Today, Fr. Terry Moore in his sermon at St. John the Apostle Anglican Church, used the illustration of the wild goose, a Celtic symbol for the Holy Spirit. This image struck a deep chord within me. I began to explore the internet to see what I could find about this Celtic symbol (being of Celtic stock, i. e. Scots). We often wish for our Christian walk to be as placid and beautiful as the scenic picture below. In such scenes as this one, however, when we look closely we will find a wild goose, and try to catch it. In the Narnia series, Aslan is not a tame lion. The Holy Spirit is not now and never has been a tame Spirit. We must follow Him, though.

I found this excerpt from a sermon by David Clark on Pentecost 2009 invoking Celtic Christianity. His site is The Community of St. Luke, Remuera – Newmarket, Presbyterian Church of Aotearca, New Zealand. You can read the entire sermon by going to their site.

He has outlined the joys and problems of following the Holy Spirit in our Christian walk. thank you, David Clark.

“on the Day of Pentecost, we have been presented with a striking range of images for the Holy Spirit in the poetry of James K Baxter (“Hymn to the Holy Spirit”) and of Shirley Murray (in the hymn “Loving Spirit, loving Spirit”). Wind, shining sun, mother eagle, bright cloud, kind fire, love of friends, mother, father, friend, lover… Nevertheless, my personal favourite image is on the wall above the pulpit here in St Lukes. The uninformed think it is a duck, but most of you know is actually a wild goose. It comes from the island of Iona, off the western coast of Scotland, and it is the ancient Celtic symbol of the Holy Spirit.

It wasn’t that the ancient Irish and Scots didn’t know about doves, the more traditional biblically-originating symbol of the Spirit. The name of the sixth-century founder of the abbey at Iona, the man who first brought Christianity to Scotland, Columba, means ‘dove’. But, as lovely as doves might be, Celtic Christians decided the wild goose was a far more apt symbol of the Holy Spirit. This one, cast in a studio in Ireland where Columba originated, and purchased at the abbey on Iona which he founded, hangs above the pulpit around which are carved the ominous words, “Where there is no vision, the people perish”.

Both the goose and those words are a reminder and a warning to preachers and to the preached-to. They are reminders that the Spirit of God cannot be tamed or contained. They are reminders, when it comes to God, to expect the unexpected.

Wild geese are, well, wild. That is, untamed, uncontrolled. They make a lot of noise, and have a habit of biting those who try to contain or capture them. That has been the Christian experience of the Holy Spirit through two thousand years. Time and again when theology and God have appeared to be firmly in the control of hierarchies and religious establishment, the Spirit of God has broken free – and has often bitten those who tried to prevent it happening.”

Copyright 2003 Michael P. Cassidy, Studio4-2.


About Fr. Orthohippo

The blog of a retired Anglican priest (MSJ), his musings, journey, humor, wonderment, and comments on today's scene.
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  1. It has been on my heart as late, and with Sunday’s theme of hearing and following, it seemed like a good path to explore. Also, recently a dear friend loaned me a book called Wild Goose Chase, by Mark Batterson…perhaps we are being given a clue what to expect….

  2. We have indeed been given a clue as to what we will find on our walk with God.

  3. Joanna says:

    I enjoyed Fr. Terry’s metaphor, and especially the picture you chose to represent it. The Spirit can be wild and free when let loose, that’s certain!

  4. You have used my photograph “Wild Goose Island” without permission. Please either remove the photograph from this site or add the notation: Copyright 2003 Michael P. Cassidy, Studio4-2. Thank you

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