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The Spirit and the bride say "Come"

Catechesis by Pope John Paul II on the Church
General Audience, Wednesday 8 January 1992 - in Italian & Spanish  

"1. The Apostle Paul has told us that "Christ loved the Church and handed himself over for her" (Eph 5:25). This basic truth of Pauline ecclesiology regarding the mystery of the Redeemer's spousal love for his Church is taken up again and confirmed in the Book of Revelation, where John speaks about the bride of the Lamb: "Come here, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb" (Rev 21:9). The author had already described the preparations: "For the wedding day of the Lamb has come, his bride has made herself ready. She was allowed to wear a bright, clean linen garment. (The linen represents the righteous deeds of the holy ones).... Blessed are those who have been called to the wedding feast of the Lamb" (Rev 19:7-9). Thus, the image of the wedding and the wedding banquet returns in this eschatological book in which the Church is considered in her heavenly state. But she is the same Church which Jesus spoke of when he presented himself as her spouse; the same Church which St. Paul spoke of when he recalled the sacrifice that Christ, her spouse, made for her; and the same Church which John now speaks of as the betrothed for whom Christ the Lamb offers himself. Earth and heaven, time and eternity, are united in this transcendent vision of the relationship between Christ and the Church.

2. The author of Revelation above all describes the Church-bride in her descending phase, as a gift from on high. The bride of the Lamb (cf. Rev 21:9) is identified as "the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, gleaming with the splendor of God" (Rev 21:10-11), as the "new Jerusalem...prepared as a bride adorned for her husband" (Rev 21:2). If in Ephesians Paul presents Christ as the Redeemer who bestows his gifts on the Church-bride, in Revelation John describes the same Church-bride, the bride of the Lamb, as receiving from him, as from her source, holiness and participation in God's glory. In Revelation, then, the descending aspect of the Church's mystery predominates. The gift from on high is expressed not only in her origin at Easter and Pentecost, but also throughout her earthly pilgrimage in the state of faith. Israel, the people of the old covenant, was also on pilgrimage. Her principal sin was betraying that faith through infidelity to God who chose her and loved her as a bride. For the Church, the new People of God, the duty of fidelity is even stronger and will perdure until the last day. As we read in Vatican II: "She herself [the Church] is a virgin, who keeps the faith given to her by her spouse whole and entire. Imitating the mother of her Lord, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, she keeps with virginal purity an entire faith, a firm hope and a sincere charity" (LG 64). Faith is the basic presupposition of the spousal love with which the Church continues the pilgrimage begun by the Virgin Mary.

3. Peter the Apostle, who in the neighborhood of Caesarea Philippi professed a faith full of love for Christ, wrote in the first letter to his disciples: "Although you have not seen him [Christ] you love him; even though you do not see him now you believe in him" (1 Pet 1:8). According to the Apostle Peter, faith in Christ means not only accepting his truth, but also being related to his Person in receptivity and love. In this sense, fidelity comes from faith, and faithfulness is the proof of love. This love is inspired by Christ and through him reaches God, in order to love him "with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength," as the first and greatest commandment of the old law says (cf. Dt 6:4-5). Jesus himself confirmed and strengthened this commandment (cf., e.g., Mk 12:28-30).

4. In virtue of this love, which she learned from Christ and the apostles, the Church is the bride "who keeps the faith given to her by her spouse whole and entire" (LG 64). Led by the Holy Spirit and moved by the power she receives from him, the Church cannot be separated from her spouse. She cannot become "non-faithful." Jesus Christ himself, in giving the Church his Spirit, established an indissoluble bond. We cannot fail to note here, with the Council, that this image of the Church, indissolubly united to Christ her spouse, finds particular expression in those who are bound to him by vows, such as religious and consecrated persons in general. For this reason they have such an essential place in the Church's life (cf. LG 44).

5. However, the Church is a society which also includes sinners. The Council is well aware of this fact and says: "The Church, embracing in its bosom sinners, at the same time holy and always in need of being purified, always follows the way of penance and renewal" (LG 8). Since the Church seeks to live in the truth, she certainly lives in the truth of the redemption wrought by Christ, and she also lives while confessing the human sinfulness of her children. In the midst of the trials and tribulations of her historical journey, the Church "is strengthened by the power of God's grace, which was promised to her by the Lord, so that in the weakness of the flesh she may not waver from perfect fidelity, but remain a bride worthy of her Lord, and moved by the Holy Spirit may never cease to renew herself, until through the cross she arrives at the light which knows no setting" (LG 9). In this way the apocalyptic image of the holy city coming down from heaven is being constantly realized in the Church, as the image of a people on the way.

6. The Church advances on this way toward an eschatological goal, toward the full realization of her marriage with Christ described in the Book of Revelation, toward the final stage of her history.

As we read in Lumen Gentium: "While on earth, [the Church]...journeys in a foreign land away from the Lord (cf. 2 Cor 5:6), is like an exile. It seeks and experiences those things which are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God, where the life of the Church is hidden with Christ in God until it appears in glory with its spouse (cf. Col 3:1-4)" (LG 6).

The Church's earthly pilgrimage is thus a journey filled with hope and is expressed succinctly in those words of the Book of Revelation: "The Spirit and the bride say, 'Come!'" (Rev 22:17). This text appears to be a confirmation, on the last page of the New Testament, of the Church's spousal character by reason of her relationship with Christ.

7. In this light we understand better what the Council says: "The Church, 'like a stranger in a foreign land, presses forward amid the persecutions of the world and the consolations of God' [1] , announcing the cross and death of the Lord until he comes (cf. 1 Cor 11:26). By the power of the risen Lord it is given strength that it might, in patience and in love, overcome its sorrows and its challenges, both within itself and from without, and that it might reveal to the world, faithfully though darkly, the mystery of its Lord until, in the end, it will be manifested in full light" (LG 8).

In this sense, "The Spirit and the bride say, 'Come!'"

[1]   cf. St. Augustine, De Civitate Dei, XVIII, 51, 2: PL 41, 614"

After the Catechesis, Papa Giovanni Paolo II greeted the pilgrims in various languages

Ai fedeli di lingua francese

Chers Frères et Sœurs,

Je salue très cordialement toutes les personnes de langue française qui sont venues à cette audience. Après ce séjour romain, je sou haite à chacun d'entre vous de rentrer chez lui plus fort dans la foi, plus affermi dans l'espérance et plus brûlant de charité.

Que le Seigneur vous bénisse et vous garde tous les jours!

Ai fedeli di espressione linguistica inglese

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I extend a warm welcome to the students from St. Olaf College in Minnesota: May your visit to the monuments of Christian Rome be a source of inspiration and spiritual enrichment. I also welcome the pilgrim group from the Archdiocese of Chicago and the American naval personnel stationed in Naples. Upon all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at today's Audience I cordially invoke the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Ad un gruppo di studenti svedesi

Hjärtligt välkomna till Rom,

Jag önskar er alla en god fortsättning på det nya året. Låt oss till- sammans be för att det kommer att bli ett år i fredens tecken för jordens alla folk.

Ni, ungdomar kan hjälpa oss att bygga upp en värld där våld, krig och orättvisa inte längre får förekomma.

Gott nytt år även till era familjer hemma i Sverige.

Gud välsigne er alla.

Ai pellegrini di lingua tedesca

Liebe Schwestern und Brüder!

Mit dieser kurzen Betrachtung richte ich einen herzlichen Will- kommensgrub an die deutschsprachigen Pilger und Besucher, die an dieser ersten Generalaudienz im neuen Jahr teilnehmen. Möge sich das Geheimnis des menschgewordenen Sohnes Gottes, der seiner Kirche in Treue stets Beistand und Führung ist, allen Menschen und Völkern immer mehr erschlieben und sie zur wahren Erkenntnis des himmlischen Vaters führen. Dazu erteile ich Euch und allen, die Euch in besonderer Weise verbunden sind, als Unterpfand reicher göttlicher Gnaden für ein frohes und glückliches Jahr neunzehnhundertzweiundneunzig von Herzen meinen Apostolischen Segen.

Ai fedeli di espressione linguistica spagnola

Amadísimos hermanos y hermanas,

Saludo ahora muy cordialmente a todos los peregrinos y visitantes de lengua española. En particular, al grupo de jóvenes de Costa Rica y a la peregrinación procedente de Buenos Aires.

Mientras pido al Señor que asista con su gracia a vosotros y a vuestras familias durante este año que acabamos de comenzar, os imparto complacido la Bendición Apostólica.

Ai pellegrini di lingua portoghese

Amados Irmãos e Irmãs,

Ao iniciarmos um Novo Ano nesta peregrinação, congratulo-me pelo dom da vida com todos vós, queridos irmãos de língua portuguesa, nomeadamente com o grupo de juristas, magistrados e advogados brasileiros que nestes dias participam no seminário de estudos a decorrer na Pontifícia Universidade Urbaniana, e com os outros peregrinos vindos de Minas Gerais, São Paulo e Rio de Janeiro, augurando-vos as maiores graças divinas para que todos os dias sejam vividos com Jesus Cristo e para Jesus Cristo. O Senhor vos guarde felizes, com a Bênção que afectuosamente vos concedo, extensiva aos vossos familiares.

Ai pellegrini provenienti dalla Boemia

Drazí poutníci z Cech!

Zacali jste pátý rok Desetiletí duchovní obnovy národa pod och ranou první ceské mucednice, sv Ludmily, abyste dokázali jako ona vychovat ze svých detí opravdové krestany, svedky Krista a ti se pak stanou verohodnými širiteli nové evangelisace vaší vlasti.

K tomu udeluji své apoštolské pozehnání vám i vašim drahým.

Ai connazionali polacchi

Witam w szczególnosci pielgrzymke spóldzielców «Spolem» i «Zgoda» oraz innych uczestników tej audiencji, zarówno z kraju, jak i z emigracji.

Ai fedeli italiani

Mi rivolgo ora con affetto a tutti i pellegrini di lingua italiana.

In particolare, saluto i dirigenti, i dipendenti e il personale della Ditta «Angelo e Giuseppe Sirignano» di Roccarainola (Napoli), venuti per testimoniare in maniera concreta la loro solidarietà agli ospiti della Casa «Dono di Maria».

Un pensiero cordiale lo dirigo, pure, agli studenti della Scuola Italiana «Vittorio Montiglio» di Santiago del Cile, che stanno compiendo in Italia un viaggio di studio, e al Direttore ed ai ragazzi della Scuola di Musica dell'Accademia Musicale di Sora (Frosinone), i quali hanno preso parte ad una interessante rassegna di Corali svoltasi pochi giorni fa nella loro Diocesi.

Siamo ancora nel tempo liturgico del Natale. Vi invito, pertanto, carissimi Fratelli e Sorelle, ad accogliere il messaggio che la Chiesa in questi giorni ci ripete: Cristo si è manifestato come il Redentore dell'uomo, di ogni uomo, e la sua parola di salvezza è rivolta a tutti i popoli e nazioni. Apriamo con fiducia il cuore al suo Vangelo e seguiamolo nell'itinerario della perfezione evangelica . . .

Ai giovani, agli ammalati e agli sposi novelli

Ed infine il mio saluto va, come di consueto, ai giovani, agli ammalati e agli sposi novelli.

Carissimi, questa Udienza è la prima del nuovo Anno 1992: desidero attirare la vostra attenzione sulla importanza di avere una visione cristiana del tempo.

Voi, giovani, siate sempre generosi, perché nella vostra vita c'è come un tesoro nascosto: la vocazione a spendervi e a donare per amore. Usate bene il vostro tempo e la vostra intelligenza per scoprire questo tesoro!

Voi, persone ammalate, chiedete ogni giorno allo Spirito Santo che trasformi la vostra condizione in tempo di misericordia e di salvezza.

E voi, cari sposi novelli, non perdete mai il senso della vostra dignità: il Signore, attraverso la vita coniugale dei battezzati, vuol far conoscere il grande mistero del suo amore, che supera il tempo e la morte, e ci introduce nella comunione senza fine.

A tutti imparto la Benedizione Apostolica.

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