Bookmark and Share

Reverence for Christ the Basis of Relationship Between Spouses

89 (of 129) - Catechesis by John Paul II on the Theology of the Body
General Audience, Wednesday 11 August 1982 - in Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"1. Today we begin a more detailed analysis of the passage of the Letter to the Ephesians 5:21-33. Addressing husbands and wives, the author recommends them to be "subject to one another out of reverence for Christ" (5:21).

Here it is a question of a relationship of a double dimension or degree: reciprocal and communitarian. One clarifies and characterizes the other. The mutual relations of husband and wife should flow from their common relationship with Christ. The author of the letter speaks of "reverence for Christ" in a sense analogous to that when he speaks of the "fear of God." In this case it is not a question of fear which is a defensive attitude before the threat of evil. But it is above all a case of respect for holiness, for the sacrum. It is a question of pietas, which, in the language of the Old Testament, was expressed by the term "fear of God" (cf., e.g., Ps 103:11; Prv 1:7; 23:17; Sir 1:11-16). Arising from a profound awareness of the mystery of Christ, this pietas should constitute the basis of the reciprocal relations between husbands and wives.

2. The text chosen by us, as likewise the immediate context, has a "parenetic" character, that is, of moral instruction. The author of the letter wishes to indicate to husbands and wives the basis of their mutual relationship and their entire conduct. He deduces the relative indications and directives from the mystery of Christ presented at the beginning of the letter. This mystery should be spiritually present in the mutual relationship of spouses. The mystery of Christ, penetrating their hearts, engendering in them that holy "reverence for Christ" (namely pietas), should lead them to "be subject to one another"—the mystery of Christ, that is, the mystery of the choice from eternity of each of them in Christ to be the adoptive sons of God.

3. The opening expression of our passage of Ephesians 5:21-33, which we have approached by an analysis of the remote and immediate context, has quite a special eloquence. The author speaks of the mutual subjection of the spouses, husband and wife, and in this way he explains the words which he will write afterward on the subjection of the wife to the husband. In fact we read: "Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord" (5:22). In saying this, the author does not intend to say that the husband is the lord of the wife and that the interpersonal pact proper to marriage is a pact of domination of the husband over the wife. Instead, he expresses a different concept: that the wife can and should find in her relationship with Christ—who is the one Lord of both the spouses—the motivation of that relationship with her husband which flows from the very essence of marriage and of the family. Such a relationship, however, is not one of one-sided domination. According to the Letter to the Ephesians, marriage excludes that element of the pact which was a burden and, at times, does not cease to be a burden on this institution. The husband and the wife are in fact "subject to one another," and are mutually subordinated to one another. The source of this mutual subjection is to be found in Christian pietas, and its expression is love.

4. The author of the letter underlines this love in a special way, in addressing himself to husbands. He writes: "Husbands, love your wives...." By expressing himself in this way, he removes any fear that might have arisen (given the modern sensitivity) from the previous phrase: "Wives, be subject to your husbands." Love excludes every kind of subjection whereby the wife might become a servant or a slave of the husband, an object of unilateral domination. Love makes the husband simultaneously subject to the wife, and thereby subject to the Lord himself, just as the wife to the husband. The community or unity which they should establish through marriage is constituted by a reciprocal donation of self, which is also a mutual subjection. Christ is the source and at the same time the model of that subjection, which, being reciprocal "out of reverence for Christ," confers on the conjugal union a profound and mature character. In this source and before this model many elements of a psychological or moral nature are so transformed as to give rise, I would say, to a new and precious fusion of the bilateral relations and conduct.

5. The author of the Letter to the Ephesians does not fear to accept those concepts which were characteristic of the mentality and customs of the times. He does not fear to speak of the subjection of the wife to the husband. He does not fear (also in the last verse of the text quoted by us) to recommend to the wife that "she respect her husband" (5:33). It is certain that when the husband and wife are subject to one another "out of reverence for Christ," a just balance will be established, such as to correspond to their Christian vocation in the mystery of Christ.

6. Nowadays our contemporary sensitivity is certainly different. Our mentality and customs are quite different, too, as is the social position of women in regard to men. Nevertheless, the fundamental moral principle which we find in the Letter to the Ephesians remains the same and produces the same results. The mutual subjection "out of reverence for Christ"—a subjection arising from the basis of Christian pietas—always produces that profound and solid structure of the community of the spouses in which there is constituted the true "communion" of the person.

7. The author of the text to the Ephesians, who began his letter with a magnificent vision of God's eternal plan in regard to humanity, does not limit himself to emphasizing merely the traditional aspects of morality or the ethical aspects of marriage. He goes beyond the scope of teaching and writing on the reciprocal relationship of the spouses. He discovers therein the dimension of the mystery of Christ of which he is the herald and the apostle: "Wives, be subject to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the Church, his Body, and is himself its Savior. As the Church is subject to Christ, so let wives also be subject in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her..." (5:22-25). In this way, the teaching of this parenetic part of the letter is inserted, in a certain sense, into the reality of the mystery hidden from eternity in God and revealed to mankind in Jesus Christ. In the Letter to the Ephesians we are, I would say, witnesses of a particular meeting of that mystery with the essence of the vocation to marriage. How are we to understand this meeting?

8. In the text of the Letter to the Ephesians it is presented above all as a great analogy. There we read: "Wives, be subject to your husbands as to the Lord...." Here we have the first component of the analogy. "For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the Church...." Here we have the second component which clarifies and motivates the first. "As the Church is subject to Christ, so let wives also be subject to their husbands...." The relationship of Christ to the Church, presented previously, is now expressed as a relationship of the Church to Christ, and this contains the successive component of the analogy. Finally: "Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her...." This is the ultimate component of the analogy. The remainder of the text of the letter develops the fundamental thought contained in the passage just now quoted. The entire text of the Letter to the Ephesians in 5:21-33 is completely permeated with the same analogy. That is to say, the mutual relationship between the spouses, husband and wife, is to be understood by Christians in the light of the relationship between Christ and the Church."

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

Ai fedeli di espressione francese

Chers Frères et Sœurs,

Je suis heureux de vous accueillir ici, prêtres, religieux, religieuses, laïcs, les parents, et particulièrement les jeunes qui sont très nombreux à cette audience. Je vous encourage à emplir vos yeux et vos cœurs de tout ce que vous découvrez de beau durant vos vacances, et à vous préparer à la grande fête de Notre-Dame, à son Assomption, dimanche prochain.

En continuant mon analyse de la Lettre aux Ephésiens, j’ai abordé aujourd’hui un point délicat de la vie familiale, qu’il importe de bien comprendre, car il concerne les attitudes quotidiennes des époux entre eux. L’Auteur dit: “Soyez soumis les uns aux autres dans la crainte du Christ”, c’est-à-dire par respect pour le mystère du Christ que vous vivez d’une façon spéciale dans le mariage, par piété. S’il précise que les femmes doivent être soumises aux maris comme au Seigneur, ce n’est pas pour permettre une domination unilatérale du mari; car il s’agit d’une soumission réciproque qui trouve sa source dans la piété et qui s’exprime dans l’amour. La Lettre dit explicitement: “Maris, aimez vos femmes comme le Christ a aimé l’Eglise et s’est livré pour elle”. Le mari et la femme sont soumis l’un à l’autre, étant soumis tous les deux au Seigneur. La famille qui vit cela trouvera le juste équilibre et réalisera la véritable communion des personnes, profonde et mûre. Elle assurera son bonheur, aura un rayonnement sur ses enfants et sur la société, et témoignera de la façon mystérieuse dont le Christ s’est donné à l’Eglise. Voilà mon souhait pour chacun de vos foyers, avec ma Bénédiction Apostolique.

Ai fedeli di lingua inglese

Dear brother and sisters,

You come from many lands and I greet you all warmly. I greet the priests, religious and lay people from Egypt who are also making a pilgrimage to Lourdes and Lisieux. I greet the group from the Bahamas, a country I had the pleasure of visiting on my return from the Puebla Conference in Mexico. I greet the people associated with the Taiyo-no machi institute in Hiroshima and the other visitors from Japan. I greet the Chinese who are attending a course in Rome. I greet and praise the enthusiasm and generosity of the young people from Ratcliffe College, Syston, who are devoting their summer holidays to helping people in Italy. May God bless and every one of you.

The talk that I gave in Italian today concerned the recommendation to husbands and wives in the Letter to the Ephesians: “Be subjet to one another out of reverence for Christ”. There is to be no one-sided domination. Each is to be subject to the other from a sense of Christian piety, a piety that springs from awareness of the mystery of Christ and that finds expression in love. The letter goes on to compare marriage to the union between Christ and the Church. The relationship by which the Church willingly submits to Christ and Christ lovingly gives himself for the Church is the model for the relationship between husband and wife in Christian marriage.

Ad alcuni pellegrini provenienti dal Giappone

Sia lodato Gesù Cristo!

Ringrazio di cuore gli appartenenti alla “Città del Sole” e voi tutti turisti, perché siete venuti qui proprio per incontrarmi. Sono molto lieto di accogliervi superando ogni differenza di religione.

Vi auguro di alimentare la vostra vita con ciò che avete appreso visitando Roma.

Impartisco di cuore la mia benedizione apostolica a voi tutti e ai vostri familiari.

Sia lodato Gesù Cristo!

Ai fedeli di lingua tedesca

Liebe Brüder und Schwestern!

Mit besten Ferienwünschen grüße ich euch zur heutigen Audienz. - Wir erörtern zur Zeit in unseren wöchentlichen Überlegungen die Lehre des Epheserbriefes über die christliche Ehe. Sein Verfasser ermahnt die Eheleute: ”Einer ordne sich dem andern unter in der gemeinsamen Ehrfurcht vor Christus!“ (Eph. 5, 21). Die Grundlage für ihre gegenseitigen Beziehungen bildet somit ihre tiefe persönliche Verbundenheit mit dem Herrn. In der christlichen Ehe darf es keine einseitige Über- oder Unterordnung zwischen den Ehegatten geben. Wenn der Autor des Epheserbriefes die Frauen auffordert, ”ihren Männern zu dienen, als sei es der Herr“ (Ibid. 5, 22), so verlangt er gleichzeitig von den Männern, ihre Frauen zu lieben, wie Christus die Kirche geliebt und sich für sie hingegeben hat (Cfr. ibid. 5, 25). Ihre eheliche Gemeinschaft verwirklicht sich in gegenseitiger Hingabe und Unterordnung aus ihrer gemeinsamen Ehrfurcht vor Christus. Christus soll das Richtmaß ihres Handelns sein. Die christlichen Eheleute sind berufen, untereinander analog jenen Liebesbund zu verwirklichen, der Christus mit der Kirche verbindet.

Von Herzen erbitte ich den Eheleuten unter euch, daß sie ihrer hohen Berufung mit Gottes Gnade zu entsprechen vermögen und erteile euch allen und euren Familien in der Heimat meinen besonderen Apostolischen Segen.

Ai pellegrini di lingua spagnola

Amadísimos hermanos y hermanas,

Mi más cordial saludo a los peregrinos de lengua española aquí presentes.

Comenzamos hoy el examen del capítulo quinto de la Carta a los Efesios (Cfr. ibid. 5, 21-23). Su autor, al dirigirse a los esposos, les aconseja que estén “sujetos los unos a los otros en el temor de Cristo” (Ibid. 5, 21). Se trata, como se puede observar, de una relación que tiene un doble aspecto: recíproco y comunitario, cimentado en la piedad o temor de Dios.

En la Carta se indica expresamente a los esposos cómo deben establecer sus relaciones, entre las que destaca la recíproca sumisión. En efecto, el marido y la mujer están recíprocamente “sometidos”, subordinados; y la fuente de esta sumisión debe entenderse a la luz de la piedad cristiana, cuya primera expresión es el amor. La unidad que los esposos forman asimismo en el matrimonio, se lleva a efecto por medio de la donación mutua. Cristo, no lo olvidemos, es el modelo de esta sumisión que, siendo recíproca “en el amor de Dios”, da una característica más íntima a la unión conyugal.

De ahí que la sumisión mutua - basada “en el temor de Cristo” - forme siempre una verdadera “comunión” de personas: imagen de la relación entre Cristo y la Iglesia.

* * *

Saludo de modo particular a las Esclavas del Sagrado Corazón de Jesús. Que los frutos del Capítulo General que estáis celebrando os animen a vivir más intensamente los ideales de la vida consagrada conforme al espíritu de vuestro Instituto y a seguir incansablemente en vuestra actividad evangelizadora, especialmente entre los más necesitados.

A todos mi Bendición Apostólica.

Ai fedeli di espressione portoghese

Queridos peregrinos e ouvintes de língua portuguesa,

A minha saudação cordial, com votos de felicidades em Cristo Senhor.

Continuamos a reflectir sobre o sentido da norma dada para os cônjuges cristãos, na Epístola aos Efésios: “sede submissos uns aos outros, no temor de Cristo”.

Este “temor”, que deve inspirar as relações mútuas marido-esposa, não quer dizer medo; mas sim, reverência ou “piedade”, dimanante da consciência profunda do mistério de Cristo; e, sendo uma instrução moral, deve tomar-se no conjunto da exposição, para se entender o que significa “ser submisso”: ambos os cônjuges, em pé de igualdade, olhos fixos no modelo, que é a relação de amor Cristo-Igreja, devem viver com amor a doação pessoal recíproca, “no temor de Cristo”.

Reflectindo usos e costumes e usando uma linguagem diversos da mentalidade de hoje, a mensagem do texto, o fundo doutrinal continua actual, na luz daquele desígnio eterno de Deus sobre o homem - já considerado - mistério revelado na humanidade de Jesus Cristo, que abrange também o matrimónio:

Marido e esposa devem viver e cultivar uma relação mútua de amor “à imagem”, análoga à relação de amor entre Cristo e a sua Igreja.

La preghiera alla Madonna di Jasna Góra

Matko śliczna, wspaniała,
Częstochowska Maryjo!

W Tich dniach od z górą dwustu lat rokrocznie postępuje ku Jasnej Górze wielka pielgrzymka warszawska.

Ze stolicy Polski podążają pielgrzymi ku Tej, która “dana jest ku obronie naszego narodu”. Dołączają się do nich ludzie z różnych stron Polski, a także z innych krajów Europy i świata.

Sercem łączę się znimi wszystkimi - i pielgrzymuję do Matki Chrystusa, od sześciuset lat szczególnie obecnej w życiu Ludu Bożego na polskiej ziemi poprzez jasnogórskie sanktuarium.

Dzielę ich wszystkich trudy, pragnienia, intencje.

“Słyszeliśmy wdzięczny głos,

jak Maryja woła nas.

Pójdźcie do mnie, moje dzieci,

przyszedł czas, ach, przyszedł czas”.

Jest w tym postępowaniu pielgrzymim ku Jasnej Górze Zwycięstwa obraz życia ludzkiego. Bo wszyscy przecież pielgrzymujemy w Chrystusie do ostatecznego zwycięstwa, zrodzonego z Jego krzyża i zmartwychwstania.

I jest w tym corocznym pielgrzymowaniu ku Jasnej Górze obraz życia Narodu, który idzie przez swe własne dzieje stale w strone lepszego jutra.

Pielgrzymka jasnogórska jest świadectwem nadziei, która ożywia dusze ludzkie - i życiu przywraca jego pełny wymiar i sens.

Moi Drodzy Bracia i Siostry! Pielgrzymujący w nadziei! Jakże bardzo jestem z Wami!

Matko śliczna, wspaniała,

Częstochowska Maryjo!

Do Ciebie się uciekamy, o Maryjo, Maryjo!

Questa la traduzione italiana della preghiera del Santo Madre alla Madonna di Jasna Góra.

“Madre graziosa e magnifica,
Maria di Czestochowa”!

In questo periodo, ogni anno, da più di due secoli, si reca a Jasna Góra un grande pellegrinaggio di Varsavia.

Dalla capitale polacca si avviano i pellegrini verso Colei che “è data per la difesa della nostra Nazione”. A loro si congiungono persone da diverse parti della Polonia, ed anche da altri Paesi dell’Europa e del mondo.

Mi unisco con il cuore ad essi, pellegrino anch’io verso la Madre di Cristo, che da sei secoli è presente in modo particolare nella vita del Popolo di Dio in terra polacca mediante il santuario di Jasna Góra.

Condivido tutte le loro fatiche, i loro desideri, le loro intenzioni.

“Abbiamo sentito la voce dolce, con la quale Maria ci chiama: / Venite a me, figli miei; / è giunto il tempo, oh! è giunto il tempo”.

In questo avviarsi come pellegrini verso Jasna Góra della Vittoria vi è l’immagine della vita umana. Tutti infatti pellegriniamo in Cristo verso la vittoria definitiva, nata dalla sua croce e risurrezione.

In questo pellegrinaggio annuale verso Jasna Góra vi è l’immagine della vita della Nazione, che sempre cammina lungo la propria storia verso un domani migliore.

Il pellegrinaggio di Jasna Góra è la testimonianza della speranza che ravviva le anime umane e restituisce alla vita la sua piena dimensione e il suo vero senso.

Cari fratelli e sorelle!

Pellegrini nella speranza!

Quanto sono con voi!

“Madre graziosa e magnifica, / Maria di Czestochowa”!

A te ricorriamo o Maria, o Maria”!

A gruppi italiani

Saluto anzitutto le numerose religiose, presenti a questa Udienza: in particolare le suore della Sacra Famiglia di Spoleto, che stanno celebrando il Capitolo Generale, alle quali rivolgo il mio compiacimento e il mio augurio affinché il bene che compiono con le loro numerose opere educative e assistenziali sia sorretto da sempre più ardente amore a Cristo e alla Chiesa. Con pari affetto saluto le suore del Patrocinio di san Giuseppe, le suore di nostra Signora della Mercede e le suore Domenicane del santissimo Sacramento, anch’esse riunite in Capitolo Generale. Il Signore tutte vi illumini e irrobustisca con la sua grazia, e largamente ricompensi la vostra instancabile generosità.

* * *

Intendo poi anche salutare il pellegrinaggio di Guadagnolo, nel cui Comune è sito il Santuario mariano della Mentorella, a me tanto caro. La Madonna vi protegga sempre e alimenti ogni giorno di più la vostra fede in Gesù Cristo.

* * *

Saluto il gruppo degli appartenenti alla Società Cattolica di Mutuo Soccorso, di Padova, che hanno qui voluto idealmente concludere l’anno centenario di fondazione. Carissimi, mi compiaccio vivamente per le molteplici attività assistenziali compiute, nell’arco di un secolo, dal benemerito vostro Sodalizio, e con voi ringrazio il Signore che vi ha fatto strumenti della sua Provvidenza. Per l’attività futura, che auguro ancora lunga ed efficace, vi esorto a radicare sempre più le vostre iniziative nello spirito della carità evangelica e benedico di cuore voi, i vostri dirigenti, i consoci che rappresentate e tutti i vostri cari.

* * *

Saluto di cuore tutti i giovani presenti a questa Udienza, compreso il gruppo di “Guide e Scouts Cattolici”. A tutti loro auguro una vita sempre generosa e lieta nell’amicizia col Signore e in una costante testimonianza del suo Vangelo al mondo.

* * *

Una particolarissima parola di saluto è per gli ammalati qui presenti. Voi formate uno speciale tesoro della Chiesa, e sull’offerta delle vostre sofferenze al Signore il Papa conta molto, mentre vi assicura il suo costante affetto e la sua incessante preghiera.

* * *

Infine, ai novelli Sposi va il mio sentito augurio di amore, di fecondità e di prosperità in una vita resa sicura e felice da una irrinunciabile comunione col Signore. Egli vi colmi dei suoi favori, mentre tutti vi benedico di cuore.

© Copyright - Libreria Editrice Vaticana