Holy spirit

Why did the early Christians call the Holy Spirit “the wild goose?” “| Catholic National Register

The Holy Spirit can be gentle as a dove, or rowdy and unpredictable like a wild goose.

You’ve heard of a wild goose hunt, haven’t you? It is a hopeless pursuit, a senseless search that is sure to prove fruitless. The adventurer who sets out on a wild goose hunt wastes a lot of time chasing something he will never catch, or following a path that leads nowhere. The Oxford Dictionary defines a wild goose hunt as “a desperate search for something that is impossible to find”.

In the past, a wild goose hunt did not refer to birds, but to horses. In the equine version of a “wild goose hunt”, the lead rider led his galloping horse erratically through the countryside, with followers – like geese hovering overhead in a classic V-formation. – reproducing each of its movements.

It is in this sense that William Shakespeare used the expression “wild goose hunting” in Romeo and Juliet. In Act 2, Scene 4, Mercutio finds himself in a battle of the mind with Romeo. Mercutio calls on his friend Benvolio to help him; but Romeo laughs: “No, if your mind runs wild goose hunting, I did, because you have more wild goose in any of your minds than, I’m sure, I have some in my five sets. “

So why did the early Christians refer to the Holy Spirit as “the wild goose?”

But wait, what does all of this have to do with the Holy Spirit? Isn’t the third Person of the Holy Trinity represented as a gentle dove (as in the baptism of Jesus by John, in Matthew 3:16)?

Not always. The early Christians appreciated the goose’s unexpected interventions and viewed the goose as an appropriate symbol for the Spirit. Long before Shakespeare wrote about wild goose hunting, believers regarded the noble goose as a symbol of vigilance.

The story goes that on July 18, 387 BC. BC, the Gallic Celts attacked the city of Rome. More than 30,000 Gallic warriors invaded much of the city, raping and pillaging, torching and pillaging, prompting surviving citizens and Roman soldiers to take refuge atop Capitoline Hill. The Gallic invaders attempted to overtake the hill at night – but a flock of geese, surprised by the smell and noise of the approaching fighters, began to cackle loudly, warning the sleeping Roman troops.

In Natural History, Book 10, Pliny the Elder wrote in the first century about the unique characteristics of the goose:

“The geese watch carefully; the cackling of geese warned of an attack on the Capitol in Rome. Geese may have the power of wisdom, as shown by the story of a goose who was the companion of the philosopher Lacydes and who refused to leave him. … The geese come on foot from Gaul to Rome; if one is tired, he is moved forward, so that he is forced to continue by the press of the geese behind him.

Saint Isidore of Seville, who lived in the 6th century, told the story of the Gauls’ attempt to plunder Rome and the saving cries of geese. Isidore wrote in his Etymologies, volume 12:

“The geese keep watch at night and warn by their noise; they can smell humans better than any other animal. The geese warned Rome of an attack from the Gauls.

While the dove is renowned for its gentleness and calmness, a wild goose will attack if it feels threatened. It’s wild and wild. Likewise, Celtic believers in the British Isles believed that the Holy Spirit is unpredictable, upsetting the status quo and leading people on a new adventure with God. They found evidence of this interpretation in John 3: 8:

“The wind blows where it wants, and you can hear the noise it makes, but you don’t know where it’s coming from or where it’s going; so it is with all who are born of the Spirit.

So what best represents the Holy Spirit? On the one hand, the Holy Spirit is gentle as a dove – he can come in silence, sowing the seeds of wisdom in our hearts. On the other hand, the Holy Spirit is sometimes rambunctious like a goose – tearing us away from our sedentary habits, disrupting the status quo, injecting the fire of God’s love.

In any case, he is welcome. Come, Holy Spirit!