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Indissolubility of Sacrament of Marriage in Mystery of the Redemption of the Body

100 (of 129) - Catechesis by John Paul II on the Theology of the Body
General Audience, Wednesday 27 October 1982 - in Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"1. The text of the Letter to the Ephesians (5:21-33) speaks of the sacraments of the Church—and in particular of Baptism and the Eucharist—but only in an indirect and, in a certain sense, allusive manner, developing the analogy of marriage in reference to Christ and the Church. So we read at first that Christ who "loved the Church and gave himself up for her" (5:25), did so "that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word" (5:26). Doubtlessly this treats of the sacrament of Baptism, which by Christ's institution was from the beginning conferred on those who were converted. The words quoted show very graphically in what way Baptism draws its essential significance and its sacramental power from that spousal love of the Redeemer, by means of which the sacramentality of the Church itself is constituted above all (sacramentum magnum). The same can also be said perhaps of the Eucharist. This would seem to be indicated by the following words about nourishing one's own body, which indeed every man nourishes and cherishes "as Christ does the Church, because we are members of his body" (5:29-30). In fact Christ nourishes the Church with his body precisely in the Eucharist.

2. One sees, however, that neither in the first nor second case can we speak of a well-developed sacramental theology. One cannot speak about it even when treating of the sacrament of marriage as one of the sacraments of the Church. Expressing the spousal relationship of Christ to the Church, the Letter to the Ephesians lets it be understood that on the basis of this relationship the Church itself is the "great sacrament." It is the new sign of the covenant and of grace, which draws its roots from the depths of the sacrament of redemption, just as from the depths of the sacrament of creation marriage has emerged, a primordial sign of the covenant and of grace. The author of the Letter to the Ephesians proclaims that that primordial sacrament is realized in a new way in the sacrament of Christ and of the Church. For this reason also, in the same classic text of the Letter to the Ephesians 5:21-33, the Apostle urges spouses to be "subject to one another out of reverence for Christ" (5:21) and model their conjugal life by basing it on the sacrament instituted at the beginning by the Creator. This sacrament found its definitive greatness and holiness in the spousal covenant of grace between Christ and the Church.

3. Even though the Letter to the Ephesians does not speak directly and immediately of marriage as one of the sacraments of the Church, the sacramentality of marriage is especially confirmed and closely examined in it. In the great sacrament of Christ and of the Church, Christian spouses are called upon to model their life and their vocation on the sacramental foundation.

4. After the analysis of the classical text of Ephesians 5:21-33, addressed to Christian spouses, Paul announces to them the great mystery (sacramentum magnum) of the spousal love of Christ and of the Church. After the analysis of this text, it is opportune to return to those significant words of the Gospel which we have analyzed previously, seeing in them the key statements for the theology of the body. Christ spoke these words, one might say, from the divine depth of the redemption of the body (cf. Rom 8:23). All these words have a fundamental significance for man inasmuch as he is a body—inasmuch as he is male or female. They have a significance for marriage in which man and woman unite so that the two become "one flesh," according to the expression of Genesis (2:24). However, at the same time, Christ's words also indicate the vocation to continence "for the sake of the kingdom of heaven" (Mt 19:12).

5. In each of these ways the redemption of the body is a great expectation of those who possess "the first fruits of the spirit" (Rom 8:23). Not only that, it is also a permanent source of hope that creation will be "set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God" (Rom 8:21). Spoken from the divine depth of the mystery of redemption and of the redemption of the body, Christ's words bear within them the leaven of this hope. They open to it a perspective both in the eschatological dimension and also in the dimension of daily life. In fact, the words addressed to his immediate hearers are simultaneously addressed to historical man of various times and places. That man indeed who possesses "the first fruits of the spirit...groans...waiting for the redemption...of the body" (Rom 8:23). There is also concentrated in him the "cosmic" hope of the whole of creation, which in him, in man, "waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God" (Rom 8:19).

6. Christ speaks with the Pharisees, who ask him: "Is it lawful to divorce one's wife for any cause?" (Mt 19:3) They question him in this way precisely because the law attributed to Moses permitted the so-called "bill of divorce" (Dt 24:1). Christ's reply was as follows: "Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one'? So they are no longer two but one. What therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder" (Mt 19:2-6). They then went on to speak about the "bill of divorce" and Christ said to them: "For your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: Whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another, commits adultery" (Mt 19:8-9). "He who marries a woman divorced from her husband, commits adultery" (Lk 16:18).

7. The horizon of the redemption of the body is opened up with these words, which constitute the reply to a concrete question of a juridical-moral nature. It is opened up especially by the fact that Christ took his stand on the plane of that primordial sacrament which his questioners inherited in a singular manner, given that they also inherited the revelation of the mystery of creation, contained in the first chapters of the Book of Genesis.

These words contain at the same time a universal reply addressed to historical man of all times and places, since they are decisive for marriage and for its indissolubility. In fact they refer to that which man is, male and female, such as he has become in an irreversible way by the fact of having been created in the image and likeness of God. Man does not cease to be such even after original sin, even though this has deprived him of original innocence and justice. In replying to the query of the Pharisees, Christ referred to the "beginning." He seemed in this way to stress especially the fact that he was speaking from the depth of the mystery of redemption, and of the redemption of the body. In fact, Redemption signifies, as it were, a "new creation." It signifies the assuming of all that is created: to express in creation the fullness of justice, of equity and of sanctity designated by God, and to express that fullness especially in man, created as male and female in the image of God.

In the perspective of Christ's words to the Pharisees on that which marriage was from the beginning, we reread also the classic text of the Letter to the Ephesians (5:21-33) as a testimony of the sacramentality of marriage based on the great mystery of Christ and of the Church."

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

Ai fedeli di espressione francese

Chers Frères et Sœurs

J’ai déjà exprimé le mercredi plusieurs méditations sur le texte de la Lettre aux Ephésiens relatif aux époux. L’amour des époux y est présenté en rapport avec l’amour du Christ, par lequel “le Christ a aimé l’Eglise et s’est livré pour elle, afin de la sanctifier en la purifiant par le bain d’eau qu’une parole accompagne”, en la nourrissant aussi “comme les membres de son Corps”. Vous reconnaissez ici des allusions aux signes sacrés que nous appelons aujourd’hui les sacrements: baptême, eucharistie, mariage. Mais on peut dire surtout que c’est l’Eglise elle-même qui est “le grand Sacrement”, le nouveau signe de l’Alliance et de la grâce, par le mystère ou le “sacrement” unique mais toujours fécond de la Rédemption. Et les époux croyants sont invités à modeler leur vie sur ce fondement sacramentel.

Mais quand le Christ discutait avec les pharisiens sur le divorce en concluant “que l’homme ne sépare pas ce que Dieu a uni”, il se référait au “commencement”, au mystère de l’homme et de la femme créés à l’image et à la ressemblance de Dieu, on pourrait dire au “sacrement” de la Création. Autrement dit, sa perspective, qui est bien celle de la rédemption du corps, est celle d’une nouvelle création, assumant tout ce qui est créé et le portant à la plénitude de justice et de sainteté, après la rupture du péché originel. La réponse du Christ acquiert ainsi une valeur d’universalité pour tous les hommes et pour tous les temps, ce qui est très important pour la conception du mariage et en particulier pour son indissolubilité.

* * *

Je souhaite la bienvenue au groupe de pèlerins catholiques, orthodoxes et protestants, venus de Grèce en ce lieu où les Apôtres Pierre et Paul ont donné leur suprême témoignage. Puissions-nous, sur leurs traces, être conduits par l’Esprit Saint dans la recherche de la volonté du Seigneur, vers la pleine communion des disciples du Christ!

* * *

J’exprime mes meilleurs souhaits à tous les visiteurs de langue française, prêtres, frères, religieuses et laïcs, et je les invite à bien se préparer à la grande fête de tous les Saints. Avec ma Bénédiction Apostolique.

* * *

J’ai plaisir à saluer aussi un groupe d’amis et de bienfaiteurs de l’Université Grégorienne, de l’Institut Biblique et de l’Institut Oriental. Je sais avec quelle générosité vous contribuez au fonctionnement de ces Institutions, et donc à la formation des prêtres qui feront bénéficier les Eglises locales de leur haute qualification. Je vous en félicite et, en demandant au Seigneur de vous en récompenser, je vous bénis de tout cœur.

Ai fedeli di lingua inglese

Dear brothers and sisters,

The letter to the Ephesians expresses the relationship between Christ and his Church as a conjugal covenant, a spousal relationship. On the basis of this relationship we can understand how the Church herself is the “great sacrament”, the new sign of God’s covenant and grace.

As such the Church has her roots in the Sacrament of Redemption, just as marriage emerges from the Sacrament of Creation, as the first sign of God’s covenant and grace. Although the Letter to the Ephesians does not speak directly and immediately about marriage as one of the sacraments of the Church, nevertheless the sacramental character of marriage is in a particular way deeply expressed and confirmed. In the “great sacrament” of Christ and the Church, Christian husbands and wives are called to model their lives and their vocation on a sacramental foundation. This sacramental foundation is had in Redemption, which is a new creation that contains the fullness of the justice and holiness that God has destined for man, created as male and female, in the image and likeness of God.

I am grateful to all of you for gathering here today from England, Ireland, Sweden, Denmark, Canada and the United States. May the grace and peace of the Lord be with you all.

* * *

In particular, I greet the pilgrimage from Portsmouth, led by Bishop Emery. You have come on this centenary of your Diocese to give thanks to God for all the graces received over the past hundred years. For all of you it is indeed a day of joy, but even more, it is an occasion for you to renew your fidelity to Jesus Christ and to his word. Through you I send my Apostolic Blessing to all the beloved priests, religious and laity of Portsmouth.

* * *

I welcome with great joy the group of young people from Liverpool, as well as a group of young adults from Arundel and Brighton. Your presence vividly evokes for me my visit to Britain. I appreciate very much the fact that you have come to return that visit. There were so many joyful moments for me during those days, from the time I arrived at Gatwick Airport until I returned to Rome. I remember too how we sang and prayed together at Liverpool. But I trust that you too remember what I told the youth at Cardiff, namely, “that I, John Paul II, came to Britain to call you to Christ, to invite you to pray”. Dear young people, my message is the same today: in prayer you will discover Christ, and in Christ you will have the key to the understanding of humanity and to the meaning of life. Let us follow Christ, together!

Ai pellegrini di espressione tedesca

Liebe Brüder und Schwestern!

Wiederum Freue ich mich über eure so zahlreiche Teilnahme an dieser Audienz und grüße euch alle sehr herzlich. Mögen euch viele reiche Erlebnisse aus der Ewigen Stadt in eure Heimat begleiten und euch in euren täglichen Pflichten als gläubige und treue Jünger Christi bestärken.

In unserer heutigen Betrachtung zum Epheserbrief stellen wir fest, daß sein Autor darin unter anderem von den Sakramenten der Kirche spricht, besonders von der Taufe und Eucharistie. Er tut dies Jedoch nur andeutungsweise; so von der Taufe, indem er sagt, daß Christus sich für die Kirche hingegeben habe, ”um sie im Wasser und durch das Wort rein und heilig zu machen“ (Eph. 5, 26). Auf ähnliche Weise handelt der Epheserbrief im 5. Kapitel auch von der Ehe. Er zählt sie noch nicht ausdrücklich zu den Sakramenten der Kirche, bekräftigt aber deutlich ihre Sakramentalität. Die Ehe ist nicht nur Bild und Gleichnis für den Liebesbund Christi mit der Kirche, sondern hat auch in besonderem Maße teil an dem darin gründenden ”großen Sakrament“ der Erlösung.

Der Mensch, als Mann und Frau geschaffen, ist berufen, in der Ehe nicht nur mit seinem Partner zu ”einem Fleische“ zu werden, sondern darin zugleich auch seine christliche Bestimmung zur ”Freiheit der Kinder Gottes“ zu verwirklichen. Die christliche Ehe ist eine von Christus erlöste und sakramental begnadete Ehe. Sie nimmt somit schon teil an der neuen Schöpfung, die einmal in der vollen Erlösung des Leibes und in seiner. Auferstehung ihre endgültige Vollendung finden wird.

* * *

Ein herzliches ”Grüß Gott“ sage ich schließlich noch den Lesern des Konradsblattes aus der Erzdiözese Freiburg. Als Leser der Kirchenzeitung baut ihr mit an der lebendigen Einheit des Leibes Christi in eurem Bistum. Denn zu Gemeinschaft gehört ja, daß einer um den anderen weiß und sich für ihn interessiert. Gott bestärke euch in diesem Dienst und schenke euch Glaubensfreude aus eurer Begegnung mit Rom und Assisi! Zugleich erteile ich euch und allen hier anwesenden Pilgern deutscher Sprache von Herzen meinen besonderen Apostolischen Segen.

Ai fedeli di lingua spagnola

Amadísimos hermanos y hermanas,

Saludo con afecto y doy mi cordial bienvenida a esta Audiencia a todos los peregrinos y grupos de lengua española, procedentes de España y de diversos Países de América Latina.

La Carta a los Efesios que semanalmente venimos comentando, habla de los sacramentos, particularmente del Bautismo y de la Eucaristía. Solamente de manera indirecta presenta el matrimonio como analogía referida a Cristo y a la Iglesia.

Esta Carta, expresando la relación esponsal de Cristo con la Iglesia, permite comprender la Iglesia misma y el “gran sacramento”, nuevo signo de la Alianza y de la gracia, que tiene su fundamento en el sacramento de la redención. También vemos que, del sacramento de la creación, emerge el matrimonio, signo primordial de dicha Alianza y de la gracia. Aunque en esta Carta no se hable directa e inmediatamente del matrimonio como uno de los sacramentos de la Iglesia, sin embargo la sacramentalidad del matrimonio está en ella particularmente confirmada y profundizada.

El misterio de la redención significa, en la Carta, casi como una “nueva creación”, es decir, la asunción de todo lo que ha sido creado: para expresar en la creación la plenitud de justicia, equidad y santidad querida por Dios, y para expresar esa plenitud sobre todo en el hombre, creado como varón y mujer “a imagen de Dios”.

A todos vosotros mi Bendición Apostólica, de modo especial a los queridos hijos e hijas de España, que espero visitar en los próximos días.

Ai pellegrini di espressione portoghese

Queridos irmãos e irmãs de língua portuguesa!

Ao saudar-vos neste encontro, gostaria que levásseis um pensamento de fé extraído da carta aos Efésios. São Paulo ao exprimir a relação esponsal de Cristo com a Igreja ajuda-nos a compreender que a Igreja é o “grande sacramento”, o novo sinal da Aliança e da graça que brota do Sacramento da Redenção, assim como o matrimónio brota do sacramento da criação. É neste “grande sacramento” de Cristo e da Igreja que o casal cristão deve plasmar sua própria vida e vocação.

São Paulo nos fala também da “redenção do corpo”, como fonte de esperança. É fonte de esperança para este mundo pela nova criação com que Cristo estabelece o matrimónio na sua unidade e indissolubilidade queridas por Deus desde o princípio; e é fonte de esperança para a eternidade quando os filhos de Deus se encontrarão na glória celestial.

Desejando-vos um maior crescimento na fé em Cristo por meio deste vosso contacto com a Cidade Eterna, dou-vos a minha Bênção Apostólica.

Ai fedeli polacchi

Boże, Rządco i Panie narodów!

z ręki i karności Twojej racz nas nie wypuszczać,

a za przyczyną błogosławionej Matki,

Królowej naszej,

błogosław Ojczyźnie naszej:

by Tobie zawsze wierna,

chwałę przyniosła Imieniowi Twemu,

a syny swe wiodła ku szczęśliwości.

O Pani Jasnogórska!

za Twoim pośrednictwem polecamy Bogu, Rządcy i Panu narodów, Ojczyznę naszą.

Niechaj wśród wszystkich doświadczeń trzyma nas mocno ta Ojcowska Ręka, której ufamy.

Chcemy być karani wobec Niego.

Chcemy być posłuszni temu Jedynemu Panu, który nie odbiera narodowi samopanowania, nie alienuje go, nie pozbawia własnej podmiotowości, ale potwierdza ją i umacnia.

Chcemy być posłuszni i wierni temu Panu i Ojcu poprzez Twoje Serce, o Matko.

Doświadczenia dziejowe uczą nas takiej postawy.

Święty Maksymilian Kolbe uczy nas takiej postawy. Kiedy przez Twoje Niepokalane Serce, o Matko, jesteśmy posłuszni i wierni Chrystusowi i Ojcu, zdobywamy i potwierdzamy naszą wolność wszelkich doświadczeń - i przynosimy chwałę Bogu.

Ed ecco il discorso del Santo Padre in una nostra traduzione italiana.

Dio, Reggitore e Signore delle nazioni! / dalla tua Mano e dalla tua guida non ci lasciar uscire, / e per intercessione della Madre santissima, nostra Regina, / benedici la nostra Patria: / affinché sia sempre fedele a te, renda gloria al tuo Nome, / e guidi i suoi figli verso la felicità. / O Signora di Jasna Góra!

Per il tuo tramite raccomandiamo a Dio, Reggitore e Signore delle nazioni, la nostra Patria.

Che, tra tutte le prove, ci tenga fortemente questa “Mano Paterna” nella quale abbiamo fiducia.

Vogliamo essere docili dinanzi a lui.

Vogliamo essere obbedienti all’Unico Signore, che non toglie alla nazione l’auto-dominio, non la aliena e non la priva della propria soggettività, ma la riconferma e rafforza.

Vogliamo essere obbedienti e fedeli al Signore e Padre mediante il tuo Cuore, o Madre.

Le esperienze storiche ci insegnano tale atteggiamento. San Massimiliano Maria Kolbe ce lo insegna ugualmente.

Quando, mediante il tuo Cuore Immacolato, o Madre, siamo obbedienti e fedeli a Cristo e al Padre, acquistiamo e riconfermiamo la nostra libertà tra ogni prova, e diamo gloria a Dio.

Ai pellegrini italiani.

Saluto i fedeli della diocesi di Chieti qui presenti con il loro zelante Pastore, Monsignor Vincenzo Fagiolo. Conosco, carissimi fratelli e sorelle, le vostre antiche tradizioni cristiane; conosco la vostra fedeltà e il vostro senso ecclesiale. Auspicando che tale patrimonio prezioso riceva conferma e incremento dal presente pellegrinaggio qui a Roma, vi imparto di cuore la mia benedizione.

* * *

Adesso rivolgo il mio saluto ai giovani presenti.

Cari giovani, per me è sempre una grande gioia incontrarvi. Voi sapete già quanto il Papa vi ami. Ebbene, proprio per questo faccio appello alla vostra sensibilità, affinché siate sempre pronti alla testimonianza della fede, generosi nel servizio di carità verso tutti i bisognosi, perché sono certo che, grazie anche al vostro prezioso contributo, la gioia tornerà a splendere sul volto di tante creature deluse ed incerte, per poter sperare in un futuro migliore per tutti. Che Dio vi benedica!

* * *

Ora, una parola di conforto agli ammalati.

Carissimi, sento di dovervi ricordare una verità semplice e consolante: Gesù vi ama in modo speciale! Sì, vi ama, perché proprio attraverso la sofferenza vi associa alla sua Passione, per purificare il suo Corpo Mistico, per arricchirlo di nuovi doni, per salvare tante anime. Specialmente nelle ore più buie della vostra giornata non vi manchi mai la certezza di essere tanto preziosi per il bene della Chiesa e per la salvezza del mondo. E per questo vi sostenga la benedizione apostolica, che il Vicario di Cristo v’imparte di cuore!

* * *

Infine, un augurio ai novelli sposi.

Carissimi novelli sposi, certamente voi siete convinti dei gravi compiti che vi attendono sia sotto il tetto domestico che nella società. E per questo il Papa volentieri vi augura una lunga vita, felice e feconda; ma vi ricorda anche che il segreto per godere santamente delle gioie domestiche e per affrontare efficacemente le prove connesse con la vita coniugale, sta proprio nell’amore reciproco, sincero ed incondizionato che vi siete giurati davanti all’altare. Al Signore, pertanto, vi raccomando di cuore, mentre vi benedico.

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