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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Gueranger on the "soul" and "body" of the Church

Canisius | 29 May, 2007 12:15

Dom Gueranger's meditation for Whit Tuesday (IX,359-367) is a whirlwind tour of Church history from the perspective of divine providence, from the day of Pentecost to the end of time. His emphasis on the Church's victory even in the face of apparent defeat reminds me of H. W. Crocker's Triumph: The Power and the Glory of the Catholic Church, and of Warren Carroll's Our Lady of Guadalupe and the Conquest of Darkness.

One part seemed obscure to me, though (IX:360):

But as in the Incarnate Word there was the invisible Soul and the visible Body, so also the Church was to have a soul and a body: a soul, whose hidden beauty no eye but God's can fully see, at least during her earthly sojourn; and a body, which is to be visible to men: an ever-living proof of God's power, and of his love for the human race. Up to the day of Pentecost, the just, who had been united under Jesus, their Head, had belonged only to the soul of the Church, for the body was not then in existence. The heavenly Father had adopted them as His children; the Son of God had accepted them as His members; and the Holy Ghost, who is now about to work exteriorly, had interiorly wrought their election and sanctification.

The idea that someone could belong to the soul of the Church but not to the body seems strange. But after thinking about it, I realized that we have nested ideas of body, here: the Church is Christ's body, but the Church itself can be said to have a "body". What Gueranger means by this term is nothing other than the visible element of the Church. In other words, someone could belong to the body of Christ by having the soul of the Church within him and yet not be a member of a visible institution. This, he explains, was the situation of the apostles and disciples before Pentecost.

It will be interesting to track this term and see if Gueranger uses it consistently elsewhere in his work. I don't think I will use it myself, though; the potential for confusion with the Mystical Body is a negative in my mind.


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