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Love Is Ever Seeking and Never Satisfied

111 (of 129) - Catechesis by John Paul II on the Theology of the Body
General Audience, Wednesday 6 June 1984 - in Italian & Spanish

"Abbiamo ascoltato nel brano degli Atti degli apostoli, ora proclamato, il racconto di quell’avvenimento fondamentale nella vita della Chiesa, che fu la Pentecoste. La discesa dello Spirito Santo su Maria e gli apostoli, raccolti nel cenacolo, segnò la nascita ufficiale della Chiesa e la sua presentazione al mondo.

Nel prepararci a rivivere domenica prossima quel momento decisivo, preghiamo il divino Spirito perché disponga il cuore dei fedeli ad accogliere con gioia una nuova effusione dei suoi doni. Corroborati dal fuoco del suo amore, essi sapranno farsi testimoni coraggiosi del Vangelo, portando anche a questa nostra generazione l’annuncio di Cristo redentore.

Riprendiamo ora l’argomento delle udienze dei mercoledì scorsi.

1. Again today we will reflect on the Song of Songs, with the aim of better understanding the sacramental sign of marriage.

The truth about love, proclaimed by the Song of Songs, cannot be separated from the language of the body. The truth about love enables the same language of the body to be reread in truth. This is also the truth about the progressive approach of the spouses which increases through love. The nearness means also the initiation into the mystery of the person, without, however, implying its violation (cf. Sg 1:13-14, 16).

The truth about the increasing nearness of the spouses through love is developed in the subjective dimension "of the heart," of affection and sentiment. This dimension allows one to discover in itself the other as a gift and, in a certain sense, to "taste it" in itself (cf. Sg 2:3-6).

Through this nearness the groom more fully lives the experience of that gift which on the part of the female "I" is united with the spousal expression and meaning of the body. The man's words (cf. Sg 7:1-8) do not only contain a poetic description of his beloved, of her feminine beauty on which his senses dwell, but they speak of the gift and the self-giving of the person.

The bride knows that the groom's longing is for her and she goes to meet him with the quickness of the gift of herself (cf. Sg 7:9-13) because the love that unites them is at one and the same time of a spiritual and a sensual nature. It is also on the basis of this love that the rereading of the significance of the body in the truth comes to pass, since the man and woman must together constitute that sign of the mutual gift of self, which puts the seal on their whole life.

2. In the Song of Songs the language of the body becomes a part of the single process of the mutual attraction of the man and woman. This attraction is expressed in the frequent refrains that speak of the search that is full of nostalgia, of affectionate solicitude (cf. Sg 2:7) and of the spouses' mutual rediscovery (cf. Sg 5:2). This brings them joy and calm, and seems to lead them to a continual search. One has the impression that in meeting each other, in reaching each other, in experiencing one's nearness, they ceaselessly continue to tend toward something. They yield to the call of something that dominates the content of the moment and surpasses the limits of the eros, limits that are reread in the words of the mutual language of the body (cf. Sg 1:7-8; 2:17). This search has its interior dimension: "the heart is awake" even in sleep. This aspiration, born of love on the basis of the language of the body, is a search for integral beauty, for purity that is free of all stain. It is a search for perfection that contains, I would say, the synthesis of human beauty, beauty of soul and body.

In the Song of Songs the human eros reveals the countenance of love ever in search and, as it were, never satisfied. The echo of this restlessness runs through the strophes of the poem:
"I opened to my lover—but my lover had departed, gone.
I sought him but I did not find him;
I called to him but he did not answer me" (Sg 5:6).
"I adjure you, daughters of Jerusalem, if you find my lover—
What shall you tell him?
that I am faint with love" (Sg 5:9).

3. So then some strophes of the Song of Songs present the eros as the form of human love in which the energies of desire are at work. In them, the awareness or the subjective certainty of the mutual, faithful and exclusive belonging is rooted. At the same time, however, many other strophes of the poem lead us to reflect on the cause of the search and the restlessness that accompanies the awareness of belonging to each other. Is this restlessness also part of the nature of the eros? If it were, this restlessness would indicate also the need for self-control. The truth about love is expressed in the awareness of mutual belonging, the fruit of the aspiration and search for each other, and in the need for the aspiration and the search, the outcome of mutual belonging.

In this interior necessity, in this dynamic of love, there is indirectly revealed the near impossibility of one person's being appropriated and mastered by the other. The person is someone who surpasses all measures of appropriation and domination, of possession and gratification, which emerge from the same language of the body. If the groom and the bride reread this language in the full truth about the person and about love, they arrive at the ever deeper conviction that the fullness of their belonging constitutes that mutual gift in which love is revealed as "stern as death," that is, it goes to the furthest limits of the language of the body in order to exceed them. The truth about interior love and the truth about the mutual gift in a certain sense continually call the groom and the bride—through the means of expressing the mutual belonging, and even by breaking away from those means—to arrive at what constitutes the very nucleus of the gift from person to person.

4. Following the paths of the words marked out by the strophes of the Song of Songs, it seems that we are therefore approaching the dimension in which the eros seeks to be integrated, through still another truth about love. Centuries later, in the light of the death and resurrection of Christ, Paul of Tarsus will proclaim this truth in the words of his Letter to the Corinthians:
"Love is patient; love is kind.
Love is not jealous; it does not put on airs; it is not snobbish.
Love is never rude; it is not self-seeking; it is not prone to anger; neither does it brood over injuries.
Love does not rejoice in what is wrong but rejoices with the truth.
There is no limit to love's forbearance, to its trust, its hope, its power to endure.
Love never fails" (1 Cor 13:4-8).

Is the truth about love, expressed in the strophes of the Song of Songs, confirmed in the light of these words of Paul? In the Song we read, as an example of love, that its "jealousy" is "relentless as the nether world" (Sg 8:6). In the Pauline letter we read that "love is not jealous." What relationship do both of these expressions about love have? What relationship does the love that is "stern as death," according to the Song of Songs, have with the love that "never fails," according to the Pauline letter? We will not multiply these questions; we will not open the comparative analysis. Nevertheless, it seems that love opens up before us here in two perspectives. It is as though that in which the human eros closes its horizon is still opened, through Paul's words, to another horizon of love that speaks another language, the love that seems to emerge from another dimension of the person, and which calls, invites, to another communion. This love has been called "agape" and agape brings the eros to completion by purifying it.

So we have concluded these brief meditations on the Song of Songs, intended to further examine the theme of the language of the body. In this framework, the Song of Songs has a totally singular meaning."

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

Ai gruppi di lingua francese

Je suis heureux d’accueillir ici tous les pèlerins de langue française, des communautés religieuses, des paroisses, des groupes de jeunes. En ce lieu où se manifeste si bien l’universalité de l’Eglise, je vous invite à bien préparer la fête de Pentecôte et à prier l’Esprit Saint qui anime et unit tous les baptisés et confirmés. En son nom, je vous bénis de tout cœur.

Ai gruppi di lingua inglese

I offer a special word of welcome to the priests and sisters participating in a Theological renewal program at Gonzaga University in Spokane, and to the members of the Congress of the European Ophthalmic Pathology Society. It is a joy, too, to welcome the Across Trust Pilgrimage from England.

I wish to greet the large group from the United States, veterans of the Fifth Army, who have come to Rome to join in commemorating the Fortieth Anniversary of the Liberation. May the memories of those events, in which you took part, stir up in the world a greater desire for peace. May God’s peace reign in your hearts.

I extend very cordial greetings to the priests of the Society of African Missions. As we prepare to celebrate the Feast of Pentecost, I pray that God will pour out upon you the abundant fruits of the Holy Spirit. May you always find joy in proclaiming the Good News of our Lord Jesus Christ. Thank you for giving your lives for the Missions.

My greetings go to all the visitors at today’s audience, especially those from England, Australia and the United States.

Ai fedeli di espressione tedesca

Herzlich grüße ich mit diesen kurzen Erwägungen alle anwesenden Pilger deutscher Sprache. Zum bevorstehenden Pfingstfest erbitte ich euch die reichen Gaben des Heiligen Geistes, der der Geist der göttlichen Liebe ist. Zugleich empfehle ich meine kommende Pastoralreise in die Schweiz auch besonders eurem treuen Gebet. Von Herzen erteile ich euch und euren Lieben in der Heimat meinen Apostolischen Segen.

Ai fedeli di lingua spagnola

Y ahora un cordial saludo y aliento en su vida consagrada al Señor para las Religiosas de los Santos Angeles Custodios, que han seguido en Roma un curso de renovación espiritual. Con mi saludo también a los peregrinos venidos de México, así como a los procedentes de varias ciudades de España. Pido por vuestras intenciones y a todos os bendigo de corazón.

Ai numerosi pellegrini polacchi

Bardzo serdecznie pozdrawiam wszystkich pielgrzymów: z archidiecezji gnieźnieńskiej; z Krakowa, z Mogiły z ojcem Opatem, z Krakowa, od ojców Karmelitów na Piasku; z Kudowy Zdroju z archidiecezji wrocławskiej; z diecezji tarnowskiej; z Siedlec, z parafii św. Stanisława oraz z Białej Podlaskiej; pielgrzymów z Wrocławia oraz wszystkich poszczególnych pielgrzymów zarówno z Polski, jak i z emigracji, w szczególności pielgrzymkę Polaków z Australii. Bardzo serdecznie dziękuję za obecność, za odwiedziny wszystkim pielgrzymom z Ojczyzny. Proszę też wszystkich moich rodaków w Ojczyźnie pozdrowić na dzień Zesłania Ducha Świętego. Na uroczystość Zielonych Świąt życzę darów Ducha Świętego. Bardzo potrzebne są Polakom i wszystkim nam, wszystkim chrześcijanom całej ludzkości dary Ducha Świętego.

Ai fedeli italiani

Saluto ora tutti i gruppi di lingua italiana, qui convenuti d diverse regioni della Penisola.

In particolare, rivolgo un affettuoso e benedicente pensiero alle Suore che frequentano in questi giorni a Roma un “Corso di formazione per Maestre di Noviziato”.

Vi auguro che questo vostro convegno romano sia ricco di frutti non solo per la vostra specifica preparazione a future Maestre, ma anche per la vostra crescita nello spirito di fede e di amore, proprio delle vostre Comunità religiose.

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Uno speciale saluto rivolgo al festoso gruppo dei bambini, i quali recando in mano i simboli della Croce Rossa Italiana, sono presenti a questa Udienza, accompagnati dalle Rappresentanti del Comitato Femminile di tale Sodalizio, per ricordare i 120 anni di fondazione. Vi esprimo le mie felicitazioni per il traguardo conseguito dalla Croce Rossa Italiana. Penso che in questa circostanza voi non solo vi soffermerete a ricordare l’opera svolta, ma raccoglierete le vostre energie per continuare i vostri impegni nella moderna società, ancora purtroppo tormentata dalle guerre, dalle calamità naturali e dalle malattie, con quello spirito di volontaria collaborazione e di fraterna solidarietà, che tanto ha distinto la vostra istituzione. Il Signore non mancherà di benedire un’opera così armonizzata con lo spirito evangelico. A voi qui presenti e a quanti rappresentate esprimo il mio incoraggiamento, che avvaloro con una speciale Benedizione.

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Saluto pure i membri dell’Associazione Enotecnici Italiani, i quali partecipano a Roma ad un loro Congresso nazionale per aggiornare ed approfondire gli aspetti etici, giuridici e tecnico-scientifici della loro professione. Carissimi, vi ringrazio per questo vostro attestato di ossequio e di testimonianza cristiana, augurandovi ogni successo nella vostra vita e nella vostra attività.

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Un particolare saluto vada ora a tutti i giovani, che con l’entusiasmo della loro età, con i loro applausi e con i loro canti rallegrano questa Udienza.

Carissimi, vi ringrazio di essere qui venuti a manifestare al Papa e a tutti i fedeli il senso della vostra speranza, del vostro ottimismo e della vostra fraternità umana e cristiana. Sono valori, questi, che il mondo rischia di perdere, se voi, proprio voi giovani, non li proclamate e non i vivete fortemente. Vi auguro di mirare sempre, senza stanchezze, a questi traguardi luminosi dello spirito. Il Signore Gesù, da cui proviene quanto c’è di più vero nel cuore dell’uomo, vi sostenga nei vostri propositi! Con la mia Benedizione Apostolica.

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A voi, ammalati, che portate a questa Udienza la preziosità delle vostre sofferenze e che mi date l’occasione di esprimervi la mia commossa affezione e di condividere le vostre pene, io rivolgo un pensiero grato e riverente, con l’augurio che torni presto a rifiorire la vostra salute fisica, e sempre zampilli la gioia dell’animo. A questo fine vi ricordo nella celebrazione della Santa Messa al Signore Gesù, perché vi protegga e vi assista sempre. Voi, da parte vostra, accostatevi a Lui, come già facevano i malati della Palestina durante la sua vita terrena, perché Egli emanava una forza che guariva (Cf. Luc. 6, 9-10). In cambio, offrite a Lui il vostro dolore per la salvezza del mondo: diventerete così partecipi dell’opera redentrice dell’umanità. Vi sia di conforto la mia Benedizione.

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Desidero infine rivolgere un saluto agli sposi novelli. Carissimi! Vi auguro che il vostro amore, che oggi vi unisce così saldamente, non solo non abbia mai ad affievolirsi, ma si accresca di giorno in giorno in una armoniosa unità di intenti e di voleri, sia sul piano umano sia su quello soprannaturale, in cui l’amore coniugale è figura di quello stesso amore che esiste tra Cristo e la Chiesa, sua mistica sposa. Invoco sulle vostre nascenti famiglie elette grazie e benedizioni celesti, e tutti vi benedico.

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Appello per la pace nel Golfo Persico

Vi invito a pregare perché possa aprirsi una prospettiva di pace nella guerra che infuria nel Golfo Persico.

Le notizie che giungono sono sempre più preoccupanti e riferiscono di bombardamenti indiscriminati sulle città e di attacchi alle navi in transito, che causano la perdita di numerose vite umane.

Voglia Iddio toccare i cuori di quanti sono coinvolti in questo già troppo lungo conflitto e indurli a cercare la soluzione dei contrasti che li dividono sulle vie della trattativa e della pace.

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