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Christ Opened Marriage to the Saving Action of God

101 (of 129) - Catechesis by John Paul II on the Theology of the Body
General Audience, Wednesday 24 November 1982 - in Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"1. We have analyzed the Letter to the Ephesians, especially the passage of 5:21-33, from the point of view of the sacramentality of marriage. Now we shall examine the same text in the perspective of the words of the Gospel.

Christ's words to the Pharisees (cf. Mt 19) refer to marriage as a sacrament, that is, to the primordial revelation of God's salvific will and deed at the beginning, in the very mystery of creation. In virtue of that salvific will and deed of God, man and woman, joining together in such a way as to become "one flesh" (Gn 2:24), were at the same time destined to be united "in truth and love" as children of God (cf. Gaudium et Spes 24), adopted children in the only-begotten Son, beloved from all eternity. The words of Christ are directed to this unity and toward this communion of persons, in the likeness of the union of the divine persons (cf. Gaudium et Spes 24). His words refer to marriage as the primordial sacrament and at the same time confirm that sacrament on the basis of the mystery of redemption. In fact, the original "unity in the body" of man and woman does not cease to mold the history of man on earth, even though it has lost the clarity of the sacrament, of the sign of salvation, which it possessed at the beginning.

2. If Christ, in the presence of those with whom he was conversing, in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark (cf. Mt 19; Mk 10), confirms marriage as a sacrament instituted by the Creator at the beginning—if in conformity with this he insisted on its indissolubility—he thereby opens marriage to the salvific action of God, to the forces which flow from the redemption of the body, and which help to overcome the consequences of sin and to constitute the unity of man and woman according to the eternal plan of the Creator. The salvific action which derives from the mystery of redemption assumes in itself the original sanctifying action of God in the mystery of creation.

3. The words of the Gospel of Matthew (cf. Mt 19:3-9; Mk 10:2-12), have at the same time a very expressive ethical eloquence. These words confirm—on the basis of the mystery of redemption—the primordial sacrament, and at the same time, they establish an adequate ethos which in our previous reflections we have called the ethos of redemption. The evangelical and Christian ethos, in its theological essence, is the ethos of redemption. Certainly, for that ethos we can find a rational interpretation, a philosophical interpretation of a personalistic character; however, in its theological essence, it is an ethos of redemption, rather, an ethos of the redemption of the body. Redemption becomes at the same time the basis for understanding the particular dignity of the human body, rooted in the personal dignity of the man and the woman. The reason of this dignity lies at the root of the indissolubility of the conjugal covenant.

4. Christ refers to the indissoluble character of marriage as a primordial sacrament, and, confirming this sacrament on the basis of the mystery of redemption, he simultaneously draws conclusions of an ethical nature: "Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her, and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery" (Mk 10:11-12; cf. Mt 19:9). It can be said that in this way redemption is given to man as a grace of the new covenant with God in Christ—and at the same time it is assigned to him as an ethos, as the form of the morality corresponding to God's action in the mystery of redemption. If marriage as a sacrament is an effective sign of God's salvific action "from the beginning", at the same time—in the light of Christ's words which are being considered here—this sacrament constitutes also an exhortation addressed to man, male and female, so that they may participate consciously in the redemption of the body.

5. The ethical dimension of the redemption of the body is delineated in an especially profound way when we meditate on Christ's words in the Sermon on the Mount in regard to the commandment, "You shall not commit adultery." "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart" (Mt 5:27-28). We have previously given an ample commentary on this statement of Christ in the conviction that it has a fundamental significance for the whole theology of the body, especially in the dimension of historical man. Although these words do not refer directly and immediately to marriage as a sacrament, it is impossible to separate them from the whole sacramental substratum. As far as concerns the conjugal pact, the existence of man as male and female is placed in that substratum, both in the original context of the mystery of creation and then, later, in the context of the mystery of redemption. This sacramental substratum always regards individual persons. It penetrates into that which man and woman are (or rather, into who man and woman are) in their original dignity of image and likeness of God by reason of creation, and at the same time, in the same dignity inherited in spite of sin and again continually "assigned" to man as a duty through the reality of the redemption.

6. Christ, in the Sermon on the Mount, gives his own interpretation of the commandment, "You shall not commit adultery"—an interpretation constitutes a new ethos—with the same lapidary words he assigns as a duty to every man the dignity of every woman: and simultaneously (even though this can be deduced from the text only in an indirect way), he also assigns to every woman the dignity of every man.(1) Finally he assigns to every one—both to man and woman—their own dignity, in a certain sense, the sacrum of the person. This is in consideration of their femininity or masculinity, in consideration of the body. It is not difficult to see that Christ's words in the Sermon on the Mount regard the ethos. At the same time, it is not difficult to affirm after deeper reflection that these words flow from the very profundity of the redemption of the body. Although they do not refer directly to marriage as a sacrament, it is not difficult to observe that they achieve their proper and full significance in relationship with the sacrament, whether that primordial sacrament which is united with the mystery of creation, or that in which historical man, after sin and because of his hereditary sinfulness, should find again the dignity and holiness of the conjugal union in the body, on the basis of the mystery of redemption.

7. In the Sermon on the Mount—as also in the conversation with the Pharisees on the indissolubility of marriage—Christ speaks from the depths of that divine mystery. At the same time he enters into the depths of the human mystery. For that reason he mentions the heart, that intimate place in which there struggle struggle in man good and evil, sin and justice, concupiscence and holiness. Speaking of concupiscence (of the lustful look: cf. Mt 5:28), Christ made his hearers aware that everyone bears within himself, together with the mystery of sin, the interior dimension "of the man of concupiscence." This is three-fold: "the concupiscence of the flesh, the concupiscence of the eyes and the pride of life" (1 Jn 2:16). It is precisely to this man of concupiscence that there is given in marriage the sacrament of redemption as a grace and a sign of the covenant with God—and it is assigned to him as an ethos. Simultaneously, in regard to marriage as a sacrament, it is assigned as an ethos to every man, male and female. It is assigned to his heart, to his conscience, to his looks, and to his behavior. According to Christ's words (cf. Mt 19:4), marriage is a sacrament from the very beginning. At the same time, on the basis of man's historic sinfulness, it is a sacrament arising from the mystery of the redemption of the body."

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

Ai pellegrini francesi

Chers Frères et Sœurs,

Au cours d’un certain nombre d’audiences générales, j’ai médité sur le passage de l’Epître aux Ephésiens relatif au mariage-sacrement (Eph. 5, 22-33). Il est bon de lire ce texte dans l’optique des paroles de Jésus à ce sujet. Pour l’union indissoluble de l’homme et de la femme, Jésus se réfère au “commencement”, au mystère de la Création, par lequel l’un et l’autre époux, en ne faisant qu’un dans la chair, étaient destinés à s’unir dans la vérité et la charité, comme fils de Dieu, à la ressemblance de l’union des personnes divines. Mais Jésus se réfère en même temps à toute l’œuvre salvifique de Dieu, et donc au mystère de la Rédemption qui permet à l’homme et à la femme, affectés par leur situation pécheresse, de surmonter les conséquences du péché et de construire l’unité dans la dignité et la sainteté conformes au dessein de Dieu. Les exigences morales de cette union, en particulier l’indissolubilité, correspondent, certes, à une interprétation rationnelle, à une philosophie personnaliste; mais elles se rattachent surtout à la théologie de la rédemption du corps. De cette rédemption découle à la fois une grâce, signe de l’Alliance avec Dieu, et un “ethos”, une exhortation morale adressée à l’homme de la triple concupiscence, en lui formulant des exigences pour son union matrimoniale, touchant même le fond de son “cœur”, sa conscience, son regard, son comportement. Ainsi l’homme participe, avec l’aide de Dieu, à la rédemption de son propre corps. Les paroles du Christ dévoilent à la fois le mystère de Dieu et le mystère de l’homme.

* * *

Dans cette assemblée, je salue specialement les représentants de d’Ordre Souverain et Militaire de Saint-Jean de Jérusalem, dit de Rhodes et plus communément de Malte, réunis à Rome pour préparer leur prochain chapitre général.

Mesdames et Messieurs, l’“armée” nombreuse - si l’on conserve ce mot - que vous formez aujourd’hui à travers les cinq continents est d’ordre humanitaire. Elle exerce une action d’authentique charité, qui ne connaît pas de frontières et ignore les idéologies politiques. En vous exprimant une vive gratitude pour votre œuvre, je le fais au nom des malades, des déshérités, des victimes de guerres et de catastrophes que vous aidez efficacement, et aussi au nom de l’Eglise catholique, dont vous donnez ainsi un beau témoignage, qui s’unit à celui de tous les autres volontaires de la charité évangélique. De grand cœur, je vous encourage et je vous bénis. Et je bénis aussi tous les pèlerins de langue française présents à cette audience.

Ai gruppi di lingua inglese

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Marriage was intended by our Creator, from the beginning, to be a communion of persons in which a man and a woman would be united in truth and in love. Because of the consequences of sin, this design of God was hindered in its achievement. With the advent of Christ, a new era began. For Christ opened marriage to the saving action of God. He has made available to husbands and wives the grace and strength which flow from the redemption of the body. Thus they are helped to overcome the attraction of sin and to build a covenant of love.

Redemption in Christ is given as a grace but at the same time it is assigned as an ethos. Not only is marriage an effective sign of the saving action of God; it is also, in Christ, an exhortation for the man and woman to participate consciously in the redemption of the body. When they accept this ethos and heed this exhortation by struggling against concupiscence and sin, they are cooperating with the grace which makes them a communion of persons resembling the loving union of the Holy Trinity.

* * *

I am happy to welcome all the English-speaking pilgrims who are present here today, especially those from England and the United States.

* * *

And I extend a special welcome to those who are taking part in the Congress of the International Association of Tour Managers. I pray that your work will always promote a spirit of brotherhood and understanding among all peoples. May God bless you and your families.

Ai pellegrini di lingua tedesca

Liebe Brüder und Schwestern!

Auch euch, Pilger deutscher Muttersprache, möchte ich herzlich begrüßen. Ich heiße euch willkommen hier am Abhang des Vatikanhügels, wo einst der erste Papst die Treue zu Christus und zu seiner Herde mit dem Opfer des Lebens besiegelt hat. Ich möchte heute mit euch über den Segen und über die Verpflichtung nachdenken, welche Gott in die Ehe gelegt hat.

”Sie werden ein Fleisch“, heißt es bei der Erschaffung des Menschen (Gen. 2, 24). Mann und Frau spiegeln in ihrer Liebe und Einheit die Liebeseinheit des dreifaltigen Gottes wider (Cfr. Gaudium et Spes, 24), und zwar so, daß dieses Eins-sein und dieses Widerspiegeln in ihrer Leiblichkeit besiegelt ist.

”Die zwei werden ein Fleisch sein“, sagt auch Jesus. Der Paradieses-Segen über der Ehe bekommt also - aller Sünde zum Trotz - durch den Sieg Christ neue Gültigkeit. Die Erlösung heilt und heiligt den Menschen bis in seine Leiblichkeit hinein. Sie hilft ihm, seine Würde zu erkennen und zu achten - auch in seinem Leib und gerade in seiner Geschlechtlichkeit.

Und sie hilft ihm die Würde des anderen zu sehen und zu achten - auch in dessen Leib und gerade in der Geschlechtlichkeit. Diese Achtung und Selbstachtung verbietet den lüsternen Blick und was auf ihn abzielt. Sie erfordert eine Lauterkeit des Herzens, wie sie uns als Söhnen und Töchtern des einen Vaters gegeben und aufgegeben ist.

In der Geschlechtsgemeinschaft verlangt die Achtung des Ich und des Du eine Totalität, welche Vorläufigkeit und Kündbarkeit ausschließt: ”Sie sind nicht mehr zwei, sondern eins. Was aber Gott verbunden hat, das darf der Mensch nicht trennen“. Der treue Gott hilft uns zu dieser Treue.

Euch allen - Vermählten, Alleinstehenden, Gottgeweihten, Verwitweten, Jugendlichen - erteile ich von Herzen meinen Apostolischen Segen.

Ai pellegrini di lingua spagnola

Amadísimos hermanos y hermanas,

A todos vosotros, peregrinos de los diversos Países de lengua española, saludo con afecto y doy mi más cordial bienvenida a esta Audiencia.

Después de las reflexiones sobre la sacramentalidad del matrimonio, según la Carta a los Efesios, analizaremos ahora el mismo tema en el Evangelio.

Cristo, dirigiéndose a los Fariseos, confirma el matrimonio como sacramento instituido por el Creador “al principio”, abriéndolo a la acción salvífica de Dios, que ayuda a superar las consecuencias del pecado y a construir la unidad del hombre y de la mujer según su eterno designio.

La redención es la base para comprender la dignidad del cuerpo humano, fundamentada en la dignidad personal del hombre y de la mujer. La razón de esta dignidad está precisamente en la raíz de la indisolubilidad de la alianza conyugal.

Si el matrimonio como sacramento es un signo eficaz de la acción salvífica de Dios “desde el principio”, al mismo tiempo este sacramento constituye una exhortación al hombre, varón y mujer, a fin de que participe responsablemente en la redención del cuerpo. Precisamente al hombre de la triple concupiscencia ha sido dado en el matrimonio el sacramento de la redención como gracia y signo de la alianza con Dios, y le ha sido entregado como ethos.

El matrimonio - según la palabra de Cristo - es sacramento desde el “principio” y la vez, en base a la pecaminosidad “histórica” del hombre, es sacramento que brota del misterio de la “redención del cuerpo”.

A todos vosotros, queridos hijos de lengua española, mi cordial Bendición.

Ai pellegrini di lingua portoghese

Queridos irmãos e irmãs de língua portuguesa que me ouvis,

Com as minhas saudações em Cristo, continuando a reflexão sobre a Epístola aos Efésios, enquadrando-a hoje na perspectiva da palavra de Cristo relatada no Evangelho de São Mateus, desejo dar-vos um pensamento acerca da sacramentalidade do matrimónio e comportamento moral por ela ditado, à luz do mistério da Redenção.

Jesus Cristo, de facto, referindo-se à instituição matrimonial pelo Criador, “ao princípio”, e confirmando-a, abre-a à acção salvífica de Deus e dá uma norma de comportamento para os homens: a dignidade do corpo humano, baseada na dignidade pessoal do homem e da mulher, a impor-lhes um modo de agir, em que se deve afirmar e salvaguardar a indissolubilidade da aliança e da união conjugal.

Com efeito, a Redenção, proporcionada ao homem como graça da Nova Aliança com Deus em Cristo, é ao mesmo tempo fonte de normas éticas, que Lhe demarcam um caminho e lhe apontam uma tarefa, a realizar em consonância com o querer e o agir de Deus. Por isso, o matrimónio, como Sacramento, como sinal eficaz da acção salvífica divina, deverá levar o homem a participar, e isso de modo consciente, na realidade da “redenção do corpo”.

Com votos dos favores divinos, para os peregrinos a Roma e para todos, dou-vos, de coração, a Bênção Apostólica.

Preghiera alla Vergine di Czstochowa

Od szeregu miesięcy trwa już ta modlitwa do Pani Jasnogórskiej i Matki mojego Narodu w związku z jubileuszem Jej błogosławionego Wizerunku.

W miesiącu listopadzie modlitwa ta kieruje się szczególnie w stronę naszych zmarłych. Im bowiem poświęcamy ten miesiąc, poczynając od uroczystości Wszystkich Świętych i Dnia Zadusznego.

Staję więc w duchu - pamięcią i sercem - przy grobach moich Rodziców, Rodzeństwa, Krewnych, Przyjaciół, Znajomych, Rodaków. Zstępuję - jak przez wiele lat to czyniłem w katedrze wawelskiej - do podziemi, które kryją prochy królów Narodu, jego wodzów i wieszczów.

Nawiedzam - jak również czyniłem przez lata - wielki cmentarz oświęcimski: mogiłę czterech milionów ofiar nieludzkiego okrucieństwa.

I w duchu ogarniam wszystkie na mojej ziemi ojczystej cmentarze, pobojowiska, pola śmierci i mogił, które kryją prochy poległych za Ojczyznę lub pomordowanych za słuszną sprawę, wszystkich zmarłych.

Błagam dla nich o wieczny odpoczynek, a zarazem na grobach zmarłych proszę Ciebie, o Pani Jasnogórska, o Żcie: o pełne prawdy i nadziei Życie dla żyjących.

Regem, Cui omnia vivunt, venite, adoremus!

Della preghiera diamo una nostra traduzione italiana.

Da mesi perdura questa preghiera alla Signora di Jasna Góra e Madre della mia Nazione, in relazione al giubileo della sua beata Effigie.

Nel mese di novembre la preghiera s’indirizza particolarmente verso i nostri morti. Poiché ad essi è dedicato questo mese, iniziato dalla solennità di Tutti i Santi e dalla commemorazione di tutti i Fedeli Defunti.

Sto, quindi, in spirito - con la mente e con il cuore - presso le tombe dei miei genitori, del fratello e della sorella, dei parenti, degli amici, dei conoscenti, dei connazionali.

Scendo - come ho fatto per molti anni nella Cattedrale di Wawel - alle cripte che conservano le ceneri dei re della nazione, dei suoi condottieri e vati.

Visito - come ho fatto anche per molti anni - il grande cimitero di Oświecin, la fossa di quattro milioni di vittime della crudeltà inumana.

E in spirito abbraccio tutti i cimiteri, i campi di battaglia, i campi di morte e tutte le tombe della mia terra nativa, che racchiudono in sé le ceneri dei Caduti per la Patria e dei trucidati per la giusta causa . . . di tutti i defunti.

Imploro per essi l’eterno riposo. E insieme sulle tombe dei morti, chiedo a te, o Signora di Jasna Góra, la Vita, la Vita piena di verità e di speranza per i viventi.

“Regem, cui omnia vivunt, venite, adoremus”!

Ai sacerdoti dell’OASNI

Desidero salutare il gruppo di sacerdoti, i quali in questi giorni si sono dati convegno a Roma per riflettere sul tema: “Catechesi nel mondo del Circo e Luna Park”, con la partecipazione di Monsignor Sennen Corrà, Vescovo di Chioggia e promotore dell’iniziativa.

Vi ringrazio per la vostra presenza a questa Udienza e soprattutto per l’opera che svolgete in un campo tanto importante per la diffusione del Vangelo. Vi sia di sostegno la mia speciale benedizione.

Ai Rettori dei Santuari Mariani d’Italia

Il mio affettuoso saluto va ora ai Rettori dei Santuari Mariani d’Italia, riuniti in questi giorni in convegno a Roma, per approfondire il tema: “Maria e l’Eucaristia nella comunità pellegrinante ai Santuari”.

Carissimi, vi esprimo il mio compiacimento per l’argomento prescelto, che si inserisce nel programma pastorale della Chiesa Italiana, impegnata nella riflessione su “Comunione e Comunità”, e ormai avviata verso la celebrazione del XX Congresso Eucaristico Nazionale.

Il Santuario Mariano è un luogo privilegiato per un incontro con Maria santissima, e, con lei ed in lei, per sperimentare più a fondo la ricchezza del Mistero Eucaristico, e per realizzare una più profonda comunione con la Chiesa.

Maria infatti si può dire, allo stesso tempo, la “culla” del Mistero Eucaristico e della Chiesa. Se l’Eucaristia costruisce quella comunità d’amore che è frutto dell’Amore di Cristo, nell’intimità filiale con Maria troviamo la via per scoprire questo mistero d’Amore agli albori del suo incarnarsi nella nostra storia. La Madre di questo Amore benedica i vostri lavori.

Ai giovani, agli ammalati, agli sposi

Il mio cordiale ed affettuoso benvenuto si rivolge ora a voi, carissimi giovani, studenti e lavoratori convenuti da ogni parte d’Italia. Consapevoli come siete della vostra dignità battesimale di figli di Dio, sappiate esprimere il vostro entusiasmo come logica conseguenza di tale grandezza; come pure la generosità delle vostre intenzioni scaturisca sempre dalla vostra fede in Cristo Gesù. Siate portatori e diffusori di gioia per significare che siete in pace con Dio, col prossimo, con voi stessi. Vi accompagna la mia benedizione.

* * *

A voi, amatissimi infermi, uno speciale pensiero: di ringraziamento per la vostra tanto gradita visita; di augurio, perché possiate sentirvi sempre più sorretti nella vostra sofferenza dalla certezza che la vostra umile accettazione della prova, permessa dal Signore, è sorgente feconda di energie soprannaturali. A tale riguardo, il Papa prega per voi e di cuore vi benedice, unitamente ai vostri cari ed a quanti amorevolmente vi assistono.

* * *

Cari sposi, siate fedeli alla promessa di amore che fa di voi una realtà unica, una famiglia, una “piccola Chiesa”, in cui deve sempre regnare il rispetto reciproco, la mutua comprensione, ma soprattutto l’amore di Dio, unico vero garante, nelle difficoltà e nei disagi, del vostro affetto e della vostra felicità. Vi sia d’incoraggiamento la mia benedizione apostolica.


1. The text of St. Mark which speaks of the indissolubility of marriage clearly states that the woman also becomes a subject of adultery when she divorces her husband and marries another (cf. Mk 10:12).

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