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Boundary between original innocence and redemption

Catechesis by Pope John Paul II on the Theology of the Body - 4
General Audience, Wednesday 26 September 1979 - also in French, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"1. Answering the question on the unity and indissolubility of marriage, Christ referred to what was written about marriage in Genesis. In our two preceding reflections we analyzed both the so-called Elohist text (Gn 1) and the Yahwist one (Gn 2). Today we wish to draw some conclusions from these analyses.

When Christ referred to the "beginning," he asked his questioners to go beyond, in a certain sense, the boundary which in Genesis passes between the state of original innocence and that of sinfulness, which started with the original fall.

Symbolically this boundary can be linked with the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, which in the Yahwist text delimits two diametrically opposed situations: the situation of original innocence and that of original sin. These situations have a specific dimension in man, in his inner self, in his knowledge, conscience, choice and decision. All this is in relation to God the Creator who, in the Yahwist text (Gn 2 and 3), is at the same time the God of the covenant, of the most ancient covenant of the Creator with his creature—man. As an expression and symbol of the covenant with God broken in man's heart, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil delimits and contrasts two diametrically opposed situations and states: that of original innocence and that of original sin, and at the same time man's hereditary sinfulness which derives from it. However, Christ's words, which refer to the "beginning," enable us to find in man an essential continuity and a link between these two different states or dimensions of the human being. The state of sin is part of "historical man," both the one whom we read about in Matthew 19, that is, Christ's questioner at that time, and also of any other potential or actual questioner of all times of history, and therefore, naturally, also of modern man. That state, however—the "historical" state—plunges its roots, in every man without exception, in his own theological "prehistory," which is the state of original innocence.

2. It is not a question here of mere dialectic. The laws of knowing correspond to those of being. It is impossible to understand the state of historical sinfulness without referring or appealing (and Christ appealed to it) to the state of original (in a certain sense, "prehistoric") and fundamental innocence. Therefore, right from the beginning, the arising of sinfulness as a state, a dimension of human existence, is in relation to this real innocence of man as his original and fundamental state, as a dimension of his being created "in the image of God".

It happens in this way not only for the first man, male and female, as dramatis personae and leading characters of the events described in the Yahwist text of chapters 2 and 3 of Genesis, but also for the whole historical course of human existence. Historical man is therefore, so to speak, rooted in his revealed theological prehistory: and so every point of his historical sinfulness is explained (both for the soul and for the body) with reference to original innocence. It can be said that this reference is a "co-inheritance" of sin, and precisely of original sin. If this sin signifies, in every historical man, a state of lost grace, then it also contains a reference to that grace, which was precisely the grace of original innocence.

3. When Christ, according to chapter 19 of Matthew, makes reference to the "beginning," by this expression he did not indicate merely the state of original innocence as the lost horizon of human existence in history. To the words which he uttered with his own lips, we have the right to attribute at the same time the whole eloquence of the mystery of redemption. Already in the Yahwist texts of Genesis 2 and 3, we are witnesses of when man, male and female, after breaking the original covenant with the Creator, received the first promise of redemption in the words of the so-called Proto-gospel in Genesis 3:15(1) and began to live in the theological perspective of the redemption.

In the same way, therefore, historical man—both Christ's questioner at that time, of whom Matthew 19 speaks, and modern man—participates in this perspective. He participates not only in the history of human sinfulness, as a hereditary and at the same time personal and unique subject of this history; he also participates in the history of salvation, here, too, as its subject and co-creator. He is, therefore, not only closed, because of his sinfulness, with regard to original innocence—but is at the same time open to the mystery of redemption, which was accomplished in Christ and through Christ.

Paul, the author of the Letter to the Romans, expresses this perspective of redemption in which historical man lives, when he writes: "We ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for...the redemption of our bodies" (Rom 8:23). We cannot lose sight of this perspective as we follow the words of Christ who, in his talk on the indissolubility of marriage, appealed to the "beginning."

If that beginning indicated only the creation of man as male and female, if—as we have already mentioned—it brought the questioners only over the boundary of man's state of sin to original innocence, and did not open at the same time the perspective of a "redemption of the body," Christ's answer would not at all be adequately understood. Precisely this perspective of the redemption of the body guarantees the continuity and unity between the hereditary state of man's sin and his original innocence, although this innocence was, historically, lost by him irremediably. It is clear, too, that Christ had every right to answer the question posed by the doctors of the law and of the covenant (as we read in Matthew 19 and in Mark 10), in the perspective of the redemption on which the covenant itself rests.

4. In the context of the theology of corporeal man, substantially outlined in this way, we can think of the method of further analyses about the revelation of the "beginning," in which it is essential to refer to the first chapters of Genesis. We must at once turn our attention to a factor which is especially important for theological interpretation, because it consists in the relationship between revelation and experience. In the interpretation of the revelation about man, and especially about the body, we must, for understandable reasons, refer to experience, since corporeal man is perceived by us mainly by experience. In the light of the above mentioned fundamental considerations, we have every right to the conviction that this "historical" experience of ours must, in a certain way, stop at the threshold of man's original innocence, since it is inadequate in relation to it. However, in the light of the same introductory considerations, we must arrive at the conviction that our human experience is, in this case, to some extent a legitimate means for the theological interpretation. In a certain sense, it is an indispensable point of reference, which we must keep in mind for interpreting the beginning. A more detailed analysis of the text will enable us to have a clearer view of it.

5. It seems that the words of Romans 8:23, just quoted, render in the best way the direction of our researches centered on the revelation of that "beginning" which Christ referred to in his talk on the indissolubility of marriage (cf. Mt 19 and Mk 10). All the subsequent analyses that will be made on the basis of the first chapters of Genesis will almost necessarily reflect the truth of Paul's words: "We who have the first fruit of the Spirit groan inwardly as we wait for...the redemption of our bodies." If we put ourselves in this position — so deeply in agreement with experience — the "beginning" must speak to us with the great richness of light that comes from revelation, to which above all theology wishes to be accountable. The continuation of the analyses will explain to us why and in what sense this must be a theology of the body."


"A WARM WELCOME to the Japanese delegation of people connected with religion, mostly representatives of the venerable traditional schools of Buddhism: the Zen, Pure Land, Shingon and Nichiren schools; and especially to the eminent leader of Japanese Rinzai Zen.

I thank you for coming to Europe for an East-West exchange on the spiritual level. I am glad that the interreligious dialogue moves on this basic level.

I congratulate those among you who have lived in small groups in the great Christian monasteries and have shared fully their life of prayer and work for three weeks. Your experience is truly an epoch-making event in the history of interreligious dialogue. I hope that your experience has given you a better understanding of what Christ can mean for man and a deeper insight into what Christ means when he speaks of God, his Father.

I bless all those in Japan and Europe who by their efforts have made possible the realization of the project.

I pray that the Spirit may further inspire the interreligious dialogue in Japan, especially that on the spiritual level.

I GIVE A SPECIAL welcome to the priests from the dioceses of Glasgow and Motherwell in Scotland who are completing a monthlong renewal course in theology. Tend the flock of God that is your charge willingly, eagerly, being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd is manifested you will obtain the unfading crown of glory.

I also greet the new students at the North American College and the Venerable English College here in Rome, the students from Mount Carmel College in Bangalore, India, the members of the Women’s International Club in Jakarta, Indonesia, the pilgrimage from the Ukrainian eparchy of Toronto, Canada, and that from Saint Joseph’s Paris in Limerick, Ireland, where I hope to say Mass next Monday. On all of you and on the other visitors here I invoke the richest graces of the Lord.

HERZLICH GRÜßE ich den großen Pilgerzug der ”Kirchenzeitung für das Erzbistum Köln“.Durch diese Jubiläumsfahrt in die Ewige Stadt setzt ihr eine bereits zwanzigjährige segensreiche Tradition fort. Sie ist sichtbarer Ausdruck eurer gläubigen Verbundenheit mit dem Nachfolger des heiligen Petrus, der euch seinerseits ist eurem Glauben bestärkt und ermutigt. Steht fest zu Christus und seiner heiligen Kirche! Indem ich meine bevorstehende apostolische Reise auch besonders eurem Gebet empfehle, erteile ich euch und euren Familien in der Heimat von Herzen den Apostolischen Segen.

Particolarmente numerose sono oggi le presenze di religiosi e di religiose: vi sono i partecipanti al Capitolo generale dei Missionari di Mariannhill, i membri del Consiglio generale straordinario della Compagnia di Maria (Monfortani); i Superiori maggiori della Società dell’Apostolato Cattolico (Pallottini), i membri del Congresso internazionale dei Fatebenefratelli – Ospedalieri di San Giovanni di Dio; e ancora un gruppo di missionari e di missionarie di ventiquattro Istituti diversi, riuniti per un Corso di rinnovamento spirituale e culturale, e uno di sacerdoti, di religiosi e di laici, che partecipano ad un Corso di preparazione alla missione in Africa.

Figlie e figli carissimi! Sarebbe mio vivo desiderio potervi salutare personalmente, ad uno ad uno, per esprimere a ciascuno il mio apprezzamento, per testimoniarvi la mia fiducia, per rivolgervi una particolare parola di incoraggiamento. Ciò che la ristrettezza del tempo non permette, si attui davanti a Dio nello spirituale incontro della preghiera, che diventi fonte di conforto e quotidiano stimolo ad una donazione sempre più piena a Cristo, alla Chiesa, alle anime. Ne sia pegno la paterna Benedizione, che di cuore concedo a voi; ai vostri istituti e alle persone affidate alle vostre sollecitudini pastorali.

Saluto con paterno affetto i numerosi pellegrini della diocesi di Telese o Cerreto Sannita e quelli, anch’essi numerosi, del Centro Volontari della Sofferenza della Regione umbra.

Carissimi figli, vi sono molto grato per questa vostra visita e, soprattutto, per la carità che anima la fede cristiana sia di voi Telesini, che vi distinguete per l’attaccamento alle tradizioni religiose della vostra terra, sia di voi Volontari della Sofferenza, che siete i generosi ed ingegnosi realizzatori del Comandamento nuovo (cf.Gv 13,34), il quale vi fa riconoscere Cristo stesso nell’assistenza gioiosa al fratello ammalato. Il Signore vi benedica e vi assista sempre.

Partecipa all’odierna udienza un folto gruppo di appartenenti al Movimento, che si propone di aiutare i cristiani a riscoprire la realtà del battesimo e da viverne, nella gioia, la liberante ricchezza. Possa la vostra testimonianza, resa in piena sintonia con i legittimi pastori, suscitare in tanti fratelli il desiderio e l’impegno di una vita più coerente con le esigenze del battesimo e della sua inesauribile ricchezza. Vi accompagni la mia Apostolica Benedizione.

Carissimi giovani! Cari ragazzi e ragazze! Vi saluto con grande simpatia e affetto, e a ognuno porgo il mio augurio più sentito. È iniziato il nuovo anno scolastico e io desidero per voi ogni bene e ogni più bella consolazione. Ritornando nelle vostre aule e rivedendo i vostri insegnanti, i vostri condiscepoli, porgete loro il saluto del Papa e dite loro che egli tutti ricorda con amore e per tutti prega.

Incominciano di nuovo i vostri impegni di scuola: ebbene, siate contenti di occupare anche voi con diligenza il vostro tempo. Portate con voi nella scuola la bontà, la serietà dello studio, il senso della disciplina e del dovere. Così il tempo della scuola diventerà anche piacevole, e porterà frutti di gioia e di soddisfazione. Vi aiuti la mia Benedizione.

Carissimi ammalati! Vi giunga particolarmente cordiale e affettuoso il saluto del Papa, che sempre vi ricorda, vi tiene presenti nella preghiera e vi ringrazia per tutto ciò che fate o offrite al Signore per lui e per la sua missione. Certo, dovete sempre sperare nella guarigione e usare tute le armi della medicina e della farmacia per ridare salute al corpo e sollievo allo spirito. Ma quando purtroppo la malattia continua a tormentare il corpo, guardiamo il Crocifisso! Poiché effettivamente Dio ha voluto salvare l’umanità per mezzo del dolore; impegnatevi anche voi a soffrire per la salvezza del mondo! Vi assista sempre e vi dia il coraggio necessario Maria Santissima, la Madre Addolorata, la Regina dei Martiri! E vi accompagni la mia confortatrice Benedizione.

Carissimi sposi novelli! Anche a voi, che avete iniziato una nuova vita, giunga il mio saluto e il mio augurio più sentito! Voi siete stati i “ministri” del vostro matrimonio; e cioè la “grazia sacramentale” di Cristo, che rende sacro e perenne il vostro vincolo, vi è giunta attraverso la vostra stessa volontà di amore e di consacrazione reciproca. Immensa è la dignità del matrimonio! Perciò, rimanete nell’amore di Cristo! Ricordate ciò che disse Gesù: “Io sono la vite, voi i tralci. Chi rimane in me e io in lui, fa molto frutto... In questo è glorificato il Padre mio: che portiate molto frutto!”. Portate frutti di bontà, di carità, di santificazione: questo sia il vostro impegno di vita coniugale. Vi aiuti la mia propiziatrice Benedizione."