, Malaysia, Brunei and the Indonesian islands of Kalimantan, Sumatra and Java


The Fruit of Faithfulness helps us to live out our commitment to the teachings of Christ and the Scriptures.

Because Ring-necked Turtle Doves have a reputation of having one mate for life, they are a symbol of devotion. The plum, a domestic fruit, represents fidelity. The periwinkle became a sign of fidelity and friendship because its Latin name (vinca) has the same root as the verb “to tie” (vincire). The ivy plant, which must cling to a host plant, reminds us of attachment and fidelity. The border pattern is a variation of the Tibetan “endless knot” pattern which signifies faithfulness.

8” x 8”

Ring-Necked Turtle Dove: Streptopelia capicola, Range: Southern half of Africa


The Fruit of Gentleness combines the virtues of humility and consideration toward others.

The Mourning Dove’s tender call reflects the fruit of gentleness. The gentle lamb is represented by the lamb’s ear plant. In the language of Victorian flowers, the daisy brings a message of innocence and purity. Among the many symbolic meanings of the strawberry plant are modesty, humility, and purity.

8” x 8”

Mourning Dove: Zenaida macroura, Range: the Greater Antilles, most of Mexico, the Continental United States, and southern Canada


The Fruit of Self-Control gives us mastery over our desires and passions so that emotion does not overthrow reason.

The metal silver, represented by the Silvery Dove, is symbolic of purity and singleness of purpose. According the medieval lore, the nut of the beech tree feeds the hungry when nothing else is available and thus symbolizes abstinence, the virtue that applies to those who eat little rather than satisfy carnal avidity with rich banquets. In West African symbolism, the horn of the ram—represented here by the ram’s horn plant—indicates strength of mind. The lion’s tail plant stands in for the lion, an animal known for its strength and self-control.

8” x 8”

Silvery Dove: Columba argentina, Range: Small islands near Borneo, Sumatra and neighboring areas


©2013 Mary Lee Eggart
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