16 And Jesus being baptized, forthwith came out of the water: and lo, the heavens were opened to him: and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove, and coming upon him.
Rabanus: As by the immersion of His body He dedicated the laver of baptism, He has shewn that to us also, after baptism received, the entrance to heaven is open and the Holy Spirit is given.
Remigius: As to all those who by baptism are born again, the door of the kingdom of heaven is opened, so all in baptism receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Pseudo-Chrysostom: The heavens are opened to the baptized, and they see those things which are in heaven, not by seeing them with the bodily eye, but by believing with the spiritual eye of faith.
Or thus; The heavens are the divine Scriptures, which all read but all do not understand, except they who have been so baptized as to receive the Holy Spirit.
Rabanus: Seven excellencies in the baptized are figured by the dove. The dove has her abode near the rivers, that when the hawk is seen, she may dive under water and escape; she chooses the better grains of corn; she feeds the young of other birds; she does not tear with her beak; she lacks a gall; she has her rest in the caverns of the rocks; for her song she has a plaint. Thus the saints dwell beside the streams of Divine Scripture, that they may escape the assaults of the Devil; they choose wholesome doctrine, and not heretical for their food; they nourish by teaching and example, men who have been the children of the Devil, i.e. the imitators; they do not pervert good doctrine by tearing it to pieces as the heretics do; they are without hate irreconcilable; they build their nest in the wounds of Christ’s death, which is to them a firm rock, that is their refuge and hope; as others delight in song, so do they in groaning for their sin.
Chrysostom: In the deluge this creature appeared bearing an olive branch, and tidings of rest to the world. All which things were a type of things to come. For now also a dove appears pointing out to us our liberator, and for an olive branch bringing the adoption of the human race.
Augustine: This creature in the shape of which the Spirit appeared, was not taken into unity of person, as was that human shape taken of the Virgin. For neither did the Spirit bless the dove, nor unite it with Himself for all eternity, in unity of person. . . . It seems to me to be more like the flame which appeared to Moses in the bush, or that which the people followed in the wilderness, or to the thunderings and lightnings which were when the Law was given from the mount. For all these were visible objects intended to signify something, and then to pass away.
Jerome: It sat on the head of Jesus, that none might suppose the voice of the Father spoken to John, and not to the Lord.
Scripture from the Douay-Rheims Bible. Commentary from St. Thomas Aquinas, Catena Aurea, Vol. I (London: Rivington, 1842).