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Conclusion to the Series on the Redemption of the Body and Sacramentality of Marriage

129 (of 129) - Catechesis by John Paul II on the Theology of the Body
General Audience, Wednesday 28 November 1984 - in French, Italian & Spanish

"1. As a whole, the catechesis which I began over four years ago and which I am concluding today can be summed up under the title: "Human love in the divine plan," or more precisely, "The redemption of the body and the sacramentality of marriage." The catechesis can be divided into two parts.

The first part was dedicated to a study of Christ's words, which prove to be suitable for opening the current theme. These words were analyzed at length in the totality of the Gospel text. Following the long-lasting reflection it was fitting to emphasize the three texts that were analyzed right in the first part of the catechesis.

First of all there is the text in which Christ referred to "the beginning" in his discussion with the Pharisees on the unity and indissolubility of marriage (cf. Mt 19:8; Mk 10:6-9). Next there are the words Christ spoke in the Sermon on the Mount concerning concupiscence as adultery committed in the heart (cf. Mt 5:28). Finally, there are the words reported by all the synoptic Gospels in which Christ referred to the resurrection of the body in the other world (cf. Mt 22:30; Mk 12:25; Lk 20:35).

The second part of the catechesis was dedicated to the analysis of the sacrament based on the Letter to the Ephesians (Eph 5:21-33). This goes back to the biblical beginning of marriage expressed in the words of Genesis: "A man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one body" (Gn 2:24).

The catechesis of the first and second parts repeatedly used the term "theology of the body." In a certain sense, this is a "working" term. The introduction of the term and the concept of the theology of the body was necessary to establish the theme, "The redemption of the body and the sacramentality of marriage," on a wider base. We must immediately note that the term "theology of the body" goes far beyond the content of the reflections that were made. These reflections do not include multiple problems which, with regard to their object, belong to the theology of the body (as, for example, the problem of suffering and death, so important in the biblical message). We must state this clearly. Nonetheless, we must also recognize explicitly that the reflections on the theme, "The redemption of the body and the sacramentality of marriage," can be correctly carried out from the moment when the light of revelation touches the reality of the human body (that is, on the basis of the theology of the body). This is confirmed, among other ways, by the words of Genesis: "The two of them become one body." These words were originally and thematically at the basis of our argument.

2. The reflections on the sacrament of marriage were carried out by considering the two dimensions essential to this sacrament (as to every other sacrament), that is, the dimension of the covenant and grace, and the dimension of sign.

Throughout these two dimensions we continually went back to the reflections on the theology of the body, reflections linked to the key words of Christ. We went back to these reflections also when we took up, at the end of this whole series of catecheses, the analysis of the Encyclical Humanae Vitae.

The doctrine contained in this document of the Church's modern teaching is organically related to both the sacramentality of marriage and the whole biblical question of the theology of the body, centered on the key words of Christ. In a certain sense we can even say that all the reflections that deal with the redemption of the body and the sacramentality of marriage seem to constitute an ample commentary on the doctrine contained in the Encyclical Humanae Vitae.

This commentary seems quite necessary. In fact, in responding to some questions of today in the field of conjugal and family morality, at the same time the encyclical also raised other questions, as we know, of a biomedical nature. But also (and above all) they are of a theological nature: they belong to that sphere of anthropology and theology that we have called the theology of the body.

The reflections we made consist in facing the questions raised with regard to the Encyclical Humanae Vitae. The reaction that the encyclical aroused confirms the importance and the difficulty of these questions. They are reaffirmed also by later pronouncements of Paul VI where he emphasized the possibility of examining the explanation of Christian truth in this area.

In addition, the Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio, fruit of the 1980 Synod of Bishops on "The Role of the Christian Family," confirms it. The document contains an appeal, directed especially to theologians, to elaborate more completely the biblical and personalistic aspects of the doctrine contained in Humanae Vitae.

To gather the questions raised by the encyclical means to formulate them and at the same time to search again for the answer to them. The doctrine contained in Familiaris Consortio requires that both the formulation of the questions and the search for an adequate answer focus on the biblical and personalistic aspects. This doctrine also points out the trend of development of the theology of the body, the direction of the development, and therefore also the direction of its progressive completion and deepening.

3. The analysis of the biblical aspects speaks of the way to place the doctrine of today's Church on the foundation of revelation. This is important for the development of theology. Development, that is, progress in theology, takes place through a continual restudying of the deposit of revelation.

The rooting of the doctrine proclaimed by the Church in all of Tradition and in divine revelation itself is always open to questions posed by man. It also uses the instruments most in keeping with modern science and today's culture. It seems that in this area the intense development of philosophical anthropology (especially the anthropology that rests on ethics) most closely faces the questions raised by the Encyclical Humanae Vitae regarding theology and especially theological ethics.

The analysis of the personalistic aspects of the doctrine contained in this document has an existential significance for establishing what true progress, that is, the development of man, is. In fact, throughout all modern civilization—especially in Western civilization—there is an occult and at the same time an explicit enough tendency to measure this progress on the basis of "things," that is, material goods.

The analysis of the personalistic aspects of the Church's doctrine, contained in Paul VI's encyclical, emphasizes a determined appeal to measure man's progress on the basis of the person, that is, of what is good for man as man—what corresponds to his essential dignity. The analysis of the personalistic aspects leads to the conviction that the encyclical presents as a fundamental problem the viewpoint of man's authentic development. This development is measured to the greatest extent on the basis of ethics and not only on technology.

4. The catecheses dedicated to the Encyclical Humanae Vitae constitutes only one part, the final part, of those which dealt with the redemption of the body and the sacramentality of marriage.

If I draw your attention especially to this last catechesis, I do so not only because the subject dealt with is more closely connected to our contemporaneity. But I do so above all because of the fact that questions come from it which in a certain sense permeate the sum total of our reflections. It follows that this last part is not artificially added to the sum total but is organically and homogeneously united with it. In a certain sense, that part which in the complex arrangement is located at the end is at the same time found at the beginning of this sum total. This is important from the point of view of structure and method.

Even the historical moment seems to have its significance. The present catechesis was begun in the period of preparation for the 1980 Synod of Bishops on the theme of marriage and the family ("The role of the Christian family"), and ends after the publication of the Exhortation Familiaris Consortio, which is a result of the work of this Synod. Everyone knows that the 1980 Synod also referred to the Encyclical Humanae Vitae and fully reconfirmed its doctrine.

Nevertheless, the most important moment seems to be that essential moment when, in the sum total of the reflections carried out, we can precisely state the following: to face the questions raised by the Encyclical Humanae Vitae, especially in theology, to formulate these questions and seek their reply, it is necessary to find that biblical-theological sphere to which we allude when we speak of the redemption of the body and the sacramentality of marriage. In this sphere are found the answers to the perennial questions in the conscience of men and women, and also to the difficult questions of our modern world concerning marriage and procreation.

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

Al gruppo di sacerdoti che preparano
il prossimo Congresso Eucaristico Internazionale

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

i am pleased to welcome Cardinal Opilio Rossi and Cardinal Otunga and all those taking part in the preparatory meeting for the International Eucharistic Congress to be held in Nairobi in August of next year. This great ecclesial event, which will have as its theme "The Eucharist and the Christian Family", will be a celebration not only for the Church in Kenya, but also for the universal Church: for every diocese and parish, every religious community and Catholic association, for all the People of God. I encourage everyone to participate spiritually in the Congress, whether they are able to travel to Nairobi or not. In this way, it can be an opportunity for us all to deepen our knowledge and love of Christ in the Eucharist. It can help us see how the Eucharist is the centre of the life of the Church and the perpetual source of grace for each of the faithful and for every Christian family. Upon all of you participating in this present meeting in Rome, I ask God’s blessings of wisdom, strength and peace. May our Lord Jesus Christ help you to make better known and loved the mystery of the Eucharist.

Ad altri pellegrini di lingua inglese

It is a joy to welcome the group of Christian Brothers attending a spiritual renewal course in Rome. I hope that these months of rest, prayer and study will bring you to a greater awareness of the love of Christ for you and a deeper appreciation of your religious consecration. May you become ever more like Mary, open to the Word of God and always ready to do God’s will. And to all the English-speaking visitors and pilgrims I extend cordial greetings. May the Lord be with you all.

Ai fedeli di espressione spagnola

Queridos hermanos y hermanas,

saludo ahora cordialmente a todas las personas y grupos de lengua española aquí presentes. En especial a los peregrinos de la diócesis de San Francisco (Argentina) acompañados por su Obispo Monseñor Agustín Herrera.

Una palabra de aliento para vosotras Religiosas de la Compañía de Santa Teresa que termináis el curso de Tercera probación. Vivid con gozo y generosidad vuestra vocación.

A todos los peregrinos venidos de España, Argentina y otras naciones Latinoamericanas vaya mi Bendición Apostólica.

Ai fedeli giunti dalla Polonia

Witam serdecznie księdza biskupa ordynariusza siedleckiego Jana Mazura wraz z pielgrzymami z parafii Karczew; pielgrzymów z parafii Chrystusa Króla w Rzeszowie; pielgrzymów z parafii św. Klemensa i św. Doroty z Wrocławia; pielgrzymkę karmelitańską z okazji niedzielnej beatyfikacji; grupę “Turysty” z Rzeszowa, Nowego Sącza i Warszawy oraz wszystkich innych indywidualnych pielgrzymów zarówno z kraju, jak i emigracji.

Ai gruppi italiani

Rivolgo un saluto agli italiani, tutti e ciascuno ringraziando per la loro presenza.

In special modo, al numeroso gruppo di Sacerdoti, Rettori dei Santuari d’Italia, i quali partecipano in questi giorni a Roma ad un loro Convegno, avente per tema: “Il giorno del Signore nei Santuari”.

Carissimi, vi esprimo il mio vivo apprezzamento per questa vostra iniziativa, con la quale intendete mettere in evidenza l’importanza del “giorno del Signore” nel contesto religioso che si irradia da quei centri di spiritualità che sono i Santuari. In un momento in cui il fenomeno della secolarizzazione tenta di svuotare la Domenica del suo significato originario, favorendo la fuga nel privato e la cultura del “week-end”, fate sì che il vostro ministero pastorale all’ombra dei Santuari - pur sempre meta di intensi pellegrinaggi, personali e collettivi - sia sempre più efficiente e adeguato alle odierne necessità della pastorale, come della vista sociale. Siate degni ministri di grazia e di santificazione.

Vi assista soprattutto la Vergine Maria, che dai suoi celebri Santuari d’Italia non cessa di chiamare i suoi figli alla conversione del cuore.

* * *

Saluto con particolare affetto i partecipanti al Corso per Coordinatori di Pastorale Ospedaliera, organizzato dall’Ordine Ospedaliero di S. Giovanni di Dio (Fatebenefratelli). Auguro che dai vostri incontri e dibattiti possiate trarre un nuovo impulso nel vostro impegno di animazione cristiana nei luoghi di dolore, a cui la vostra specifica vocazione vi chiama. Il Signore, che considera fatto a se stesso quello che voi fate agli ammalati, vi assista e vi conforti con il suo amore di predilezione. Da parte mia vi benedico di cuore.

* * *

Mi rivolgo ora ai numerosi giovani qui presenti. Domenica scorsa, celebrando la solennità di Gesù Cristo Re, abbiamo meditato che una delle qualifiche più significative del regno di Cristo è la pace. In quella circostanza ho ricordato il ruolo decisivo che voi potete avere nell’edificazione di questo “regno di pace” e ho invitato i giovani di tutto il mondo ad approfondire la propria responsabilità in tale campo e a venire a Roma, l’anno prossimo, per proclamare insieme che “Cristo è la nostra Pace”. Eccovi convocati in prima persona! E’ necessario formarsi bene, e presto, alla pace, mediante il rispetto degli altri, il senso della giustizia, l’educazione alla libertà, il perdono, l’accoglienza vicendevole. E’ un programma molto impegnativo, ma sono certo che non vi tirerete indietro. Vi aiuti la mia Benedizione.

* * *

Desidero anche rivolgere un’affettuosa parola di saluto ai malati. Carissimi, vi sono vicino e vi assicuro che ogni giorno prego per voi. Offrite a Dio le vostre sofferenze, sapendo che così esse diventano meritorie e fonte di benedizioni per la Chiesa. Vi sia di conforto quanto scrive san Paolo: “Io ritengo che le sofferenze del momento presente non sono paragonabili alla gloria che dovrà essere rivelata in noi” (Rm 8,18). Meditate e lasciatevi confortare da queste parole, soprattutto in questi giorni conclusivi dell’Anno Liturgico, nei quali siamo richiamati tanto fortemente alle realtà del Cielo e al premio eterno.

* * *

Ache a voi, sposi novelli, giunga la mia parola di felicitazione e di augurio. Vorrei che i vostri volti fossero sempre così sorridenti e luminosi come sono in questo momento. Questa è anche una missione, perché il cristiano si caratterizza, in un mondo tanto ottenebrato, per la serenità con cui sa accettare le diverse situazioni e anche per la gioia di sentirsi amato e benedetto dal Padre. Sono sicuro che voi volete realizzare tale vocazione e che, per questo, comincerete ad essere di edificazione continua, nell’amore, nella preghiera quotidiana, nella carità premurosa verso chi è nel bisogno. Vi benedico di cuore.

Durante l'udienza il Santo Padre annuncia la partecipazione della Delegazione della Chiesa cattolica alla celebrazione della Festa di Sant'Andrea, ad Istanbul, venerdì 30 novembre.

Dopodomani, 30 novembre, si celebrerà la festa liturgica di sant’Andrea apostolo, il primo “chiamato” da Gesù alla sua sequela, fratello di Simon Pietro e patrono della Chiesa di Costantinopoli.

Per tale significativa circostanza una delegazione della Chiesa cattolica, guidata dal presidente del Segretariato per l’unione dei cristiani, cardinale Giovanni Willebrands, farà visita al patriarcato ecumenico di Costantinopoli per partecipare alla letizia di quella Chiesa sorella, la quale, ogni anno, invia una propria delegazione a Roma per la solennità degli apostoli Pietro e Paolo.

Invito tutti i presenti a pregare e a operare perché si possa giungere presto alla piena unione di tutti coloro che credono in Cristo.

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