Bookmark and Share

The Language of the Body: Actions and Duties Forming the Spirituality of Marriage

113 (of 129) - Catechesis by John Paul II on the Theology of the Body
General Audience, Wednesday 4 July 1984 - in Italian & Spanish

"1. Today let us return to the classic text of the fifth chapter of the Letter to the Ephesians, which reveals the eternal sources of the covenant of the Father's love and at the same time the new and definitive institution of that covenant in Jesus Christ.

This text brings us to such a dimension of the language of the body that could be called mystical. It speaks of marriage as a great mystery—"This is a great mystery" (Eph 5:32). This mystery is fulfilled in the spousal union of Christ the Redeemer with the Church, and of the Church-Spouse with Christ ("I mean that it refers to Christ and the Church"— Eph 5:22), and it is definitively carried out in eschatological dimensions. Nevertheless the author of the Letter to the Ephesians does not hesitate to extend the analogy of Christ's union with the Church in spousal love, outlined in such an absolute and eschatological way, to the sacramental sign of the matrimonial pact between man and woman, who "defer to one another out of reverence for Christ" (Eph 5:21). He does not hesitate to extend that mystical analogy to the "language of the body," reread in the truth of the spousal love and the conjugal union of the two.

2. We must recognize the logic of this marvelous text which radically frees our way of thinking from elements of Manichaeism or from a non-personalistic consideration of the body. At the same time it brings the language of the body, contained in the sacramental sign of matrimony, nearer to the dimension of real sanctity.

The sacraments inject sanctity into the plan of man's humanity. They penetrate the soul and body, the femininity and the masculinity of the personal subject, with the power of sanctity. All of this is expressed in the language of the liturgy. It is expressed there and brought about there.

The liturgy, liturgical language, elevates the conjugal pact of man and woman, based on the language of the body reread in truth, to the dimensions of mystery. At the same time it enables that pact to be fulfilled in these dimensions through the language of the body.

It is precisely the sign of the sacrament of marriage that speaks of this. In liturgical language this sign expresses an interpersonal event, laden with intense personal content, assigned to the two "until death." The sacramental sign signifies not only the fieri (the "becoming")—the birth of the marriage—but builds its whole esse (its "being"), its duration, both the one and the other as a sacred and sacramental reality, rooted in the dimension of the covenant and grace—in the dimension of creation and redemption. In this way, the liturgical language assigns to both, to the man and to the woman, love, fidelity and conjugal honesty through the language of the body. It assigns them the unity and the indissolubility of marriage in the language of the body. It assigns them as a duty all the sacrum (holy) of the person and of the communion of persons, and likewise their femininity and masculinity—precisely in this language.

3. In this sense we affirm that liturgical language becomes the language of the body. This signifies a series of acts and duties which form the spirituality of marriage, its ethos. In the daily life of the spouses these acts become duties, and the duties become acts. These acts—as also the commitments—are of a spiritual nature. Nevertheless, they are expressed at the same time with the language of the body.

The author of the Letter to the Ephesians writes in this regard: "Husbands should love their wives as they do their own bodies..." (Eph 5:28) ("as he loves himself"--Eph 5:33), and "the wife for her part showing respect for her husband" (Eph 5:33). Both, for that matter, are to "defer to one another out of reverence for Christ" (Eph 5:21).

The "language of the body," as an uninterrupted continuity of liturgical language, is expressed not only as the attraction and mutual pleasure of the Song of Songs, but also as a profound experience of the sacrum (the holy). This seems to be infused in the very masculinity and femininity through the dimension of the mysterium (mystery), the mysterium magnum of the Letter to the Ephesians. This mystery sinks its roots precisely in the beginning, that is, in the mystery of the creation of man, male and female, in the image of God, called from the beginning to be the visible sign of God's creative love.

4. So therefore that reverence for Christ and respect which the author of the Letter to the Ephesians speaks of, is none other than a spiritually mature form of that mutual attraction—man's attraction to femininity and woman's attraction to masculinity, which is revealed for the first time in Genesis (Gn 2:23-25). Consequently, the same attraction seems to flow like a wide stream through the verses of the Song of Songs to find, under entirely different circumstances, its concise and concentrated expression in the book of Tobit.

The spiritual maturity of this attraction is none other than the blossoming of the gift of fear—one of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, which St. Paul speaks of in First Thessalonians (cf. 1 Thes 4:4-7).

On the other hand, Paul's doctrine on chastity as "life according to the Spirit" (cf. Rom 8:5) allows us (especially on the basis of First Corinthians, chapter 6) to interpret that respect in a charismatic sense, that is, as a gift of the Holy Spirit.

5. The Letter to the Ephesians, in exhorting spouses to defer to each other "out of reverence for Christ" (Eph 5:21), and in urging them, consequently, to show respect in their conjugal relationship, seems to point out—in keeping with Pauline tradition—chastity as a virtue and as a gift.

In this way, through the virtue and still more through the gift ("life according to the Spirit") the mutual attraction of masculinity and femininity spiritually matures. Both the man and woman, getting away from concupiscence, find the proper dimension of the freedom of the gift, united to femininity and masculinity in the true spousal significance of the body.

Thus liturgical language, that is, the language of the sacrament and of the mysterium, becomes in their life and in their living together the language of the body in a depth, simplicity and beauty hitherto altogether unknown.

6. This seems to be the integral significance of the sacramental sign of marriage. In that sign—through the language of the body—man and woman encounter the great mystery. This is in order to transfer the light of that mystery—the light of truth and beauty, expressed in liturgical language—to the language of the body, that is, to the language of the practice of love, fidelity, and conjugal honesty, to the ethos rooted in the redemption of the body (cf. Rom 8:23). In this way, conjugal life becomes in a certain sense liturgical."

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

Ai membri della Scuola Allievi Ufficiali di Saint-Cyr

Je suis heureux de saluer tous les pèlerins de langue française qui sont venus près du tombeau de Pierre. Je les encourage à demander aux Apôtres, à tant de martyrs et de saints qui ont ici donné leur vie pour le Christ, la force d’approfondir la foi et de servir leurs frères dans l’Eglise.

En particulier, je m’adresse aux membres de la Promotion “Général Monsabert” de l’Ecole d’officiers de Saint-Cyr. Ils ont tenu à saluer le successeur de Pierre et je les en remercie. Je leur souhaite d’être, dans l’accomplissement des missions auxquelles ils se préparent, des bâtisseurs de paix, toujours respectueux de la dignité des hommes.

J’invoque le Seigneur sur vous tous, et je le prie de vous bénir.

Ad un folto pellegrinaggio australiano

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I wish to offer a warm welcome to all the English-speaking visitors at today’s audience. In particular, my greeting goes to the citizens of Griffith in Australia on the occasion of the twinning of the ‘Comunità Montana del Grappa’ with the city of Griffith, New South Wales.

* * *

I extend a very cordial greeting to the representatives of Public Services International who are holding their European Assembly in Rome. I hope that your deliberations will lead to a deeper understanding of the relationship between man, society and faith in God, and that they will truly promote mutual assistance, social justice and the well-being of all those who work in the public sector of the various nations. The more public services genuinely foster the common good, the greater will be your contribution to the noble cause of humanity. May God bless you and all those whose interests you have at heart.

And upon all the visitors and pilgrims present, who have come from England, Ireland, Norway, South Africa, Australia, the United States and Canada, I invoke God’s blessings of peace and joy.

Ai monaci Buddhisti e Shintoisti provenienti dal Giappone

Rivolgo il  mio cordiale saluto al gruppo degli Anziani del Buddhismo e al Capo dello Yamatoyama-Shinto che sono venuti dal Giappone. Auguro sinceramente che si sviluppi lo scambio spirituale tra l’Oriente e l’Occidente che hanno una lunga tradizione di preghiera e di meditazione.

A gruppi di fedeli provenienti dalla Germania, dall’Austria e dal Sud Tirolo

Diese kurzen Überlegungen über die hohe Würde der christlichen Ehe empfehle ich allen Audienzteilnehmern zu ihrer weiteren persönlichen Besinnung und Vertiefung. Ich grüße sehr herzlich alle anwesenden Pilger aus Deutschland, sterreich und aus Südtirol und erteile euch und euren lieben Angehörigen von Herzen meinen besonderen Apostolischen Segen.

Ad un gruppo di Religiose Mercedarie del Sacro Cuore e di Missionarie Augustine

Queridos hermanos y hermanas,

Saludo ahora a las religiosas Agustinas Misioneras, Mercedarias y del Sagrado Corazón presentes en esta audiencia, así como a los diversos grupos de peregrinos venidos de parroquias de varias partes de España, en especial a los jóvenes estudiantes de Almería, Torrente, Burriana, Denia, Madrid y Vallada. Con una cordial palabra de aliento en su vida cristiana y en su actividad apostólica para los miembros del grupo “Hora 3” de Barcelona.

* * *

Saludo asimismo con afecto a los numerosos peregrinos colombianos de las parroquias de San Luis Beltrán, San Silvestre, San Felipe y San Gabriel, de Bogotá. Que vuestra venida a Roma renueve vuestra fe y vuestra fidelidad a Cristo y a la Iglesia. A todos os bendigo de corazón.

Ai fedeli polacchi provenienti dalla Polonia e da altri Paesi di immigrazione

Pragnę serdecznie pozdrowić wszystkich pielgrzymów z Ojczyzny, w szczególności z Krakowa, z parafii św. Szczepana, ciesząc się obecnością Księdza Kardynała Metropolity Krakowskiego; równocześnie pielgrzymkę duszpasterstwa akademickiego z Wrocławia oraz pielgrzymkę z katedry wrocławskiej, ciesząc się obecnością Księdza Arcybiskupa Metropolity Wrocławskiego; pielgrzymkę z diecezji warmińskiej; pielgrzymkę z Torunia, z parafii św. Józefa; z Zielenic z diecezji kieleckiej, z parafii Niepokalanego Poczęcia; z Tarnowa; grupę księży Zmartwychwstańców, odbywających w Rzymie kurs odnowy duchowej; pielgrzymkę z sanktuarium w Piekarach - Matka Boska Piekarska; pielgrzymkę z Gdyni, parafia portowa ojców Redemptorystów; chór “Cantus” ze Stalowej Woli; wreszcie różnych pielgrzymów indywidualnych z całej Polski i prawdopodobnie także z emigracji.

Ai pellegrinaggi provenienti da varie diocesi italiane

Desidero rivolgere un affettuoso saluto ed un cordiale ringraziamento per la loro presenza a tutti i pellegrini e turisti italiani.

In particolare, al gruppo dei Sacerdoti delle Scuole Pie, che si trovano in questi giorni a Roma per un Seminario sulla formazione dello Scolopio.

Carissimi! Il carisma tipico del vostro Istituto nacque dal cuore e dalla mente del vostro Fondatore San Giuseppe Calasanzio, che nel 1592 venne dalla Spagna a Roma, dove cinque anni dopo apriva la prima scuola popolare d’Europa, una scuola con programmi, mezzi e metodi nuovi per l’educazione civica, l’istruzione umanistica e professionale, culminati nella istruzione e formazione religiosa. Il Calasanzio intuì la figura del Sacerdote-educatore, che desse cioè al fanciullo una cultura globale nella quale la dimensione religiosa fosse considerata e vissuta in maniera fondamentale e preponderante. Auspico che la riflessione comunitaria sulla geniale intuizione calasanziana porti tutti voi e gli Scolopi sparsi nei Continenti ad una rinnovata fedeltà agli insegnamenti ed agli esempio del loro Fondatore, che il mio Predecessore Pio XII nel 1948 proclamò “Patrono davanti a Dio di tutte le scuole popolari cristiane nel mondo”.

Con tali voti vi imparto di cuore la Benedizione Apostolica.

* * *

Uno speciale saluto indirizzo altresì a tutti i membri del Pellegrinaggio Regionale Siciliano, venuti a Roma per proclamare e corroborare la fede cristiana presso le tombe degli Apostoli e dei Martiri.

Nel ricordo del mio viaggio pastorale nella Valle del Belice ed a Palermo, nel novembre 1982, desidero rivolgervi l’auspicio che siate sempre fedeli al grande e prezioso tesoro della vostra plurisecolare tradizione cristiana, per dare oggi, con rinnovato impegno, una chiara testimonianza al messaggio di Cristo.

Vi accompagna la mia Benedizione Apostolica.

* * *

Sono lieto ora di rivolgermi ai giovani, che con il loro entusiasmo danno, come sempre, a questa Udienza, una nota vibrante di letizia e di freschezza. Vi ringrazio, carissimi, per il dono della vostra presenza, della vostra giovinezza e della vostra fede cristiana. Impegnatevi, senza mai stancarvi, nella crescita spirituale e culturale in modo da formare davvero l’onore della vostra famiglia e della Chiesa. Io nutro per voi tanta fiducia perché so che voi siete capaci di grandi cose, ben conoscendo la generosità dei vostri cuori e l’ardore dei vostri animi. Per tanti giovani bisognosi siate amici e sostegno spirituale. La mia Benedizione Apostolica vi doni tanta forza e vi renda capaci di costante dedizione.

* * *

Il mio pensiero va anche ai malati. Desidero salutarvi tutti con particolare affetto perché meritate una speciale attenzione, perché avete bisogno di conforto, perché siete una singolare e preziosa presenza di Dio nel mondo. La mia preghiera non dimentica quanti, nell’intera famiglia umana, portano croci pesanti, nel corpo e nello spirito: tutti siano aiutati e rasserenati dalla grazia del nostro divin Salvatore, di cui vuol essere pegno la mia confortatrice Benedizione.

* * *

Sono certo, infine, di interpretare il pensiero di tutti i presenti, rivolgendo un cordiale augurio agli sposi novelli, che prendono parte a questa Udienza. Possa il vostro amore, corroborato dalla grazia del Sacramento, crescere nel tempo, affinarsi nella consuetudine della convivenza quotidiana, temprarsi nell’inevitabile confronto con le difficoltà dell’esistenza. Siate sempre tra voi generosi e sereni, cari sposi, sempre ancorati alla potenza della grazia divina e all’aiuto della Madonna, per avere i cuori colmi di serena fiducia e di pace feconda.

Avvalori questi voti la propiziatrice Benedizione Apostolica.

© Copyright - Libreria Editrice Vaticana