The Clay Birds’ Carol
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In the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, a mysterious early non-canonical work, believed to have been written in the 2nd century, a story is told of Jesus making birds out of clay and then breathing life into them. This carol has the birds telling their story of what happened.
The clay birds here singing their carol are like doves and, like all birds, are messengers of the unknown world from which miracles come. In Matthew 3: 13-17, a dove alights on Jesus after he is baptized. So it is that the Holy Spirit manifests as a dove and (in art but not in scripture) hovers above the head of the Virgin Mary in many paintings of the Annunciation.
Jan van Eyck, The Mystic Lamb. St. Bavo’s Cathedral, Ghent. 1432.