Reflecting on 21 Centuries of Faith

The Fasting Serpent

For centuries, the temptation of Adam and Eve has been the subject of artists, poets and storytellers. We all know the story – Adam and Eve were in the garden, the serpent tempted them, they sinned and were thrown out of the garden forever. Thus man was estranged from the Lord until the redemption of our lord Jesus. Okay, that was a little simplistic but you know the story.

The central antagonist in the story is the serpent. Since the fall of mankind, it has been the symbol of temptation and evil. Interestingly enough, there is another tradition that makes the serpent a symbol of “repentance, reconciliation and readiness for the Eucharist.”[1]

The serpent seems to be redeemed through its entrance into Christian legend that spins a fasting tale. It speaks of the serpent who fasts for forty-days before shedding its skin. An older legend says that before the serpent quenches its thirst it leaves its venom in its cave so it doesn’t inadvertently poison itself.[2]

[1] Peter Klein, ed., The Catholic Source Book, 3rd ed. (Dubuque, Iowa: ACTA Publications, 2000), p. 102

[2] Ibid.

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