The Guéranger Blog

Welcome to the Gueranger Blog! You have stumbled across the notebook I use to record my thoughts as I read through Dom Prosper Gueranger's 15-volume set, The Liturgical Year. I do not have any special expertise in liturgy, but I have some general knowledge of Catholic theology and an enthusiasm for Gueranger's magnum opus. Think of it as the Liturgical Year fan site!

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Noah and...no meat on Fridays!

Canisius | 03 March, 2006 04:27

Gueranger has a pretty neat interpretation in V,3-4 of the earlier chapters of Genesis in connection with...fasting! I'm sure he's getting it from some Church Father somewhere, but I'll admit I've never seen this one before.

The basic idea is that mankind first ate just plant products. This is coming from Genesis 1:29-30, 'And God said, "Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food."' What major food group is conspicuously absent from the list? You got it: meat!

After the Fall, man's nature was greatly weakened, and the ground didn't yield him a living the way it used to (see Genesis 3:17-19). When things got so bad that God had to wipe out the human race and start over from Noah, he decided to give us a break: after the flood, he told Noah in Genesis 9:3, "Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you; and as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything." So now we can have meat, and our bodies don't suffer quite as much.

So when we want to proclaim a fast that will remind us of the punishments of Adam's sin, that we are dust, and to dust we shall return (Genesis 3:19), we give up this special extra and return to the state of punishment due to the Fall. Hence the Lenten Fast is intrinsically connected to abstinence.

I've never really known what to do with the whole meat thing in those early chapters of Genesis. When you compare 1:29-30 with 9:3 it's clear that something is up, but what? Connecting the meat theme with sin, punishment, etc. is a great move, because it ties this seemingly odd detail to the central thrust of this part of Scripture. It's a great move on anybody's terms, be it traditional/literal interpretation or modern/symbolic.

My favorite line in all this was from V,4, where he mentions that Noah was given permission to eat meat:

It was then, also, that Noe, guided by a divine inspiration, extracted the juice of the grape, which thus formed a second stay for human debility.

In other words, wine was invented by divine inspiration, and is needed for good health. Gueranger then concludes that the Lenten Fast also intrinsically includes fasting from wine...but I haven't taken it that far, myself.


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