Two Turtle Doves
Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”), and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of turtle doves or two young pigeons.” Luke 2:22-24
The two turtle doves represent the two covenants, the Old and New Testaments. Turtle doves can be found in both testaments, and are representative of the strong bond of love and peace between God and man. Noah used the dove to determine if the water had receded after the flood, and the bird returned with an olive branch. This was a sign that peace between God and man had been restored to the earth. Abraham was told to sacrifice a heifer, a goat, a ram, a dove and a pigeon. He was commanded to split the hoofed animals, but to not kill the birds. This sacrifice established the permanent covenant between God and His people–a covenant of love and peace ultimately fulfilled in Jesus.
Turtle doves are monogamous. They form strong pair bonds and are thus emblems of the devoted love of Jesus for each one of us. This is given form in the Song of Songs where the Lover says to His beloved, “Open to me, my sister, my darling, my dove, my flawless one.” Jesus wants that type of a love relationship with us.
And somehow it seems appropriate that, after the birth of Jesus, Mary and Joseph could not afford the price of a lamb so they offered the alternative sacrifice commanded in Leviticus, “a pair of turtle doves.” True love is represented in two turtle doves, the Old and New Covenants, God’s love and peace.