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Sacredness of Human Body and Marriage

92 (of 129) - Catechesis by John Paul II on the Theology of the Body
General Audience, Wednesday 1 September 1982 - in Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"1. The author of the Letter to the Ephesians, proclaiming the analogy between the spousal bond which unites Christ and the Church, and that which unites the husband and wife in marriage, writes as follows: "Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that he might present the Church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish" (Eph 5:25-27).

2. It is significant that the image of the Church in splendor is presented in the text quoted as a bride all beautiful in her body. Certainly this is a metaphor. But it is very eloquent, and it shows how deeply important the body is in the analogy of spousal love. The Church in splendor is "without spot or wrinkle." "Spot" can be understood as a sign of ugliness, and "wrinkle" as a sign of old age or senility. In the metaphorical sense, both terms indicate moral defects, sin. It may be added that in St. Paul the "old man" signifies sinful man (cf. Rom 6:6). Therefore Christ with his redemptive and spousal love ensures that the Church not only becomes sinless, but remains "eternally young."

3. The scope of the metaphor is, as may be seen, quite vast. The expressions which refer directly and immediately to the human body, characterizing it in the reciprocal relationships between husband and wife, indicate at the same time attributes and qualities of the moral, spiritual and supernatural order. This is essential for such an analogy. Therefore the author of the letter can define the state of the Church in splendor in relation to the state of the body of the bride, free from signs of ugliness or old age ("or any such thing"), simply as holiness and absence of sin. Such is the Church "holy and without blemish." It is obvious then what kind of beauty of the bride is in question, in what sense the Church is the Body of Christ, and in what sense that Body-Bride welcomes the gift of the Bridegroom who "has loved the Church and has given himself for her." Nevertheless it is significant that St. Paul explains all this reality, which is essentially spiritual and supernatural, by means of the resemblance of the body and of the love whereby husband and wife become "one flesh."

4. In the entire passage of the text cited, the principle of bi-subjectivity is clearly preserved: Christ-Church, Bridegroom-Bride (husband-wife). The author presents the love of Christ for the Church—that love which makes the Church the Body of Christ of which he is the head—as the model of the love of the spouses and as the model of the marriage of the bridegroom and the bride. Love obliges the bridegroom-husband to be solicitous for the welfare of the bride-wife. It commits him to desire her beauty and at the same time to appreciate this beauty and to care for it. Here it is a case of visible beauty, of physical beauty. The bridegroom examines his bride with attention as though in a creative, loving anxiety to find everything that is good and beautiful in her and which he desires for her. That good which he who loves creates, through his love, in the one that is loved, is like a test of that same love and its measure. Giving himself in the most disinterested way, he who loves does so only within the limits of this measure and of this control.

5. When the author of the Letter to the Ephesians—in the succeeding verses of the text (5:28-29)—turns his mind exclusively to the spouses themselves, the analogy of the relationship of Christ to the Church is still more profound and impels him to express himself thus: "Husbands should love their wives as their own bodies" (Eph 5:28). Here the motive of "one flesh" returns again. In the above-mentioned phrase and in the subsequent phrases it is not only taken up again, but also clarified. If husbands should love their wives as their own bodies, this means that uni-subjectivity is based on bi-subjectivity and does not have a real character but only an intentional one. The wife's body is not the husband's own body, but it must be loved like his own body. It is therefore a question of unity, not in the ontological sense, but in the moral sense: unity through love.

6. "He who loves his wife loves himself" (Eph 5:28). This phrase confirms that character of unity still more. In a certain sense, love makes the "I" of the other person his own "I": the "I" of the wife, I would say, becomes through love the "I" of the husband. The body is the expression of that "I" and the foundation of its identity. The union of husband and wife in love is expressed also by means of the body. It is expressed in the reciprocal relationship, even though the author of the letter indicates it especially from the part of the husband. This results from the structure of the total image. The spouses should be "subject to one another out of reverence for Christ" (this was already made evident in the first verses of the text quoted: Eph 5:21-23). However, later on, the husband is above all, he who loves and the wife, on the other hand, is she who is loved. One could even hazard the idea that the wife's submission to her husband, understood in the context of the entire passage of the Letter to the Ephesians (5:21-33), signifies above all the "experiencing of love." This is all the more so since this submission is related to the image of the submission of the Church to Christ, which certainly consists in experiencing his love. The Church, as bride, being the object of the redemptive love of Christ-Bridegroom, becomes his Body. Being the object of the spousal love of the husband, the wife becomes "one flesh" with him, in a certain sense, his own flesh. The author will repeat this idea once again in the last phrase of the passage analyzed here: "However, let each one of you love his wife as himself" (Eph 5:33).

7. This is a moral unity, conditioned and constituted by love. Love not only unites the two subjects, but allows them to be mutually interpenetrated, spiritually belonging to one another to such a degree that the author of the letter can affirm: "He who loves his wife loves himself" (Eph 5:28). The "I" becomes in a certain sense the "you" and the "you" the "I" (in a moral sense, that is). Therefore the continuation of the text analyzed by us reads as follows: "For no man ever hates his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, as Christ does the Church, because we are members of his body" (Eph 5:29-30). The phrase, which initially still referred to the relationships of the married couple, returns successively in an explicit manner to the relationship Christ-Church. So, in the light of that relationship, it leads us to define the sense of the entire phrase. After explaining the character of the relationship of the husband to his own wife by forming "one flesh," the author wishes to reinforce still more his previous statement ("He who loves his wife loves himself"). In a certain sense, he wishes to maintain it by the negation and exclusion of the opposite possibility ("No man ever hates his own flesh"—Eph 5:29). In the union through love the body of the other becomes one's own in the sense that one cares for the welfare of the other's body as he does for his own. It may be said that the above-mentioned words, characterizing the "carnal" love which should unite the spouses, express the most general and at the same time, the most essential content. They seem to speak of this love above all in the language of agape.

8. The expression according to which man "nourishes and cherishes his own flesh"—that is, that the husband "nourishes and cherishes" the flesh of his wife as his own—seems rather to indicate the solicitude of the parents, the protective relationship, instead of the conjugal tenderness. The motivation of this character should be sought in the fact that the author here passes distinctly from the relationship which unites the spouses to the relationship between Christ and the Church. The expressions which refer to the care of the body, and in the first place to its nourishment, to its sustenance, suggest to many Scripture scholars a reference to the Eucharist with which Christ in his spousal love nourishes the Church. These expressions, even though in a minor key, indicate the specific character of conjugal love, especially of that love whereby the spouses become "one flesh." At the same time they help us to understand, at least in a general way, the dignity of the body and the moral imperative to care for its good, for that good which corresponds to its dignity. The comparison with the Church as the Body of Christ, the Body of his redemptive and at the same time spousal love, should leave in the minds of those to whom the Letter to the Ephesians was destined a profound sense of the "sacredness" of the human body in general, and especially in marriage, as the "situation" in which this sense of the sacred determines in an especially profound way, the reciprocal relationships of the persons and, above all, those of the man with the woman, inasmuch as she is wife and mother of their children."

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

Ai fedeli di lingua francese

Chers Frères et Sœurs,

Le rapport du Christ et de l’Eglise, le rapport de l’époux et de l’épouse, voilà ce dont j’ai parlé en italien, car la réalité de l’un éclaire le mystère de l’autre, et réciproquement. En effet, dans la lettre aux Ephésiens que je commente depuis plusieurs mercredis, il est dit: “Maris, aimez vos femmes, comme le Christ a aimé l’Eglise et s’est livré pour elle . . . afin de se la présenter toute glorieuse, sans tache ni ride . . . mais sainte et immaculée”. La tache qui rend laid ou la ride qui marque le vieillissement signifient l’une et l’autre le péché. Par les sacrements, par le baptême notamment, le Christ purifie l’Eglise, la renouvelle, la garde éternellement jeune. L’Eglise peut alors être appelée “le corps du Christ”, dont il continue à prendre soin, qu’il nourrit par l’Eucharistie. Elle ne fait qu’un avec lui. C’est le résultat de son amour qui dépasse ce qu’on peut imaginer.

De même, dans le mariage, l’amour oblige le mari à se soucier du bien de sa femme, à la désirer toujours belle, à inventer tout ce qui est bien et bon pour elle. Il agit pour elle comme pour son propre corps. Le mari et la femme continuent certes d’être deux sujets, au plan des personnes, mais dans un sens, ils ne font plus qu’un, une unité morale conditionnée et constituée par l’amour, comme si le “moi” de l’un devenait le “moi” de l’autre; non seulement ils s’unissent en une seule chair, mais ils s’appartiennent spirituellement. La femme apparaît ici comme celle qui est l’objet de l’amour, qui expérimente l’amour de son mari. C’est dire, chers Frères et Sœurs, à la fois la grandeur de l’amour du Christ, et la dignité de l’amour humain, le caractère sacré du corps, comme “lieu” du rapport des personnes.

Tels sont les souhaits que je forme pour tous les époux chrétiens, et pour ceux et celles qui se préparent au mariage. Mais mes vœux cordiaux vont à tous ceux qui sont présents à cette audience, qui expérimentent l’amour du Christ, qui doivent en vivre et le manifester: aux prêtres, aux religieux et religieuses, à tous les laïcs, aux jeunes et aux enfants, aux malades. A tous et à chacun des visiteurs, je suis heureux d’adresser mon affectueuse Bénédiction Apostolique.

Ai fedeli di espressione inglese

Dear brothers and sisters,

I give you all a warm welcome. I wish you the happiness that only God can give, and I bless you, each and every one.

In my talk in Italian I spoke of the Letter to the Ephesians. Christ is described there as a bridegroom deeply loving his bride the Church. He gave himself up for her that she might be without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. He is put forward as a model for Christian husbands. They are to love their wives as Christ loves the Church. A husband is to love his wife as himself, as his own body, and to care for her as he cares for himself and for the welfare of his own body. By its reference to Christ and to the Church his body and his bride, the Letter to the Ephesians indicates how deeply sacred is the human body and marriage.

* * *

I greet with affection the Ukrainian group from Toronto. May your pilgrimage to Lourdes and Rome bring you many blessings. You belong to a Church that has given centuries of heroic fidelity to Catholic unity, and I pray for you through the intercession of the Mother of God and of the holy apostles Peter and Paul.

* * *

I also greet most cordially the groups of people who suffer from various handicaps: elderly members of the Franciscan Missionaries of the Divine Motherhood; Friends of Don Orione from England; the group from Saint Augustine’s Church, Stoke-on-Trent; and the White Plane Pilgrimage from Ireland. I invoke upon you the blessing of Christ, who emptied himself and became obedient unto death, and was for that reason highly exalted by God.

Ai fedeli di lingua tedesca

Liebe Brüder und Schwestern!

Herzlich willkommen bei dieser freundschaftlichen Begegnung mit dem Nachfolger des Petrus in der Sorge für die Kirche Christi. Sicher hat euch nicht bloße menschliche Neugier hierhergeführt, sondern auch der Wunsch, ein kurzes Wort aus der Fülle unseres Glaubens zu vernehmen.

Seit einigen Wochen erläutere ich in den Generalaudienzen die berühmte Stelle aus dem Epheserbrief, die oft in der Brautmesse als Lesung vorgetragen wird: Paulus bemüht sich dort mit aller Geisteskraft zu zeigen, wie christliche Eheleute miteinander umgehen sollen, um ihre eheliche Einheit in jener Tiefe und Dichte zu leben, die Gott selbst ihr in Christus verliehen hat (Eph. 5, 21-33).

In seiner Erlöserliebe hat sich der Herr für seine Kirche dahingegeben, ”um sie rein und heilig zu machen“ (Ibid. 5, 26), wie eine Braut für ihren Hochzeitstag. So wird die Kirche zum Leib Christi, dem dieser - als das Haupt jenes Leibes - alle Lebenskraft schenkt. Der Apostel scheut sich nun nicht, etwas Ähnliches von den Ehemännern zu erwarten. Er sagt: ”Darum sind die Männer verpflichtet, ihre Frauen so zu lieben wie ihren eigener Leib. Wer seine Frau liebt, liebt sich selbst. Keiner hat je seinen eigenen Leib gehaßt, sondern er nährt und pflegt ihn, wie auch Christus die Kirche“ (Eph. 5, 28. 29).

Ihr seht, wie Paulus zugleich an die natürliche Eigenliebe appelliert: ”Keiner hat je seinen eigenen Leib gehaßt“ (Ibid. 5, 29), nicht etwa, damit der Mann über seine Ehefrau verfüge, sondern damit er ihr alles Gute wünscht und gibt, das er auch für sich selbst ersehnt, eben wie Christus es mit der Kirche tut. Alles, was das ”Ich“ des Mannes will und möchte, plant und tut, soll auch das ”Du“ seiner Frau umfassen; und ebenso soll es auch für die Frau gegenüber ihrem Manne sein. Denn in der Liebe sind sie ”eins“ geworden.

Bedenkt diese tiefe Wahrheit und diese hohe Berufung in eurem Herzen und sucht sie in eurem eigenen Leben zu verwirklichen. Dazu verhelfe euch auch mein Apostolischer Segen.

Ai pellegrini di lingua spagnola

Amadísimos hermanos y hermanas,

Quiero dar mi afectuosa bienvenida a esta Audiencia a todas las personas y grupos de lengua española, procedentes de España y de diversos Países de América Latina.

Seguimos el análisis de la Carta a los Efesios. La Iglesia es presentada como una esposa muy bella en su cuerpo, “sin mancha o arruga” (Ibid. 5, 27). Se trata de una metáfora, pero es muy elocuente, porque refleja la importancia del cuerpo en la analogía del amor esponsal.

Los términos “mancha” y “arruga” indican metafóricamente los defectos morales, el pecado. En San Pablo “hombre viejo” significa el hombre del pecado. Por esto Cristo, con su amor redentor y esponsal, hace que la Iglesia no sólo esté sin pecado, sino que permanezca “eternamente joven”.

Las expresiones usadas aquí en relación con el cuerpo humano indican cualidades de orden moral, espiritual y sobrenatural. La Iglesia aparece así “santa e intachable”. San Pablo presenta esta realidad con la semejanza del cuerpo y del amor por el cual marido y mujer se hacen dos en “una sola carne”.

En el texto analizado está claro el principio de la bi-subjetividad: Cristo-Iglesia, Esposo-Esposa. E1 autor presenta el amor de Cristo hacia la Iglesia como modelo del amor de los esposos. Ese amor no sólo une a dos sujetos, sino que les permite compenetrarse mutuamente, perteneciéndose espiritualmente el uno al otro y formando una unidad por amor.

Todas estas reflexiones deben llevar al respeto del valor “sacro” del cuerpo humano, especialmente en el matrimonio, y deben iluminar también las relaciones recíprocas de las personas.

Con mi cordial Bendición Apostólica.

Ai pellegrini di lingua portoghese

Queridos peregrinos e ouvintes de língua portuguesa: desejo a todos as maiores felicidades no Senhor, ao saudar-vos cordialmente.

Continuamos a reflectir, seguindo a doutrina da Epístola aos Efésios, sobre a analogia do vínculo esponsal entre Cristo e a sua Igreja, e aquele outro vínculo que une os esposos no matrimónio.

A comparação da Igreja a uma esposa, bela e sem defeitos, leva a pensar, prevalentemente, na ausência de defeitos morais. No quadro da metáfora, de facto, salientam-se os atributos e qualidades morais que devem guiar as relações de amor entre o marido e a mulher.

Trata-se de um amor solícito pelo bem integral de outrem; embora vincando mais a solicitude do marido pelo bem da mulher, acentua-se a unidade moral, que levará a uma certa identificação de um com o outro, mantendo cada qual a própria subjectividade. E nesta solicitude e unidade até à identificação em plano moral, o corpo humano é imediatamente objecto de desvelo amoroso de parte a parte, excluindo o ódio, a divisão e o desamor, por causa da dignidade pessoal, da dignidade do mesmo corpo humano.

A comparação usada - da Igreja como corpo de Cristo, por Ele muito amada - deverá criar na consciência dos ouvintes da Epístola aos Efésios um sentido profundo de algo de “sagrado” a marcar sempre o corpo humano, em particular o corpo daqueles que se uniram para “formar uma só carne”, para a santidade do matrimónio.

* * *

Quero acrescentar uma palavra de saudação especial ao selecto grupo da Escola de Comando e do Estado-Maior da Aeronáutica do Brasil:

É-me grata a vossa presença aqui, a manifestar estima pela misão da Igreja. E faço votos de que, a serviço da pátria, com particular sentido de responsabilidade, ao sobrevoar a terra, vossos corações e vossos espíritos se elevem para Deus, Criador da beleza do universo e Pai de todos os homens, com pensamentos de fé, de paz e de fraternidade. Isto vos desejo, ao abençoar-vos; e, por vós, às vossas famílias e a toda a querida Nação brasileira.

* * *

É ainda com alegria e afecto que saúdo a numerosa representação da Sociedade Missionária Portuguesa com o Superior Geral, presente nesta audiência, a celebrar o seu cinquentenário.

Amados irmãos e irmãs: conheço a história e actividade da vossa benemérita Sociedade que - como o nome indica - se enquadra no zelo missionário da Igreja: na evangelização, em terras distantes, e na animação missionária das dioceses de Portugal. A vossa presença aqui fala dos vossos bons propósitos, de fidelidade ao ideal, pela fidelidade à Sé de Pedro. Convosco dou graças a Deus e, congratulando-me, exorto-vos a prosseguir, não obstante as provas e as dificuldades, no testemunhar e servir a caridade universal da Igreja e o mistério da Salvação e do amor de Deus.

Em vós e por vós, vejo neste momento os vossos missionários em Moçambique, Angola, Zâmbia, Brasil e em Portugal, e a todos abençoo de coração.

Ad un gruppo di cantori della diocesi di Alba Julia in Romania

Saluto ora un gruppo di 44 cantori i quali provengono dalla Romania, e più precisamente dalla diocesi di Alba Julia, di lingua ungherese. Essi sono dirigenti di coro ed insegnanti di canto nelle Chiese parrocchiali in quella diocesi: quindi compiono un importante ministero in quella Chiesa particolare.

Il gruppo ha partecipato al Festival Internazionale di Arezzo. Insegnate al Popolo di Dio a cantare bene e con devozione. Con la mia benedizione apostolica.

Ai fedeli polacchi

W dniu 26 sierpnia - uroczystść Matki Bożei - Episkopat Polski ogłosił “Słowo Biskupów z Jasnej Góry”, które zawiera pełne pasterskiej i patriotycznej treści wskazania i weswania do wszystkich rodaków.

Pod koniec tego tekstu czytamy:

“Biskupi są świadomi, że zbliżająca się dwuletnia rocznica porozumień społecznych posiada nie tylko wymowę historyczną, ale również żywo wpływa na kształtowanie się postaw Polaków i aktualnej rzeczywistości polskiej.

“Dlatego w trosce o dobro całego Narodu prosimy usilnie wszystkich, aby rocznice te obchodzono w duchu narodowej powagi i spokoju, jaki stwarza wspólna modlitwa przy ołtarzach Pańskich . . .

“Modlitwy te połączymy z tradycyjnymi już modlitwami o pokój w tegorocznych obchodach rocznicy wybuchu drugiej wojny światowej”.

O Pani Jasnogórska!

W modlitwach tych jestem przed Twoim Obliczem wraz z całym moim Narodem i Kościołem w Polsce: Królowo Polski - Królowo pokoju, módl się za nami!

Ed ecco la nostra traduzione italiana del discorso del Santo Padre.

Il 26 agosto - solennità della Madre di Dio - l’Episcopato della Polonia ha proclamato un “Messaggio dei Vescovi da Jasna Góra”, che racchiude indicazioni ed appelli, pieni di contenuto pastorale e patriottico, a tutti i connazionali.

Alla fine di questo testo si legge:

“I Vescovi sono consapevoli che il secondo anniversario, già vicino, degli accordi sociali ha non soltanto un’eloquenza storica, ma anche influisce vivamente sulla formazione degli atteggiamenti dei polacchi e dell’attuale realtà polacca.

Perciò, mossi dalla sollecitudine per il bene dell’intera nazione, chiediamo con insistenza a tutti che questo anniversario sia celebrato in spirito di serietà nazionale e di tranquillità, creata dalla preghiera comune agli altari del Signore . . .

Uniremo queste preghiere a quelle ormai tradizionali per la pace, durante le celebrazioni di quest’anno dell’anniversario dello scoppio della seconda guerra mondiale”.

O Signora di Jasna Góra.

Con queste preghiere sono davanti al tuo Volto insieme con tutta la mia Nazione e con la Chiesa in Polonia: Regina della Polonia, Regina della pace, prega per noi!

Ai Consiglieri ecclesiastici della Confederazione Nazionale dei Coltivatori Diretti

Un cordiale saluto rivolgo ai Consiglieri ecclesiastici della “Confederazione Nazionale Coltivatori Diretti”, i quali sono riuniti in questi giorni a Roma, in occasione del XV Congresso, sul tema: “Lavoro, professionalità agricola e valori cristiani”.

Sono lieto, carissimi confratelli nel sacerdozio, della vostra presenza e, mentre esprimo sinceramente il mio plauso per questo vostro incontro di studio, ricordo quanto ho detto nella mia enciclica sul lavoro umano, che cioè in molte situazioni sono necessari cambiamenti radicali ed urgenti per ridare all’agricoltura - ed agli uomini dei campi - il giusto valore come base di una sana economia nell’insieme della comunità sociale (cf. Giovanni Paolo II, Laborem Exercens, 21).

La mia benedizione apostolica accompagni sempre voi e tutti coloro che si dedicano al lavoro agricolo rurale.

A vari gruppi italiani

Ben volentieri procedo adesso alla benedizione della pregevole Icone di Maria santissima, Madre della Divina Misericordia, che sarà posta nella Basilica Collegiata di santa Maria dell’Elemosina in Catania. Nel rivolgere il mio cordiale saluto al Pastore dell’arcidiocesi, Monsignor Domenico Picchinenna, al Prevosto Monsignor Lucio Rapicavoli, ai Membri del Capitolo ed ai pellegrini presenti, affido quella parrocchia e tutta la Comunità diocesana alla materna protezione della Madonna.

Con la mia benedizione apostolica.

* * *

A voi, carissimi giovani, va ora la mia parola, piena di stima e di affetto, perché mi sono noti i valori che portate nella vostra personalità: spontaneità, sincerità, impegno di essere sempre voi stessi, di voler vivere le istanze del tempo presente, interpretandole nel giusto modo. Sono sicuro che in questa ricerca interiore voi avvertite sempre più insistentemente il bisogno di Dio e la necessità di amarlo con tutte le vostre forze. Vi auguro di mirare sempre a questo traguardo luminoso!

* * *

Rivolgo, inoltre un affettuoso saluto ed incoraggiamento agli infermi qui presenti: fra essi, in particolare, quelli guidati dall’UNITALSI della diocesi di Faenza; un gruppo di ragazzi assistiti dal “Corpo Volontario Pubblica Assistenza”, di Cremona; le sordomute dell’Istituto Farina, di Cittadella (Padova), diretto dalle suore Maestre di santa Dorotea, Figlie dei Sacri Cuori.

Carissimi, la fede è fonte di luce e di calore per la vostra vita duramente provata. Dinanzi a Gesù, l’uomo del dolore, la vostra sofferenza e la vostra infermità acquistano un profondo significato. Sopportate col Divin Redentore le vostre prove ed egli sarà sempre per voi forza e sostegno.

* * *

Porgo, infine, il mio saluto e il mio augurio agli sposi novelli. A voi il mio compiacimento per la testimonianza umana e cristiana che offrite con la vostra visita; siate sempre fedeli alla dignità del sacramento che avete voi stessi celebrato; rispondete alle responsabilità di essere nella vita coniugale immagine vivente dell’amore di Cristo per la sua Chiesa.

A tutti imparto la benedizione apostolica.

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