Yesterday was Pentecost Sunday, the day when the Holy Spirit descended on the Early Church as tongues of fire. The Holy Spirit is often pictured as a dove. But Celtic Christians chose, not the dove, but the wild goose as a symbol representing the Holy Spirit. It sounds strange to us, but it has a long tradition in Ireland.
While the Roman Church imagined the Holy Spirit in the form of a peaceful, graceful dove, the Ancient Celts understood the Holy Spirit to be like a wild goose. When you hear of the Spirit descending like a heavenly dove on you, you hear harps and strings softly playing and get a peaceful feeling. The image of the Holy Spirit as a dove has become so familiar and domesticated an image that we pay little attention to the dove.
The image of a wild goose descending upon you is a different matter altogether. A wild goose is one noisy, bothersome bird. I like this image of the Holy Spirit as a wild goose because it jars us out of our complacency. We need such an image to correct our overly safe and overly sweet image of the Spirit. How many times can you sing “Come Holy Ghost, Creator blest, and in our hearts take up thy rest.” without your blood sugar reaching diabetic levels?
When the Spirit comes in the Bible, it never seems to be sweet or safe. God’s Spirit called the prophets to speak to Israel in words that were bold and sometimes dangerous. Ezekiel saw a vision of God’s Spirit blowing through a valley of dry bones and bringing them to life.
John the Baptist dressed in camel’s hair and eating wild locusts proclaimed, “I baptize you with water but he who comes after me will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.”
Neither safe nor tame, the Spirit inspired Saint Paul to proclaim, “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28).
It was this wild goose that Jesus referred to when he preached his first sermon and quoted Isaiah, saying, “For the Spirit of the Lord is upon me for he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of God’s favor”. (Luke 4:18)
Thanks to Mickey Anders for these thoughts.
How has the Holy Spirit enlivened you this Pentecost Monday and jarred you out of the complacency that has set in during the past three months due to the coronavirus?