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The Redemptive and Spousal Dimensions of Love

103 (of 129) - Catechesis by John Paul II on the Theology of the Body
General Audience, Wednesday 15 December 1982 - in Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"1. The author of the Letter to the Ephesians, as we have already seen, speaks of a "great mystery," linked to the primordial sacrament through the continuity of God's saving plan. He also referred to the "beginning," as Christ did in his conversation with the Pharisees (cf. Mt 19:8), quoting the same words: "Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh" (Gn 2:24). This "great mystery" is above all the mystery of the union of Christ with the Church, which the Apostle presents under the similitude of the unity of the spouses: "I mean it in reference to Christ and the Church" (Eph 5:32). We find ourselves in the domain of the great analogy in which marriage as a sacrament is presupposed on the one hand, and on the other hand, rediscovered. It is presupposed as the sacrament of the "beginning" of mankind united to the mystery of the creation. However, it is rediscovered as the fruit of the spousal love of Christ and of the Church linked with the mystery of the redemption.

2. The author of the Letter to the Ephesians, addressing spouses directly,  exhorts them to mold their reciprocal relationship on the model of the spousal union of Christ and the Church. It can be said that—presupposing the sacramentality of marriage in its primordial significance—he orders them to learn anew this sacrament of the spousal unity of Christ and the Church: "Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her..." (cf. Eph 5:25-26). This invitation which the Apostle addressed to Christian spouses is fully motivated by the fact that through marriage as a sacrament, they participate in Christ's saving love, which is expressed at the same time as his spousal love for the Church. In the light of the Letter to the Ephesians—precisely through participation in this saving love of Christ—marriage as a sacrament of the human "beginning" is confirmed and at the same time renewed. It is the sacrament in which man and woman, called to become "one flesh," participate in God's own creative love. They participate in it both by the fact that, created in the image of God, they are called by reason of this image to a particular union (communio personarum), and because this same union has from the beginning been blessed with the blessing of fruitfulness (cf. Gn 1:28).

3. All this original and stable structure of marriage as a sacrament of the mystery of creation—according to the classic text of the Letter to the Ephesians (Eph 5:21-33)—is renewed in the mystery of the redemption, when that mystery assumes the aspect of the spousal love of the Church on the part of Christ. That original and stable form of marriage is renewed when the spouses receive it as a sacrament of the Church, drawing from the new depths of God's love for man. This love is revealed and opened with the mystery of the redemption, "when Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her to make her holy..." (Eph 5:25-26). That original and stable image of marriage as a sacrament is renewed when Christian spouses, conscious of the authentic profundity of the redemption of the body, are united "out of reverence for Christ" (Eph 5:21).

4. The Pauline image of marriage, inscribed in the "great mystery" of Christ and of the Church, brings together the redemptive dimension and the spousal dimension of love. In a certain sense it fuses these two dimensions into one. Christ has become the spouse of the Church. He has married the Church as a bride, because "He has given himself up for her" (Eph 5:25). Through marriage as a sacrament (as one of the sacraments of the Church) both these dimensions of love, the spousal and the redemptive, together with the grace of the sacrament, permeate the life of the spouses. The spousal significance of the body in its masculinity and femininity was manifested for the first time in the mystery of creation against the background of man's original innocence. This significance is linked in the image of the Letter to the Ephesians with the redemptive significance, and in this way it is confirmed and in a certain sense, "newly created."

5. This is important in regard to marriage and to the Christian vocation of husbands and wives. The text of the Letter to the Ephesians (5:21-33) is directly addressed to them and speaks especially to them. However, that linking of the spousal significance of the body with its redemptive significance is equally essential and valid for the understanding of man in general, for the fundamental problem of understanding him and for the self-comprehension of his being in the world. It is obvious that we cannot exclude from this problem the question on the meaning of being a body, on the sense of being, as a body, man and woman. These questions were posed for the first time in relation to the analysis of the human beginning, in the context of Genesis. In a certain sense, that very context demanded that they should be posed. It is equally demanded by the classic text of the Letter to the Ephesians. The great mystery of the union of Christ to the Church obliges us to link the spousal significance of the body with its redemptive significance. In this link the spouses find the answer to the question concerning the meaning of "being a body," and not only they, although this text of the Apostle's letter is addressed especially to them.

6. The Pauline image of the great mystery of Christ and of the Church also spoke indirectly of celibacy for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. In this celibacy, both dimensions of love, the spousal and redemptive, are reciprocally united in a way different from that of marriage, according to diverse proportions. Is not perhaps that spousal love wherewith Christ "loved the Church"—his bride—"and gave himself up for her," at the same time the fullest incarnation of the ideal of celibacy for the kingdom of heaven (cf. Mt 19:12)? Is not support found precisely in this by all those—men and women—who, choosing the same ideal, desire to link the spousal dimension of love with the redemptive dimension according to the model of Christ himself? They wish to confirm with their life that the spousal significance of the body—of its masculinity and femininity—profoundly inscribed in the essential structure of the human person, has been opened in a new way on the part of Christ and with the example of his life, to the hope united to the redemption of the body. Thus, the grace of the mystery of the redemption bears fruit also—rather bears fruit in a special way—with the vocation to celibacy for the kingdom of heaven.

7. The text of the Letter to the Ephesians (5:21-33) does not speak of it explicitly. It is addressed to spouses and constructed according to the image of marriage, which by analogy explains the union of Christ with the Church—a union in both redemptive and spousal love together. Is it not perhaps precisely this love which, as the living and vivifying expression of the mystery of the redemption, goes beyond the circle of the recipients of the letter circumscribed by the analogy of marriage? Does it not embrace every man and, in a certain sense, the whole of creation as indicated by the Pauline text on the redemption of the body in Romans (cf. Rom 8:23)? The great sacrament in this sense is a new sacrament of man in Christ and in the Church. It is the sacrament "of man and of the world," just as the creation of man, male and female, in the image of God, was the original sacrament of man and of the world. In this new sacrament of redemption marriage is organically inscribed, just as it was inscribed in the original sacrament of creation.

8. Man, who "from the beginning" is male and female, should seek the meaning of his existence and the meaning of his humanity by reaching out to the mystery of creation through the reality of redemption. There one finds also the essential answer to the question on the significance of the human body, and the significance of the masculinity and femininity of the human person. The union of Christ with the Church permits us to understand in what way the spousal significance of the body is completed with the redemptive significance, and this in the diverse ways of life and in diverse situations. It is not only in marriage or in continency (that is, virginity and celibacy), but also, for example, in the many forms of human suffering, indeed, in the very birth and death of man. By means of the great mystery which the Letter to the Ephesians treats of, by means of the new covenant of Christ with the Church, marriage is again inscribed in that "sacrament of man" which embraces the universe, in the sacrament of man and of the world which, thanks to the forces of the redemption of the body is modeled on the spousal love of Christ for the Church, to the measure of the definitive fulfillment of the kingdom of the Father.

Marriage as a sacrament remains a living and vivifying part of this saving process."

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

La preghiera alla Signora di Jasna Góra

Pani Jasnagórska! Zjednoczony z Tobą w znaku Twego Jasnogórskiego Wizerunku, staram się dzielić troski Kościoła i Narodu, którym Biskupi Polscy dają wyraz w Komunikacie ze swej ostatniej Konferencji:

“W dziedzinie spraw społecznych Biskupi przypominają, że Kościół jest współodpowiedzialny za losy Narodu, w którym pełni swoją misję apostolską. W duchu tej odpowiedzialności Kościół pragnie przyczynić się do utrwalenia i wzrostu wspólnego dobra - przede wszystkim przez nauczanie wiary Chrystusowej i gruntowanie chrześcijańskiej moralności w życiu indywidualnym i społecznym. Misja Kościoła ma charakter religijny, nie jest jednak realizowana w oderwaniu od warunków życia społecznego i politycznego. Obowiązkiem Kościoła jest zabieranie głosu, ilekroć domaga się duchowe dobro wiernych, obrona wartości moralnych i godności osoby ludzkiej.

W ostatnich miesiącach doszło w naszym Kraju do wydarzeń, które boleśnie uderzyły w całe grupy społeczne i liczne poszczególne osoby. Między innymi rozwiązane zostały wszystkie związki zawodowe, w tym także - cieszący się uznaniem szerokich kręgów społecznych - Niezależny Samorządny Związek Zawodowy “Solidarność“ oraz Niezależny Samorządny Związek Zawodowy “Solidarność Rolników Indywidualnych”. Jest rzeczą godną ubolewania, że nie wybrano innych dróg, gdy naród dąży do pokoju i ładu społecznego. Kościół uważa, że budowa trwałego pokoju społecznego wymaga poszanowania słusznych dążeń społeczeństwa, zorganizowanego w grupy społeczne, na gruncie zawartych porozumień i umów osiągniętych w rezultacie dialogu”.

Zjednoczony z Tobą, Matko naszego Narodu, w znaku Twojego Jasnogórskiego Wizerunku, przedkładam Ci z bólem - a zarazem z całą nadzieją i ufnością - te trudne sprawy i troski, którym dają wyraz moi Bracia w biskupstwie.

Questo il testo della preghiera in una nostra traduzione italiana.

Signora di Jasna Góra! Unito a te nel segno della tua Effigie di Jasna Góra, cerco di condividere la sollecitudine della Chiesa e della Nazione che i Vescovi polacchi manifestano nel Comunicato della loro recente Conferenza:

“Nel settore dei problemi sociali i Vescovi ricordano che la Chiesa è corresponsabile della sorte della Nazione, nella quale essa svolge la sua missione apostolica. Nello spirito di questa responsabilità la Chiesa desidera contribuire al consolidamento e alla crescita del bene comune, prima di tutto mediante l’insegnamento della fede di Cristo e l’approfondimento della morale cristiana nella vita individuale e sociale. La missione della Chiesa ha carattere religioso; essa però non viene realizzata al di fuori delle condizioni della vita sociale e politica. È dovere della Chiesa di prendere la parola ogni volta che lo richiede il bene spirituale dei fedeli e la difesa dei valori morali e della dignità della persona umana.

Negli ultimi mesi si sono verificati alcuni avvenimenti, nel nostro Paese, che hanno colpito dolorosamente interi gruppi sociali e numerose singole persone. Tra l’altro sono stati sciolti tutti i sindacati, tra i quali anche il Sindacato Indipendente ed Autonomo «Solidarnosc», che godeva il riconoscimento di vasti cerchi sociali, e il Sindacato Indipendente Autonomo «Solidarnosc» degli Agricoltori.

È da rimpiangere che non siano state scelte altre vie, quando la nazione aspira alla pace e all’ordine sociale. La Chiesa ritiene che la costruzione della durevole pace sociale richiede il rispetto delle giuste aspirazioni della società, organizzata in gruppi sociali, in base agli accordi raggiunti e alle convenzioni ottenute come risultato del dialogo”.

Unito a te, Madre della nostra Nazione, nel segno della tua Effigie di Jasna Góra, ti presento con dolore - e nello stesso tempo con piena speranza e fiducia - questi difficili problemi e sollecitudini che i miei fratelli nell’Episcopato esprimono.

Ai membri dell’Arciconfraternita dei Siciliani e ad altri gruppi di pellegrini italiani

Il mio affettuoso saluto va ora ai membri della venerabile Arciconfraternita “Santa Maria Odigitria” dei Siciliani in Roma, guidati dal Primicerio, l’Arcivescovo Monsignor Antonio Maria Travia, mio Elemosiniere. Voi siete venuti, anche in rappresentanza di tutti i Siciliani, col gentile proposito di esprimere gratitudine per la mia recente Visita nella Valle del Belice ed a Palermo. Sono vivissimi nel mio spirito i ricordi delle ore trascorse nella vostra amata Isola, terra di fede e di preziose tradizioni culturali, i cui figli sono animati dalla volontà costante di risolvere nella pace e nella giustizia i difficili problemi emergenti dalla vita sociale. Carissimi Confrati, la Vergine Odigitria vi guidi lungo il cammino della vostra testimonianza cristiana e sia per voi, e per le vostre famiglie, fonte di luce e di profonda consolazione, come vi auguro di cuore in questa ormai imminente vigilia natalizia.

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Ed ora mi rivolgo agli Allievi Ufficiali di Complemento della Scuola del Genio di Roma ed ai Militari del Presidio Aeronautico di Roma e Guidonia, accompagnati dai familiari, venuti ad esprimere al Papa gli auguri di Buon Natale. Grazie di cuore. Vi accompagno tutti con la mia preghiera e porgo a voi ed alle vostre famiglie i più fervidi auguri di letizia per le feste ormai vicine del nostro Redentore, al quale tutti insieme diciamo con la liturgia odierna: “Vieni, Signore, Re di giustizia e di pace”.

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Agli Insegnanti ed Alunni dell’Istituto Tecnico “Padre Reginaldo Giuliani” dirigo ora il mio benvenuto, lieto di essere circondato da tanti giovani desiderosi di manifestare al Papa la loro volontà di affrontare il futuro con vigoroso impegno per una società più ordinata e giusta, attingendo forza dalla fede in Gesù Cristo, Salvatore di ogni uomo. Cari giovani, sono con voi e prego per voi.

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Anche ai giovani pellegrini dell’Istituto Tecnico Industriale “Ettore Maiorana” di Avezzano esprimo il mio beneaugurante saluto. Ad essi ed a tutti i giovani dico: con l’entusiasmo del vostro cuore giovane, camminate incontro a Cristo, cercatelo insieme ed amatelo insieme, sorreggendovi a vicenda; solo egli è Via, Verità e Vita; solo egli è la speranza dell’umanità. Preparatevi con impegno al Natale, vivendo intensamente il periodo dell’Avvento. Vi accompagno con la mia benedizione.

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Un particolare saluto rivolgo a tutti gli ammalati e a quanti soffrono nel corpo e nello spirito. La vostra sofferenza, le vostre pene, vissute alla luce della fede, sono una testimonianza del vostro amore a Cristo Redentore, sono un invito, per quanti hanno cura di voi e vivono con voi, a riconoscere il valore della vita, quale dono di Dio affidato all’uomo. Auspico che, illuminati da Cristo Redentore, possiate scoprire il valore della sofferenza.

A tutti voi, cari ammalati, auguro tanta serenità e vi benedico di cuore.

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Infine un saluto a tutte le coppie di novelli Sposi. La grazia che avete ricevuta nel sacramento del Matrimonio, vi renda capaci di un amore grande, per essere nel mondo immagine viva dell’amore di Dio. Siate suoi collaboratori, responsabili e generosi, nel trasmettere la vita. Vivete insieme la vostra fede per educare cristianamente i figli che Dio vorrà donarvi. Siate famiglie aperte, siate famiglie vive! La società dei nostri tempi ha particolarmente bisogno di una testimonianza delle coppie di sposi autenticamente cristiane. La preghiera, fatta insieme ogni giorno, rafforzi la vostra gioia.

Volentieri imparto la mia benedizione a tutti voi e alle vostre famiglie.

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