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Celibacy for the Kingdom Affirms Marriage

81 (of 129) - Catechesis by John Paul II on the Theology of the Body
General Audience, Wednesday 5 May 1982 - in Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"1. In answering the Pharisees' questions about marriage and its indissolubility, Christ referred to the beginning, that is, to its original institution on the part of the Creator. Since those with whom he was speaking recalled the law of Moses, which provided for the possibility of the so-called "decree of divorce," he answered, "Because of the hardness of your hearts Moses permitted you to divorce your wives, but it was not so from the beginning" (Mt 19:8).

After the conversation with the Pharisees, Christ's disciples addressed the following words to him: "'If this is the case of a man with his wife, it is not expedient to marry.' He answered them, 'Not all men can receive this precept, but only those to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to receive this, let him receive it'" (Mt 19:10-12).

2. Christ's words undoubtedly allude to a conscious and voluntary renunciation of marriage. This renunciation is possible only when one admits an authentic knowledge of that value that is constituted by the nuptial disposition of masculinity and femininity to marriage. In order for man to be fully aware of what he is choosing (continence for the sake of the kingdom), he must also be fully aware of what he is renouncing. (It is a question here of the knowledge of the value in an ideal sense; nevertheless this knowledge is after all realistic.) In this way, Christ certainly demands a mature choice. The form in which the call to continence for the sake of the kingdom of heaven is expressed proves this without a doubt.

3. But a renunciation made with full awareness of the above-mentioned value is not enough. In the light of Christ's words, and also in the light of the whole authentic Christian Tradition, it is possible to deduce that this renunciation is at the same time a particular form of affirming that value from which the unmarried person consistently abstains, following the evangelical counsel. This can seem paradoxical. Nevertheless, it is known that many statements in the Gospel are paradoxical, and those are often the most eloquent and profound. Accepting such a meaning of the call to continence for the sake of the kingdom of heaven, we draw a correct conclusion, holding that the realization of this call serves also—and in a particular way—to confirm the nuptial meaning of the human body in its masculinity and femininity. The renunciation of marriage for the kingdom of God at the same time highlights that meaning in all its interior truth and personal beauty. We can say that this renunciation on the part of individual persons, men and women, in a certain sense is indispensable. This is so that the nuptial meaning of the body can be more easily recognized in all the ethos of human life and above all in the ethos of conjugal and family life.

4. So, therefore, although continence for the sake of the kingdom of heaven (virginity, celibacy) orients the life of persons who freely choose it toward the exclusion of the common way of conjugal and family life, nevertheless it is not without significance for this life, for its style, its value and its evangelical authenticity. Let us not forget that the only key to understanding the sacramentality of marriage is the spousal love of Christ for the Church (cf. Eph 5:22-23): Christ, the Son of the Virgin, who was himself a virgin, that is, a "eunuch for the sake of the kingdom of heaven," in the most perfect meaning of the term. It will be convenient for us to take up this point again at a later time.

5. At the end of these reflections there still remains a concrete problem: In what way is this call formed in man, to whom the call to continence for the sake of the kingdom has been given, on the basis of the knowledge of the nuptial meaning of the body in its masculinity and femininity, and further, as the fruit of such knowledge? In what way is it formed, or rather transformed? This question is equally important, both from the viewpoint of the theology of the body, and from the viewpoint of the development of the human personality, which has a personalistic and charismatic character at the same time. If we should want to answer this question exhaustively—in the measure of all the aspects and all the concrete problems that it includes—it would be necessary to make a study based on the relationship between marriage and virginity and between marriage and celibacy. However this would go beyond the limits of the present considerations.

6. Remaining within the sphere of Christ's words according to Matthew (19:11-12), we must conclude our reflections with the following affirmation. First, if continence for the sake of the kingdom of heaven undoubtedly signifies a renunciation, this renunciation is at the same time an affirmation: an affirmation that arises from the discovery of the gift, that is, at the same time from the discovery of a new perspective of the personal realization of oneself "through a sincere gift of oneself" (Gaudium et Spes 24). This discovery still lies in a profound interior harmony with the significance of the nuptial meaning of the body, bound "from the beginning" to the masculinity or femininity of man as a personal subject. Second, although continence for the sake of the kingdom of heaven is identified with the renunciation of marriage, which in the life of a man and woman gives rise to the family, in no way can one see in this a denial of the essential value of marriage. On the contrary, continence serves indirectly to highlight what is most lasting and most profoundly personal in the vocation to marriage. It highlights that which in the dimensions of temporality (and at the same time in the perspective of the other world) corresponds to the dignity of the personal gift, bound to the nuptial meaning of the body in its masculinity or femininity.

7. In this way, Christ's call to continence "for the sake of the kingdom of heaven," rightly associated to the reference to the future resurrection (cf. Mt 21:24-30; Mk 12:18-27; Lk 20:27-40), has a capital significance not only for Christian ethos and spirituality, but also for anthropology and for the whole theology of the body, which we discover at its foundation. We remember that Christ, referring to the resurrection of the body in the other world, said, according to the version of the three synoptic Gospels, "When they rise from the dead...they will neither marry nor be given in marriage..." (Mk 12:25). These words, already analyzed, form part of our overall considerations on the theology of the body and contribute to building up this theology."

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

Ai pellegrini di lingua francese

Chers Frères et Sœurs,

En langue italienne, j’ai exposé que le renoncement demandé à ceux qui choisissent la chasteté pour le Royaume suppose l’affirmation adulte de la valeur de ce à quoi on renonce. Cela met en évidence la signification nuptiale du corps dans sa masculinité ou sa féminité, dans sa vérité et sa beauté. Bien que voulu en vue du Royaume des Cieux, ce choix n’est pas sans résonnance pour ici-bas, en vertu de son authenticité, évangélique et du style de vie qu’il implique. Ce renoncement inclut en effet la découverte du don de soi et, d’autre part, sert indirectement à mettre en relief ce qui appartient à la vocation conjugale, à savoir la dignité du don personnel, liée à la signification nuptiale du corps. Ainsi la continence revêt-elle une importance capitale tant pour l’anthropologie que pour la théologie du corps.

* * *

Avec joie je salue les prêtres, les religieuses, les groupes d’élèves et les pèlerins des divers diocèses rassemblés ici, sans oublier les familles et ceux qui sont venus à titre individuel. A vous tous je souhaite un fructueux pèlerinage à Rome et je vous bénis de grand cœur avec tous ceux qui vous sont chers.

Ai fedeli di espressione inglese

Dear brothers and sisters,

I bid you all a warm welcome and assure you of my prayers for each one of you.

In my talk today I continued my considerations on the words of Jesus when he recommended continence for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Those who renounce marriage for this motive are really affirming in a special way the value of marriage. They have realized that man can fully discover himself only in a sincere giving of himself. Their renunciation of marriage for the sake of the kingdom of heaven serves indirectly to highlight what is most lasting and most deeply personal in the vocation to marriage; the mutual self-giving that is signified by the human body as God created it in the beginning.

* * *

I am most happy to give a special greeting to the Christian Brothers who are attending the spiritual renewal course in Rome. I place a high value on the specific vocation of Brothers within the Church. Your institute, in particular, has brought forth abundant fruits of holiness and service since it was founded early in the last century. Be worthy of your great traditions. May God bless you all.

Ai pellegrini di lingua tedesca

Liebe Brüder und Schwestern!

Mit Freude grüße ich die genannten Gruppen und auch alle ungenannten Pilger aus den Ländern deutscher und niederländischer Sprache. In euch grüße ich zugleich eure Lieben daheim, eure Familien und Heimatgemeinden. Der Friede und die Freude des auferstandenen Herrn sei mit euch allen!

In meiner italienischen Ansprache behandelte ich noch einmal das Thema der Ehelosigkeit ”um des Himmelreiches willen“. Ein solcher Verzicht auf die Ehe verlangt eine reiflich überlegte und völlig freie Entscheidung des Menschen. Diese muß zugleich von einer richtigen Wertschätzung der Ehe selbst getragen sein. Die Ehelosigkeit aus Liebe zu Christus verdeutlicht in einer besonderen Weise die bräutliche Bedeutung des menschlichen Leibes als Ausdruck personaler Hingabe. Ihr richtiges Verständnis vermittelt zugleich auch eine tiefere Erkenntnis der Ehe als Gemeinschaft zwischen Personen. Der einzige Schlüssel, um die Sakramentalität der Ehe zu verstehen, ist gerade die bräutliche Liebe Christi zu seiner Kirche. Zu Recht wird die Berufung zur Ehelosigkeit ”um des Himmelreiches willen“ mit dem Hinweis auf die künftige Auferstehung verbunden. Denn ”wenn die Menschen von den Toten auferstehen“, so sagt die Schrift, ”werden sie nicht mehr heiraten, sondern wie die Engel im Himmel sein“.

* * *

Herzlich willkommen heiße ich sodann den Aufsichtsrat und den Vorstand der Pax-Bank zu ihrem Besuch in der Ewigen Stadt. Als Gemeinschaftswerk für die Kirche und ihre Einrichtungen gegründet, erfüllt Ihre Institution weiterhin einen hilfreichen Dienst bei der Erfüllung und Bewältigung finanzieller und wirtschaftlicher Aufgaben. Möge Ihre Tätigkeit und die Ihrer Mitarbeiter stets vom Geist christlicher Solidarität und hoher sittlicher Verantwortung geprägt sein.

* * *

Ferner grüße ich noch besonders die Rompilger aus dem Dekanat Neuenkirchen sowie die Sportgruppe des Militärkommandos Steiermark in sterreich, die mit dem Fahrrad nach Rom gekommen ist. Vertieft euren sportlichen Einsatz durch Besinnung und Gebet, damit eure Romfahrt zu einer wirklichen Pilgerfahrt werde. Von Herzen erteile ich euch und allen anwesenden Pilgern für reiche österliche Gnaden meinen besonderen Apostolischen Segen.

Ai fedeli di espressione spagnola

Amadísimos hermanos y hermanas,

Saludo y bendigo cordialmente a todas y cada una de las personas de lengua española presentes en esta Audiencia, sobre todo a los jóvenes de los diversos colegios y parroquias. A la vez les aseguro que pido al Señor por sus intenciones y necesidades.

Las palabras de Cristo con las que invita a la continencia por el reino de los cielos, exigen una elección madura y consciente de ese estado de vida con el que se renuncia al matrimonio. Tal renuncia, aunque parezca paradójico, es una forma de afirmación del valor del matrimonio, ya que manifiesta el significado de su verdad interior y de su hermosura.

La virginidad, en efecto, aunque coloca a quien la practica fuera de la vida conyugal y familiar propia, encierra un gran valor de autenticidad evangélica a la luz del ejemplo de Cristo, hijo de madre virgen y virgen El mismo.

Por ello la renuncia al matrimonio por el reino de los cielos es una válida realización personal a través de la donación sincera de sí mismo. En la dimensión temporal y en la perspectiva de la resurrección futura.

Ai fedeli portoghesi

Saúdo afectuosamente os peregrinos e ouvintes de língua portuguesa!

Estamos a considerar a renúncia consciente e voluntária ao matrimónio, proposta por Cristo por amor do reino dos Céus. Exactamente por se tratar de uma renúncia consciente, é preciso que o homem se dê conta daquilo que escolhe e também daquilo a que renuncia. A própria renúncia implica a afirmação de um valor, que no caso é o significado esponsal do corpo humano. A chave para compreender a sacramentalidade do matrimónio é o amor esponsal de Cristo para com a Igreja. A própria continência perfeita por amor do reino dos Céus, enquanto renúncia, nos leva à descoberta de um dom.

Na próxima semana, como sabeis, prezados ouvintes de língua portuguesa, estarei de viagem em peregrinação a Fátima e visita pastoral a terras de Portugal. Peço-vos que me acompanheis desde já com a oração. E neste mês de Maria, invocando para todos a protecção de Nossa Senhora de Fátima, dou-vos a minha Bênção Apostólica.

Ai pellegrini polacchi

Pani Jasnogórska! W dniu 3 maja czcimy Cię jako Królowę Polski. Jako Królowa Polski jesteś głównym Patronem Ojczyzny naszej, wespół ze świętym Wojciechem i świętym Stanisławem.

Jako Królowę Polski wzywamy Cię, Bogarodzico, od roku 1956, kiedy to po pamiętnym “potopie”, nazwał Cię tym wezwaniem król polski Jan Kazimierz, oddając “pod Twoją obronę” swoje ziemskie królestwo.

W ten sposób Ty, która weszłaś w nasze dzieje od początków tysiąclecia Polski, trwasz w nich od trzech z górą stuleci jako Królowa.

Zaborcza przemoc potrafiła na okres całego z górą wymazać Państwo polskie i Rzeczpospolitą z map Europy. Jednakże Królowa Polski ani przez chwilę nie przestała panować nad Polakami. Polska istniała dzięki swojej Królowej.

Dzień 3 maja przypomina nam datę uchwalenia wielkiej, nowożytnej Konstytucji w 1791 roku - a więc w ostatnich dosłownie latach pierwszej Rzeczypospolitej.

Z tym samym dniem wiąże się uroczystość Królowej Polski. Jakbyśmy chcieli w Sercu Matki utrwalić to wydarzenie, które - wbrew wszystkim pozorom - pracowało bez przerwy na rzecz niepodległości Narodu. Wtedy, gdy przemocą odbierano mu życie, w Sercu Matki to życie - zapisane głęboko - miało dojrzewać na nowo, pomimo przemocy.

O Pani Jasnogórska! Bądź ciągle z nami! Zapisuj coraz to nowe daty w macierzyńskim Sercu Królowej Polski. Zapisuj nasze dzieje, znowu trudne dni. Niech stają się wciąż nowym początkiem życia Polaków.

Ecco una traduzione italiana della Preghiera del Papa alla Madonna di Jasna Góra.

Signora di Jasna Góra! Il 3 maggio ti veneriamo come la Regina della Polonia. Come Regina della Polonia sei la principale patrona della nostra Patria insieme a sant’Adalberto e a san Stanislao.

Come Regina della Polonia ti invochiamo, o Genitrice di Dio, dall’anno 1656, quando il re polacco Giovanni Casimiro, dopo il memorabile “diluvio”, ti chiamò con questo appellativo mettendo “sotto la tua protezione” il suo Regno terreno.

In questo modo tu, che sei entrata nella nostra storia sin dagli inizi del millennio della Polonia, permani in essa, da oltre tre secoli, come la Regina della Polonia.

La prepotenza conquistatrice è riuscita a cancellare, per un periodo di più di un secolo, lo Stato polacco, la Repubblica dalle carte di Europa. Tuttavia la Regina della Polonia nemmeno per un momento ha smesso di regnare sui polacchi. La Polonia esisteva grazie alla sua Regina.

Il giorno 3 maggio ci ricorda la data della proclamazione della grande, moderna Costituzione del 1791, quindi proprio negli ultimi anni della prima Repubblica.

Allo stesso giorno si collega la solennità della Regina della Polonia. Come se volessimo imprimere nel Cuore della Madre questo avvenimento, che - nonostante tutte le apparenze - ha lavorato senza intervallo in favore dell’indipendenza della Nazione. Quando con la violenza le si toglieva la vita, questa vita iscritta profondamente nel Cuore della Madre doveva maturare di nuovo, malgrado la violenza.

O Signora di Jasna Góra! Sii costantemente con noi!

Imprimi sempre nuove date nel tuo materno Cuore, Regina della Polonia. Iscrivi in esso i nostri presenti giorni di nuovo difficili. Diventino essi un inizio sempre nuovo della vita dei polacchi.

Ai gruppi italiani

Ai pellegrini di lingua italiana, intervenuti oggi in gruppi tanto significativi, rivolgo anzitutto un pensiero derivante dalla Liturgia odierna: “Il Signore è nostra vita, nostra gloria e nostra felicità, a condizione che gli siamo fedeli, che speriamo nelle sue promesse”.

* * *

Ecco, carissimi giovani, che fate parte del Movimento dei Cenacoli Vocazionali dei Padri Rogazionisti, un programma per voi. Cercate prima il Regno di Dio, regno di bontà, di generosità, di fiducia, e tutte le vostre aspirazioni troveranno autentico coronamento. Con voi e con tutti i giovani, il Papa vuol percorrere un tale cammino di speranza e vi accompagna con la sua preghiera.

* * *

Cari ammalati, vi accolgo con questo saluto: “La luce del Risorto sia con voi”. Egli nel Vangelo di oggi ha detto: “Io come luce sono venuto nel mondo” (Gv 12, 45). Solo a questa luce acquistano senso e valore le vostre sofferenze unite alle sue. In particolare, rivolgo un affettuoso benvenuto agli ospiti dell’Istituto “Santa Caterina” di Collesalvetti, fondato e diretto dal Centro Femminile Italiano di Pisa, accompagnati dai loro assistenti e da un gruppo di fedeli della parrocchia; agli ammalati della Sezione UNITALSI di Codogno; ai gruppi di “audiolesi” degli Istituti “Assarotti” di Chiavari ed “Annibale di Francia” di Faro Superiore.

Alla preghiera di tutti gli ammalati raccomando il frutto spirituale del mio prossimo pellegrinaggio a Fatima.

* * *

Alle coppie di giovani sposi rivolgo ora l’augurio che la gioia pasquale, gioia del cuore riconciliato con Dio, allieti ogni giorno il loro focolare, auspice la Vergine santissima.

* * *

Il mio pensiero va ora agli Ufficiali e Soldati del 73° Battaglione Fanteria di Arresto “Lombardia”. Vi auguro che le vostre giovinezze, garanzia di speranza per la Patria, siano sempre illuminate da sani principi morali e da propositi di lieta generosità.

* * *

Agli insegnanti e studenti del Conservatorio “Domenico Cimarosa” di Avellino si dirige il mio grazie per la loro esecuzione, con l’auspicio che, dopo la tremenda sciagura del terremoto, la loro sede sorga più grandiosa e con essa maturino i nobili intendimenti di servire, mediante l’arte, la vocazione trascendente dell’uomo.

* * *

Da ultimo saluto i Dirigenti di Aziende Idriche di diversi Paesi, che partecipano al Corso promosso dal Ministero degli Esteri Italiano ed affidato all’ACEA di Roma. Nel compiacermi per l’opportuna iniziativa, porgo ad essi l’augurio di un fruttuoso lavoro, in vista del bene comune delle loro dilette Nazioni. Su tutti invoco copiosi i conforti della protezione divina, di cui vuol essere pegno la mia benedizione.

Per le vittime del conflitto in atto tra Argentina e Gran Bretagna

Siamo tutti profondamente colpiti e addolorati per le tristi notizie, che stanno giungendo sugli sviluppi del conflitto anglo-argentino nell’Atlantico australe.

Uniamoci, fratelli e sorelle, nella preghiera al Signore per le vittime dell’una e dell’altra parte; e per la pace, affinché la buona volontà trionfi su tutte le difficoltà che si frappongono al suo ristabilimento e perché l’azione che il Segretario Generale dell’ONU ha annunciato di stare svolgendo sia pienamente coronata dal successo che tutti auspichiamo.

Maria, Regina della Pace, presenti al Signore le nostre suppliche e le avvalori con la sua onnipotente intercessione!

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