I have read that Celtic Christians think of the wild goose as a symbol for the Holy Spirit. I am guessing that’s where The Wild Goose Festival, an emergent, progressive Christian music and preaching event, got its name. I think it’s kind of funny that we think of a “wild goose chase” as something we’ve done to no avail. If we’ve heard there’s something we’re looking for in one place, but when we get there, we find that’s not the place – it must be somewhere else – we’ve been on a “wild goose chase.” Yet often when I’ve chased around seeking something I desire, though I may not find that thing, there is usually something else to discover along the way.
In the past few months, I’ve read a couple of books about Celtic Christianity by different authors. I have enjoyed the delicious flavor of the Celtic way of mixing their pre-Christian understanding of the natural world and the Gospel. This deeply mystical spirituality speaks to my heart. I feel what Deborah K. Cronin tells us the Celts refer to as “the leap of the deer,” God’s Presence in my life. It speaks to my soul. It gives life and action to the admonition to “pray unceasingly,” for such constant connection to the Spirit is inherent in this way of being Christian. As I read about it, I am part of it; part of All That Is. I “remember” those who have gone before, because they are a part of who I am. As I read the various author’s reflections on the Psalms and Song of Solomon and the Ancient Celtic love for all Creation, I know even more deeply that God is in all things. Truly, we “live and move and have our Being” IN God.
Though the authors I have been reading come from different denominational perspectives – one is an Evangelical, another a United Methodist – they both have a concern that gives me pause as I plod through their critique of today’s spiritual climate, particularly in the United States. They are concerned about “New Age” interpretations of the ancient texts. They seem to be afraid that the Word will be somehow diluted by being combined with other newer, different texts and the stories shared alongside stories originating from different religious, spiritual, or cultural worldviews. They are afraid that the Gospel message will be lost as the “old way” of reading and understanding Biblical texts changes. I’m fairly sure they would be terrified to enter a place of worship or celebration where a candle is lit in the name of Mary, another for Brigid, and another for Erzulie. What would they think if they sat in a pew and listened to a preacher speak first a Gospel lesson, and then illustrate something with a Jataka Tale of a Bodhisattva? How might they feel if the discussion in a small group study focused on The Gospel of Mary, or The Gospel of Judas, both reconstructed from codices found at Nag Hammadi?
If, as a Christian, one believes that the Christ is the Word of God, and the Holy Spirit is the advocate who calls us, leading us closer to God and to who we are meant to be in God, how can one think the Word can be diluted? For some, it might seem a wild goose chase to seek God’s wisdom in texts and practices outside of traditional Christianity. However, even they might find something true and inspirational, if they pay attention. Even in the midst of unfamiliar liturgy and prayer, even in the midst of strange stories, one might feel the deer as it leaps in their heart.
The dove is a wonderful symbol of the Holy Spirit; it speaks of the peace that we seek for ourselves and for the world. However, we will not find that peace if we do not find the fulfillment of the Place where the Holy Spirit leads us. We cannot – I cannot – sit down and let the Dove light upon me as if there was no more to be done to prepare our hearts and our world for the Presence of God. I know the Dove’s call; she is always Present, always cooing the Om of God in my meditations. But here in the waking world, there are still folks to feed, souls to comfort, bodies to heal and wisdom to be attained. For me, this is the realm of the Wild Goose.
The Wild Goose flies before me, leading me to ways of serving the needs of God’s Creation, sentient and otherwise. The Wild Goose cries to me in its flight, leading me to my fullness in God. It leads me to strange places, fearful and wonderful; it leads me to places I might rather not go.
Even so, I will chase the Wild Goose, wherever it leads.
As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and behold the face of God? – Psalm 42:1-2