Recently, I've experienced close encounters of the third kind in my neighborhood. The encounters are with an owl. It seems this owl has made a home in our backyard and I must say that I'm enraptured by its stoic majesty.
Throughout the ages, owls are harbingers of a dyer message of ensuing death, the symbolic of the return of a deceased loved one as well as guardianship. So much symbolic meaning for such an elusive raptor!
This owl and its catalytic engine for my imagination has my mind thinking of Holy Week and the Garden of Gethsemane. Holy Week reminds us of Jesus' triumphant entry into Jerusalem and all the hopes that rode in with him. Though Jesus spoke regularly of his impending death, I suspect the enthusiasm of his arrival in Jerusalem overrode the sensibilities of his followers. I find myself wondering if there was an owl in the Garden of Gethsemane.
If there was, which symbol would his disciples think of when they spied the owl. Would they have that ought oh feeling that something bad was about to happen? Maybe they would have seen it as a sign of divine protection. Or even a verse or two of the Psalms might have entered their minds; a verse such as Psalm 121: 3-4:
"He will not let your foot slip, he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep."
Those of us who have the benefit of hindsight know that both owl symbols were in play in Gethsemane. I must say that when I saw the owl in my own backyard one evening and then the next morning that I was spooked. Gethsemane, I think, should also give us that spooked sense of foreboding. The reality of Jesus' death on the cross was real, awful and final. Yet, even though Jesus' disciples did slumber and they did sleep, the God of creation, the God of the covenant, the God of the Exodus, the God of the Prophets did not slumber nor did God sleep.
How do we know? We have resurrection. Jesus is risen!