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Marriage Sacrament an Effective Sign of God's Saving Power

102 (of 129) - Catechesis by John Paul II on the Theology of the Body
General Audience, Wednesday 1 December 1982 - in Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"1. We have made an analysis of the Letter to the Ephesians, especially 5:21-33, in the perspective of the sacramentality of marriage. Now we shall seek once again to consider the same text in the light of the words of the Gospel and of St. Paul's Letters to the Corinthians and the Romans.

Marriage—as a sacrament born of the mystery of the redemption and reborn, in a certain sense, in the spousal love of Christ and of the Church—is an efficacious expression of the saving power of God. He accomplishes his eternal plan even after sin and in spite of the threefold concupiscence hidden in the heart of every man, male and female. As a sacramental expression of that saving power, marriage is also an exhortation to dominate concupiscence (as Christ spoke of it in the Sermon on the Mount). The unity and indissolubility of marriage are the fruit of this dominion, as is a deepened sense of the dignity of woman in the heart of a man (and also the dignity of man in the heart of woman), both in conjugal life together, and in every other circle of mutual relations.

2. The truth according to which marriage as a sacrament of redemption is given to the "man of concupiscence" as a grace and at the same time as an ethos, has also found particular expression in the teaching of St. Paul, especially in the seventh chapter of the First Letter to the Corinthians. The Apostle, comparing marriage with virginity (or with "celibacy for the sake of the kingdom of heaven") and deciding for the "superiority" of virginity, the Apostle observes at the same time that "each has his own special gift from God, one of one kind and one of another" (1 Cor 7:7). On the basis of the mystery of redemption, a special "gift," that is, a grace, corresponds to marriage. In the same text, giving advice to those to whom he is writing, the Apostle recommends marriage "because of the temptation to immorality" (ib. 7:2). Later he recommends to the married couple that "the husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband" (ib. 7:3). He continues thus: "It is better to marry than to be aflame with passion" (ib. 7:9).

3. These statements of St. Paul have given rise to the opinion that marriage constitutes a specific remedy for concupiscence. However, as we have already observed, St. Paul teaches explicitly that marriage has a corresponding special "gift," and that in the mystery of redemption marriage is given to a man and a woman as a grace. In his striking and at the same time paradoxical words, St. Paul simply expresses the thought that marriage is assigned to the spouses as an ethos. In the Pauline words, "It is better to marry than to be aflame with passion," the verb ardere signifies a disorder of the passions, deriving from the concupiscence of the flesh. (Concupiscence is presented in a similar way in the Old Testament by Sirach; cf. Sir 23:17.) However, marriage signifies the ethical order, which is consciously introduced in this context. It can be said that marriage is the meeting place of eros with ethos and of their mutual compenetration in the heart of man and of woman, as also in all their mutual relationships.

4. This truth—namely, that marriage as a sacrament derived from the mystery of redemption is given to historical man as a grace and at the same time as an ethos—determines moreover the character of marriage as one of the sacraments of the Church. As a sacrament of the Church, marriage has the nature of indissolubility. As a sacrament of the Church, it is also a word of the Spirit which exhorts man and woman to model their whole life together by drawing power from the mystery of the "redemption of the body." In this way they are called to chastity as to a state of life "according to the Spirit" which is proper to them (cf. Rom 8:4-5; Gal 5:25). The redemption of the body also signifies in this case that hope which, in the dimension of marriage, can be defined as the hope of daily life, the hope of temporal life. On the basis of such a hope the concupiscence of the flesh as the source of the tendency toward an egoistic gratification is dominated. In the sacramental alliance of masculinity and femininity, the same flesh becomes the specific "substratum" of an enduring and indissoluble communion of the persons (communio personarum) in a manner worthy of the persons.

5. Those who, as spouses, according to the eternal divine plan, join together so as to become in a certain sense one flesh, are also in their turn called, through the sacrament, to a life according to the Spirit. This corresponds to the gift received in the sacrament. In virtue of that gift, by leading a life according to the Spirit, the spouses are capable of rediscovering the particular gratification which they have become sharers of. As much as concupiscence darkens the horizon of the inward vision and deprives the heart of the clarity of desires and aspirations, so much does "life according to the Spirit" (that is, the grace of the sacrament of marriage) permit man and woman to find again the true liberty of the gift, united to the awareness of the spousal meaning of the body in its masculinity and femininity.

6. The life according to the Spirit is also expressed in the mutual union (cf. Gn 4:1), whereby the spouses, becoming one flesh, submit their femininity and masculinity to the blessing of procreation: "Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and gave birth...saying: 'I have begotten a man with the help of the Lord"' (Gn 4:1).

The life according to the Spirit is also expressed here in the consciousness of the gratification, to which there corresponds the dignity of the spouses themselves as parents. That is to say, it is expressed in the profound awareness of the sanctity of the life (sacrum) to which the two give origin, participating—as progenitors—in the forces of the mystery of creation. In the light of that hope, which is connected with the mystery of the redemption of the body (cf. Rom 8:19-23), this new human life, a new man conceived and born of the conjugal union of his father and mother, opens to "the first fruits of the Spirit" (Rom 8:23), "to enter into the liberty of the glory of the children of God" (Rom 8:21). If "the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now" (Rom 8:22), a particular hope accompanies the pains of the mother in labor, that is, the hope of the "revelation of the sons of God" (Rom 8:22), a hope of which every newborn babe who comes into the world bears within himself a spark.

7. This hope which is in the world, penetrating—as St. Paul teaches—the whole of creation, is not at the same time from the world. Still further, it must struggle in the human heart with that which is from the world, with that which is in the world. "Because everything that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world" (1 Jn 2:16). As the primordial sacrament, and at the same time as the sacrament born in the mystery of the redemption of the body from the spousal love of Christ and of the Church, marriage "comes from the Father." It is not from the world but from the Father. Consequently, marriage also as a sacrament constitutes the basis of hope for the person, that is, for man and woman, for parents and children, for the human generations. On the one hand, "The world passes away and the lust thereof," while on the other, "He who does the will of God abides forever" (1 Jn 2:17). The origin of man in the world is united with marriage as a sacrament, and its future is also inscribed in it. This is not merely in the historical dimensions, but also in the eschatological.

8. It is to this that Christ's words refer when he speaks of the resurrection of the body— words reported by the three synoptics (cf. Mt 22:23-32; Mk 12:18-27; Lk 20:34-39). "In the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven," states Matthew, and in like manner Mark. In Luke we read: "The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage; but those who are accounted worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection of the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage, for they cannot die any more, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God" (Lk 20:34-36). These texts were previously subjected to a detailed analysis.

9. Christ states that marriage—the sacrament of the origin of man in the temporal visible world—does not pertain to the eschatological reality of the future world. However, called to participate in this eschatological future by means of the resurrection of the body, man is the same man, male and female, whose origin in the temporal visible world is linked with marriage as the primordial sacrament of the mystery of creation. Rather, every man, called to share in the reality of the future resurrection, brings this vocation into the world by the fact that in the temporal visible world he has his origin by means of the marriage of his parents. Thus, then, Christ's words which exclude marriage from the reality of the future world, reveal indirectly at the same time the significance of this sacrament for the participation of men, sons and daughters, in the future resurrection.

10. Marriage, which is the primordial sacrament—reborn in a certain sense in the spousal love of Christ and of the Church—does not pertain to the redemption of the body in the dimension of the eschatological hope (cf. Rom 8:23). Marriage is given to man as a grace, as a gift destined by God precisely for the spouses, and at the same time assigned to them by Christ's words as an ethos—that sacramental marriage is accomplished and realized in the perspective of the eschatological hope. It has an essential significance for the redemption of the body in the dimension of this hope. It comes indeed from the Father and to him it owes its origin in the world. If this "world passes," and if with it the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life which come from the world also passes, marriage as a sacrament immutably ensures that man, male and female, by dominating concupiscence, does the will of the Father. And he "who does the will of God remains forever" (1 Jn 2:17).

11. In this sense marriage as a sacrament also bears within itself the germ of man's eschatological future, that is, the perspective of the "redemption of the body" in the dimension of the eschatological hope which corresponds to Christ's words about the resurrection: "In the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage" (Mt 22:30). However, also those who, "being sons of the resurrection...are equal to angels and are sons of God" (Lk 20:36), owe their origin in the temporal visible world to the marriage and procreation of man and woman. As the sacrament of the human beginning, as the sacrament of the temporality of the historical man, marriage fulfills in this way an irreplaceable service in regard to his extra-temporal future, in regard to the mystery of the redemption of the body in the dimension of the eschatological hope."

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

Ai pellegrini francesi e agli esperti della pastorale dei nomadi

Chers Frères et Sœurs,

Poursuivant notre lecture de l’épître aux Ephésiens, nous nous aiderons, à présent, de l’évangile et des lettres pauliniennes aux Corinthiens et aux Romains.

Le mariage, présenté comme exhortation à dominer la concupiscence, fait aussi l’objet d’un don particulier, à savoir la grâce. Il est donné à l’homme comme éthos, c’est-à-dire comme valeur morale. En lui, eros et éthos se compénètrent dans le cœur de l’homme. Ce don comporte également un appel à ceux qui s’unissent en une seule chair, à vivre “selon l’Esprit” et à goûter la sainteté de la vie à laquelle les époux participent au titre de procréateurs. Venu du Père, comme sacrement primordial, le sacrement de mariage est cause d’espérance pour les générations humaines, car ainsi l’avenir eschatologique de l’homme y est inscrit, bien qu’il n’appartienne pas, comme tel, à la réalité du monde futur. Ainsi, le mariage, comme sacrement de la temporalité humaine, concerne cependant son avenir extra-temporel et le mystère de la rédemption du corps dans l’espérance eschatologique.

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Je salue avec joie et reconnaissance les “prêtres-aumôniers” des gens du voyage et leurs proches collaborateurs. Je sais que vous êtes à Rome pour une mise en commun de vos expériences particulières, pour une amélioration de vos structures d’apostolat et pour la préparation du prochain congrès international de la pastorale des nomades.

Je vous renouvelle mes encouragements chaleureux. Soyez toujours plus conscients et plus heureux d’avoir été appelés en Eglise à la vocation spéciale qui est la vôtre! Vous êtes le visage et la présence du Christ Rédempteur au milieu de ces dix millions d’hommes, de femmes et d’enfants qui voyagent sans cesse sur un continent ou un autre, et qui connaissent trop souvent l’épreuve de l’incompréhension et du refoulement, de l’insécurité et de la pauvreté. En collaboration avec la Commission pontificale compétente, et avec vos épiscopats locaux - sans ignorer les autres services d’évangélisation -, continuez de renforcer et de qualifier vos équipes régionales ou nationales! Des laïcs encore plus nombreux pourraient être appelés et formés pour cet immense champ d’apostolat. J’invoque sur vos personnes, sur tous vos collaborateurs et sur tous les gens du voyage une abondante effusion de courage et de charité évangéliques. Et je vous bénis de grand cœur, ainsi que tous les pèlerins de langue française présents à cette audience.

Ai pellegrini di espressione linguistica inglese

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Marriage as a sacrament of redemption is given to man and woman as a gift and as an ethos. For marriage is both an effective sign of the saving power of God and an exortation for the man and woman to participate consciously in the redemption of the body. In this sacrament, the couple is called to a way of life “according to the Spirit”, and not “according to the flesh”. As Saint Paul said: “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit”.

To live “according to the Spirit” implies that the man and woman who “have become one flesh” are able, with the redemptive power of Christ, to live in a way that corresponds to the gift they have received in the sacrament. They can remain faithful for life in an indissoluble union, and they can discover that true freedom which allows them to be a gift to one another.

When the couple live “according to the Spirit”, they place their masculinity and femininity at the service of procreation. They possess a profound awareness of the sanctify of human life, especially of the human life to which they give origin in their own children, as cooperators in the mystery of creation.

* * *

It is joy for me to welcome all the visitors and pilgrims, especially those from England and the United States.

In particular, I greet the men and women religious who are meeting in Rome. Among these is a group of Christian Brothers attending a renewal course. On this occasion I wish to assure you and all religious everywhere of the Church’s profound esteem for you. She esteems the evangelical and ecclesial consecration that you freely make to Jesus Christ, and she values highly your generous commitment to building up the Kingdom of God. My prayer is that you will always find great joy in loving Christ and his Church.

Ai gruppi di espressione tedesca

Liebe Brüder und Schwestern!

Zur heutigen ersten Audienz im Advent grüße ich euch und alle, zu denen meine Stimme durch das Radio gelangt, sehr herzlich. Ich wünsche und erbitte euch eine fruchtbare Zeit der Besinnung und innerer Vorbereitung auf das Geburtsfest des Herrn. Gegenstand unserer heutigen Überlegungen ist wiederum die christliche Lehre über die Ehe. Als Sakrament ist die Ehe wirksames Zeichen und Ausdruck der erlösenden Macht Gottes. Sie ist zugleich eine Aufforderung wie auch Anleitung zur Beherrschung der sinnlichen Leidenschaft. Hieraus ergibt sich als Frucht die Einheit und die Unauflöslichkeit der ehelichen Gemeinschaft sowie die gegenseitige hohe Wertschätzung der Würde von Mann und Frau.

Nach der Lehre des hl. Paulus entspricht auch der Berufung zur Ehe ein besonderes Gnadengeschenk Gottes. Darin gründet der hohe sittliche Anspruch, der die Eheleute nicht nur zur Erfüllung ihrer ehelichen Pflichten, sondern auch zu einem gemeinsamen Leben ”nach dem Geist“ auffordert. Aus der Kraft der Erlösung, an der auch ihr Leib teilhat, vermögen sie die Unordnung der dreifachen Begierde zu überwinden und ihre eheliche Gemeinschaft nach Gottes Willen in freier personaler Hingabe zu leben. Aus der Erlösung des Leibes erwächst den Eheleuten zugleich die Hoffnung auf die endzeitliche Vollendung im Geheimnis der Auferstehung, wo dann niemand mehr heiraten wird, sondern alle wie die Engel im Himmel sein werden.

In dieser adventlichen Hoffnung auf die volle Verwirklichung des Reiches Gottes in Herrlichkeit erteile ich euch und allen, die euch besonders verbunden sind, von Herzen den Apostolischen Segen.

Ai fedeli di lingua spagnola

Amadísimos hermanos y hermanas,

Ante todo mi cordial saludo a todos y cada uno de los aquí presentes de lengua española; tanto a los grupos como a las personas procedentes de los diversos Países.

Continuamos nuestra reflexión sobre el matrimonio, mirándolo a la luz del Evangelio y de las Cartas paulinas a los Corintios y a los Romanos.

El matrimonio, sacramento de la redención, es dado al hombre de la concupiscencia como don de gracia y como orden ético frente al desorden de las pasiones. A fin de que supere el “eros” con el “ethos”, es decir, con una correcta conducta práctica de vida conyugal.

Se trata de un sacramento de la Iglesia, que da fuerza a los casados para vivir “según el Espíritu”. Dominando la concupiscencia y superándola en una comunión durable e indisoluble de las personas que haga recobrar la libertad de la donación mutua y la conciencia del sentido esponsal del cuerpo. Abriendo su recíproca entrega a la bendición de la procreación, un modo de participar en la obra creadora divina y en dar vida a un nuevo ser, llamado a la sublime vocación de hijo de Dios.

Es este un fuerte impulso a esa esperanza que no se limita a la vida presente, sino que se abre a la perspectiva de la resurrección futura, de ese mundo nuevo que no pasa, y en el que se realizará la plena redención del cuerpo.

Alle Suore Missionarie del Buon Pastore

Una palabra de especial saludo al grupo de renovación de las Religiosas Franciscanas de la Madre del Divino Pastor.

Queridas Hermanas: Sé que celebráis los 25 años de vida religiosa. Aprovechad esta pausa para renovaros de veras interiormente. Para adquirir ese nuevo conocimiento de Cristo que os confirme en la entrega hecha, en la fidelidad a una causa por la que vale la pena trabajar, sufrir y vivir. Os bendigo de corazón, así como a todos los hispano ablantes presentes en esta Audiencia.

Ai fedeli di espressione portoghese

Caríssimos irmãos e irmãs de língua portuguesa,

A todos saúdo, com afecto em Cristo. Meditamos sobre o matrimónio, como é apresentado na Sagrada Escritura na Carta aos Efésios, à luz do Evangelho e das Epístolas paulinas aos Coríntios e aos Romanos.

Enquanto Sacramento, expressão eficaz do poder salvífico de Deus, o matrimónio realiza um eterno desígnio divino, mesmo depois do pecado e apesar da concupiscência: como sacramento da Redenção, é proporcionado ao homem como “dom especial”, a facultar-lhe o comportamento moral adequado com as obrigações éticas da vida em casal; e como sacramento da Igreja, com a característica da indissolubilidade, é também sinal da palavra do Espírito, em apelo para que o homem e a mulher modelem a sua convivência de acordo com a vontade de Deus, valendo-se da força do mistério da “redenção do corpo”.

Isto comporta a esperança, que há-de iluminar o quotidiano dos cônjuges e levá-los a dominar a concupiscência e a buscar uma “vida segundo o Espírito”; a buscar a dignidade e nobreza de vida em casal, marcada sempre pela consciência da “santidade” das novas vidas que aí se transmitem e, precisamente, pela esperança: uma esperança que está no mundo e “não é do mundo”, mas sim “do Pai”; e uma esperança que não se confina às dimensões do “homem histórico”, mas lhe dá abertura para o seu fim escatológico, ultraterreno, à luz da verdade da “resurreição dos corpos”.

Enquadrado nesta perspectiva, o matrimónio sacramental encerra o germe do futuro extra-temporal, da vida futura do homem, tão lembrada neste tempo do Avento, que é tempo de esperança. Que Cristo em todos avive a esperança: é o que vos desejo, ao dar a Bênção Apostólica.

Ai pellegrini della Polonia

Matko Jasnogórska!

Wołam Ciebie wśród Jubileuszu 600-lecia Twego Wizerunku na ziemi polskiej.

Wołam do Ciebie u początku Adwentu.

Kościoły i kaplice rozbrzmiewają śpiewem i pieśni:

“Spuście nam na ziemskie niwy Zbawcę niebios obłoki.

Świat przez grzechy nieszczęśliwy wołał w nocy głębokiej”.

I pośród tej grudniowej nocy polskiego Adwentu spieszą ludzie no roraty, w których wyrażają swoją nadzieję i oczekiwanie Mesjasza.

Otrzymałem w ostatnich dniach list, którego autorka między innymi tak pisze: “mimo naszej ogromnej słabości, jeszcze to nam zostało, że potrafimy miłować i dlatego nasze kościoły są pełne modlitwy i nadziei . . .”.

Chrystus stale jest nadzieją świata. Jest jego oczekiwaniem. Co roku wyraża się to w szczególności przez okres Adwentu.

Niech ta prawda dojdzie do wszystkich. Zwłaszcza do tych, którzy najbardziej cierpią.

A światło Adwentu, które wyraża świeca roratnika, niech co dzień przypomina, że Twój Jasnogórski Wizerunek wschodzi nad Polską jak Gwiazda Zaranna.

Del discorso in polacco diamo una traduzione in italiano.

Signora di Jasna Góra!

Innalzo il mio grido a te nel Giubileo del 600° anniversario della tua Effigie in terra polacca.

Grido a te all’inizio dell’Avvento.

Le Chiese e le Cappelle risuonano con il canto: “Mandateci giù sulle pianure terrene / o nuvole dei cieli, il Salvatore. / Il mondo sventurato a causa dei peccati / ha gridato nella notte profonda . . .”.

E in questa notte di dicembre dell’Avvento polacco, la gente s’incammina con premura alla Messa del “Rorate”, nella quale esprime la sua speranza e l’attesa del Messia.

Negli ultimi giorni ho ricevuto una lettera. La sua autrice scrive tra l’altro così: “Malgrado la nostra enorme debolezza, ci è rimasta ancora la capacità di amare, e perciò le nostre Chiese sono piene di preghiera e di speranza . . .”.

Cristo è, costantemente, la speranza del mondo; è la sua attesa. Ciò è espresso, ogni anno, in modo speciale nel periodo di Avvento.

Giunga questa verità a tutti. In particolare a coloro che soffrono di più.

E la luce dell’Avvento, simboleggiata dal cero che si accende durante la Messa del “Rorate”, ricordi ogni giorno che la tua Immagine di Jasna Góra si leva sulla Polonia, come la “Stella mattutina”.

Ai gruppi di lingua italiana

Un cordiale benvenuto porgo ora al folto gruppo di alunni ed ex alunni del Collegio Nazareno di Roma, che accompagnano la bambina Carolina Di Pietro, distintasi per continui gesti di bontà nell’assistere una sua condiscepola impedita, meritando così il premio istituito presso quel Collegio. Rivolgo a tutti voi, cari giovani e fanciulli, l’esortazione ad esercitarvi quotidianamente in atti di generoso servizio in seno alle vostre famiglie e tra i coetanei, per prepararvi fin da ora alla costruzione di una società più pacifica ed ordinata. Con la mia benedizione apostolica.

* * *

Un affettuoso saluto rivolgo a voi, giovani presenti a questo incontro, che avviene all’inizio del Tempo liturgico di Avvento. Auguro - con le parole della Liturgia di domenica scorsa - che Iddio Padre susciti in voi la volontà di andare incontro con le buone opere a Cristo che viene. Tali opere sono la coerenza tra fede e vita quotidiana, la generosa carità verso i fratelli, specialmente bisognosi della nostra comprensione e del nostro aiuto. A voi tutti la mia benedizione apostolica.

* * *

Indirizzo anche il mio saluto a voi tutti, fratelli ammalati, che Gesù ha voluto associare ancor più intimamente alla sua debolezza e fragilità umana. Forti della speranza cristiana, che lenisce e dà un senso soprannaturale al vostro dolore, offrite le vostre sofferenze ed innalzate le vostre preghiere per tutta l’Umanità, sempre bisognosa della misericordia di Dio. La mia benedizione apostolica sia di conforto ora e sempre a voi, ed in particolare ai componenti del pellegrinaggio, organizzato dalla Sottosezione di Imola dell’UNITALSI, infermi, dame di carità, barellieri e cappellani.

* * *

Infine, il mio ricordo e il mio saluto anche per voi, Sposi novelli, che in questi giorni avete consacrato il vostro amore di fronte a Dio, alla Chiesa e alla società mediante il sacramento del Matrimonio.

Affido oggi alla Vergine santissima i vostri ideali ed i vostri propositi di costruire la vostra nascente famiglia come una “Chiesa in miniatura”. Vi accompagno in questo vostro cammino di fede e di carità con la mia benedizione apostolica.

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