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Marriage an Integral Part of New Sacramental Economy

99 (of 129) - Catechesis by John Paul II on the Theology of the Body
General Audience, Wednesday 20 October 1982 - in Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"1. Last Wednesday we spoke of the integral heritage of the covenant with God, and of the grace originally united to the divine work of creation. Marriage was also a part of this integral heritage—as can be deduced from the Letter to the Ephesians 5:21-33—marriage, that is, as a primordial sacrament instituted from the beginning and linked with the sacrament of creation in its globality. The sacramentality of marriage is not merely a model and figure of the sacrament of the Church (of Christ and of the Church). It also constitutes an essential part of the new heritage, that of the sacrament of redemption, with which the Church is endowed in Christ. Here it is necessary yet again to refer to Christ's words in Matthew 19:3-9 (cf. also Mk 10:5-9). In replying to the question of the Pharisees concerning marriage, Christ refers only and exclusively to its original institution on the part of the Creator at the beginning. Reflecting on the significance of this reply in the light of the Letter to the Ephesians, and in particular of Ephesians 5:21-33, we end up with a relationship—in a certain sense twofold—of marriage with the whole sacramental order which, in the new covenant, emerges from the same sacrament of redemption.

2. Marriage as a primordial sacrament constitutes, on the one hand, the figure (the likeness, the analogy), according to which there is constructed the basic main structure of the new economy of salvation and of the sacramental order. This order draws its origin from the spousal gracing which the Church received from Christ, together with all the benefits of redemption (one could say, using the opening words of the Letter to the Ephesians, "with every spiritual blessing"—1:3). In this way marriage, as a primordial sacrament, is assumed and inserted into the integral structure of the new sacramental economy, arising from redemption in the form, I would say, of a "prototype." It is assumed and inserted as it were from its very bases. In conversation with the Pharisees, Christ himself first of all reconfirmed its existence (Mt 19:3-9). Reflecting deeply on this dimension, one would have to conclude that in a certain sense all the sacraments of the new covenant find their prototype in marriage as the primordial sacrament. This seems to be indicated in the classic passage quoted from the Letter to the Ephesians, as we shall say again soon.

3. However, the relationship of marriage with the whole sacramental order, deriving from the endowment of the Church with the benefits of the redemption, is not limited merely to the dimension of model. In his conversation with the Pharisees (cf. Mt 19), Christ confirms the existence of marriage instituted from the beginning by the Creator. Not only that, he declares it also an integral part of the new sacramental economy, of the new order of salvific signs which derives its origin from the sacrament of redemption, just as the original economy emerged from the sacrament of creation. In fact, Christ limited himself to the unique sacrament which was marriage instituted in the state of innocence and of original justice of man, created male and female "in the image and likeness of God."

4. The new sacramental economy which is constituted on the basis of the sacrament of redemption, deriving from the spousal gracing of the Church on the part of Christ, differs from the original economy. Indeed, it is directed not to the man of justice and original innocence, but to the man burdened with the heritage of original sin and with the state of sinfulness (status naturae lapsae). It is directed to the man of the threefold concupiscence, according to the classic words of 1 John 2:16, to the man in whom "the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh" (Gal 5:17), according to the Pauline theology (and anthropology), to which we have devoted much space in our previous reflections.

5. These considerations, following upon a deeper analysis of the significance of Christ's statement in the Sermon on the Mount concerning the lustful look as adultery of the heart,  prepare for an understanding of marriage as an integral part of the new sacramental order. This order has its origin in the sacrament of redemption, that is to say, in that great mystery which, as the mystery of Christ and of the Church, determines the sacramentality of the Church itself. These considerations also prepare for an understanding of marriage as a sacrament of the new covenant, whose salvific work is organically linked with the ensemble of that ethos which was defined in the previous analyses as the ethos of redemption. The Letter to the Ephesians expresses the same truth in its own way. It speaks of marriage as a great sacrament in a wide parenetic context, that is, in the context of exhortations of a moral nature. It concerns precisely the ethos which should characterize the life of Christians, that is, of people aware of the election which is realized in Christ and in the Church.

6. Against this vast background of reflections which emerge from reading the Letter to the Ephesians (especially 5:21-33), one can and should eventually touch again the problem of the sacraments of the Church. The text cited from the Letter to the Ephesians speaks of it in an indirect and, I would say, secondary way, though sufficient to bring this problem within the scope of our considerations. However, it is fitting to clarify here, at least briefly, the sense in which we use the term "sacrament," which is significant for our considerations.

7. Until now we have used the term "sacrament" (in conformity with the whole of biblical-patristic tradition)(1) in a sense wider than that proper to traditional and contemporary theological terminology. By the word "sacrament" this terminology means the signs instituted by Christ and administered by the Church, which signify and confer divine grace on the person who receives the relative sacrament. In this sense each of the seven sacraments of the Church is characterized by a determinate liturgical action, made up of words (the form) and the specific sacramental "matter"—according to the widespread hylomorphic theory deriving from Thomas Aquinas and the whole scholastic tradition.

8. In relationship to this rather restricted meaning, we have used in our considerations a wider and perhaps also more ancient and fundamental meaning of the term "sacrament."(2) The Letter to the Ephesians, especially 5:21-33, seems in a particular way to authorize us to do so. Here sacrament signifies the very mystery of God, which is hidden from eternity; however, not in an eternal concealment, but above all, in its very revelation and actuation (furthermore, in its revelation through its actuation). In this sense we spoke also of the sacrament of creation and of the sacrament of redemption. On the basis of the sacrament of creation, one must understand the original sacramentality of marriage (the primordial sacrament). Following upon this, on the basis of the sacrament of redemption one can understand the sacramentality of the Church, or rather the sacramentality of the union of Christ with the Church. The author of the Letter to the Ephesians presents this under the simile of marriage, of the conjugal union of husband and wife. A careful analysis of the text shows that in this case, it is not merely a comparison in a metaphorical sense, but of a real renewal (or of a "re-creation," that is, of a new creation) of that which constituted the salvific content (in a certain sense, the "salvific substance") of the primordial sacrament. This observation has an essential significance both for the clarification of the sacramentality of the Church (the very significant words of the first chapter of Lumen Gentium refer to this), and also for the understanding of the sacramentality of marriage, understood precisely as one of the sacraments of the Church."

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

Ai fedeli di lingua francese

Chers frères et sœurs,

Le mariage, dont je continue à traiter lors de ces audiences, s’inscrit dans la structure intégrale de la nouvelle économie sacramentelle, issue de la Rédemption, dont il est pour ainsi dire le prototype.

Il convient de noter que, dans mon exposé de ces dernières semaines, j’ai utilisé le terme “sacrement” en un sens plus large que celui auquel nous a habitués la théologie depuis saint Thomas d’Aquin. J’ai repris une terminologie plus ancienne, biblique et patristique, et plus fondamentale aussi. Selon cette terminologie, la sacramentalité renvoie au mystère de Dieu lui-même, caché depuis toujours, mais aussi révélé et traduit en actes. C’est ainsi que l’on a parlé du “sacrement” de la création et de la rédemption. On peut alors mieux comprendre la sacramentalité de l’union du Christ et de l’Eglise, présentée par l’auteur de l’épître aux Ephésiens dans la similitude de l’union matrimoniale.

Je salue tous les pèlerins de langue française ici réunis, en particulier un groupe de prêtres de Suisse romande venus à Rome à l’occasion de leurs dix ans de sacerdoce; et aussi un groupe de fonctionnaires en provenance du Danemark.

A vous tous, à vos familles et plus spécialement à ceux qui souffrent, j’accorde volontiers ma Bénédiction Apostolique.

Ai fedeli di lingua inglese

Dear brothers and sisters,

The theme of our talks has been marriage - marriage as it was instituted by God in the beginning, and marriage as it is a figure and model of the union of Christ and the Church.

But marriage is not only a figure and model of the Church; it constitutes an essential part of the Sacrament of Redemption, which, in turn, is the very mystery of God, hidden from eternity, but revealed in Christ. Indeed, marriage is like the prototype of all the sacrements of the New Covenant. Christ himself confirms the fact that marriage belongs to the new sacramental design of God, to the new order of sacramental signs. This new order, this new design of God, determines the sacramentality of the Church herself.

On the basis of the Sacrament of Redemption we come to understand the sacramentality of the Church, or rather the sacramentality of the union of Christ and his Church, which is represented as the conjugal union of husband and wife in marriage. And in the Redemption effected by Christ; the first sacrament - marriage - undergoes a new creation as a sign of salvation.

I extend a cordial welcome to all the individuals and groups who have come from England, Scotland, Ireland, from Australia, Trinidad and the United States.

* * *

In particular I greet the members of the Congregation of the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, who are holding their Extended General Council Meeting. It is a great privilege for you to perform your apostolate in the name of the Risen Christ. By the power of his Resurrection, may you all walk in “newness of life”, giving personal witness to Christ’s victory over sin, and to his call to holiness.

* * *

My cordial welcome goes to the group from Trinidad. Your presence in Rome is deeply appreciated because you are loved in the heart of the Church. May the Holy Spirit help you to live always in Christ Jesus.

* * *

I am very pleased to offer the warm welcome of the Church in Rome to a distinguished group of Anglican clergymen meeting with members of the Roman Curia. Your presence takes me back in spirit to Canterbury. It evokes anew the great hope that is ours in Jesus Christ, and in the power of his prayer to effect full unity among his followers, for the glory of his Father in heaven.

* * *

With respect and esteem I greet the members of the International Federation of Surgical Colleges who are assembled for their annual conference. Be assured that the Holy See applauds you in your resolution to promote standards of excellence and advances in medicine. May God sustain you in true service to humanity.

Ai fedeli di espressione tedesca

Liebe Brüder und Schwestern!

Herzlich grüße ich die genannten Gruppen und auch alle Einzelpilger zu ihrem Besuch in Rom und im Vatikan. Möge eure heutige Begegnung mit dem Nachfolger Petri und mit so vielen Gläubigen aus aller Welt eure Verbundenheit mit der Kirche Jesu Christi vertiefen und euch eures Glaubens froh machen. Das ist mein Segenswunsch und mein Gebet für euch.

Das Thema meiner italienischen Ansprache war auch heute wiederum das Thema des Ehesakramentes. Die Ehe als zentrale Gegebenheit der Schöpfungsordnung nimmt teil an der Grundbestimmung und dem Schicksal der Schöpfung als solcher im Heilsplane Gottes. Sie war Zeichen der übernatürlichen Begnadung des Menschen vor dem Sündenfall, verlor jedoch durch die Ursünde ihre heiligende Wirkkraft. Im Neuen Bund wird die eheliche Verbindung von Mann und Frau zum Gleichnis für den Liebesbund zwischen Christus und der Kirche, ja zum ”Prototyp“ der neutestamentlichen Gnadenordnung. Christus bestätigt nich nur die Existenz der Ehe, wie sie am Anfang vom Schöpfer geschaffen worden ist, sondern macht sie zugleich zum integrierenden Bestandteil der neuen, sakramentalen Heilsökonomie. Er erhebt die Ehe zu einem Sakrament des Neuen Bundes. ”Sakrament“ bedeutet hierbei nach dem allgemeinen theologischen Sprachgebrauch: ein von Christus der Kirche überantwortetes äußeres Zeichen, das die innere Gnade bezeichnet, die von Gott dem Empfänger dadurch zugleich vermittelt wird.

* * *

Liebe Kapellknaben aus Dresden! Seid mir herzlich willkommen! Hier beim Petrusgrab hat das Konzil vor 19 Jahren verkündet, daß ”der Schatz der Kirchenmusik einem Reichtum darstellt“, der ”mit größter Sorgfalt gepflegt werden soll“. Das tut ihr in vorbildlicher Weise, mit opferbereitem Einsatz und - wie ich hoffe - auch mit großer Freude. Ihr singt gleichsam das Wort Gottes hinein in die Herzen und das Wort des Menschen hinauf zu Gott. Ein großer Teil eurer Texte und Melodien stammt aus Italien. So freue ich mich mit euch, daß ihr dieses Land besuchen dürft. Ich wünsche euch noch erlebnisreiche Tage und danke euch und euren Eltern im Namen der Kirche für euren Dienst.

Ai fedeli di lingua spagnola

Amadísimos hermanos y hermanas,

A todos los peregrinos de lengua española, venidos de España y de diversos Países de América Latina, doy mi cordial saludo y bienvenida a esta Audiencia.

En nuestras reflexiones sobre la sacramentalidad del matrimonio, vemos que ésta no es solamente modelo y figura del sacramento de la redención. El matrimonio, como sacramento primordial, es figura de la estructura fundamental de la nueva economía de la salvación y del orden sacramental, fruto de la gratificación esponsal que la Iglesia recibe de Cristo. Por lo cual, todos los sacramentos de la Nueva Alianza encuentran en el matrimonio, como sacramento primordial, su prototipo.

La nueva economía sacramental está dirigida al hombre marcado por la nerencia del pecado original y por el estado de pecaminosidad: el hombre de la triple concupiscencia, según San Juan.

Estas consideraciones ayudan a comprender el matrimonio como sacramento de la Nueva Alianza, cuya acción salvífica está unida al ethos de la redención. Sin embargo, conviene precisar el sentido que damos al término “sacramento”. Lo estamos usando en un sentido más amplio que en la terminología teológica tradicional y contemporánea. Sacramento significa aquí, como nos sugiere la Carta a los Efesios, el misterio mismo de Dios, que está escondido desde la eternidad, sobre todo en su misma revelación y actuación. En este sentido se ha hablado del sacramento de la creación y del sacramento de la redención.

A todos los aquí presentes de lengua española mi afectuosa Bendición Apostólica.

* * *

Saludo de modo particular al grupo de sacerdotes claretianos aquí presentes.

Habéis venido a Roma para un curso de renovación y estudio sobre vuestra vida religiosa. Permaneced siempre firmes en vuestro amor y servicio a la Iglesia, siguiendo el ejemplo que os dio vuestro fundador San Antonio María Claret.

Ai pellegrini di espressione portoghese

Queridos peregrinos e ouvintes de língua portuguesa!

Ao dar-vos as boas-vindas a esta audiência, desejo transmitir-vos também um breve pensamento sobre o sacramento do matrimónio. Cristo aponta para o matrimónio como o protótipo de todos os sacramentos. Instituído desde o início, pelo Criador, torna-se também parte integrante da nova economia da salvação, ou seja, da nova ordem de “sinais” salvíficos que tem sua origem na Redenção.

A nova economia sacramental surge da gratificação esponsal da Igreja por parte de Cristo. Não se dirige mais ao homem em sua justiça e inocência originais, mais ao homem atingido pelo pecado, submetido à concupiscência. Por este motivo o seu olhar não é mais puro. Cristo fala do adultério do coração, para fazer-nos compreender o matrimónio como Sacramento da Nova Aliança, que implica um novo modo de agir para o cristão.

Com os votos de todo o bem, dou-vos, extensiva às pessoas que vos são queridas e que se recomendam às vossas orações, a minha Bênção.

Ad un gruppo di pellegrini ungheresi

Desidero salutare un gruppo di pellegrini provenienti dall’Ungheria: sono dei laici che hanno seguito e terminato il corso di teologia presso l’Accademia Teologica di Budapest; uomini e donne, giovani e meno giovani che hanno voluto approfondire la loro fede seguendo un corso completo di teologia.

Voi che avete conosciuto la profondità e la bellezza della teologia, impegnatevi con maggior entusiasmo ad annunziare il regno di Dio. Per questa intenzione impartisco la mia benedizione apostolica.

Ad alcuni pellegrini sloveni di Dobrovnik

Saluto cordialmente il gruppo di pellegrini sloveni della parrocchia di Dobrovnik nella diocesi di Maribor. Sono contento della vostra visita e ve ne ringrazio. Essa testimonia la vostra devozione e la fedeltà alla santa Chiesa, e offre a voi occasione di un approfondito rinnovamento spirituale.

Confermati nella fede, ritornate alle vostre case e con tutta la vostra vita siate annunciatori di Cristo. Benedico paternamente voi, i vostri cari rimasti a casa, specialmente i giovani e gli ammalati. Sia lodato Gesù Cristo.

Ai fedeli polacchi

Dziś Kocio w Polsce czci pamięć świętego Jana z Kęt. Zapisał się trwale w pamięci Kościoła i Narodu ten święty Profesor Wszechnicy Jagiellońskiej. Po pięciu wiekach jest ona nadal żywa i wymowna.

Przy relikwiach świętego Jana Kantego, w akademickim kościele świętej Anny w Krakowie, od pokolèń skupia się życie uniwersyteckie. Wiedza i mądrość szuka przymierza ze świętością.

Pani Jasnogórska!

Pragnę w tym dniu polecić Ci wszystkie w Polsce uczelnie akademickie, profesorów i studentów. Pragnę polecić Ci te uczelnie jako szczególnie doniosłe warsztaty, na których wypracowuje się przyszłość społeczeństwa i kształt jego kultury.

Niech nauczający kierują się umiłowaniem prawdy, bo ona “wyzwala” (wedle słow samego Chrystusa - Cfr. Io. 8, 32). Niech wychowują prawością swoich czynów i postaw.

Młodzi niechaj rzetelnie szukają prawdy i dojrzewają w prawości. Do młodych odnoszą się słowa listu, który dotarł w ostatnim czasie do moich rąk:

“Wierzcie w wartości. One są. Sprawdziły je dzieje ludzkości, sformułowało chrześcijaństwo i każda dobra myśl ludzka. Bo nad każdą dobrą i mądrą myślą unosi się Duch Boży . . . Te wartości to dobro, praca, uczciwość, rzetelność, solidarność, miłość, koleżeństwo. Nie zatruwajcie tych wartości . . .”.

W dniu świętego Jana z Kęt modlę się o te wartości, które muszą przetrwać wszelkie próby i doświadczenia naszych czasów - i odnieść zwycięstwo.

Wraz ze Świętym Patronem profesorów i studentów polecam je Tobie, Jasnogórska Królowo Polski.

Ed ecco la nostra traduzione italiana del discorso rivolto dal Papa ai suoi connazionali.

Oggi la Chiesa in Polonia celebra la memoria di san Giovanni di Kety. Questo santo professore dell’Università Jaghiellonica si è iscritto in modo duraturo nella memoria della Chiesa e della Nazione. Dopo cinque secoli essa è sempre viva ed eloquente.

Presso le reliquie di san Giovanni di Kety, nella Chiesa universitaria di sant’Anna a Cracovia, si concentra, da generazioni, la vita accademica. La scienza e la sapienza cercano l’alleanza con la santità.

Signora di Jasna Góra!

Desidero in questo giorno raccomandarti tutte le scuole accademiche in Polonia, i professori e gli studenti. Desidero raccomandarti queste scuole superiori come le officine particolarmente importanti, in cui si elabora il futuro della società e la qualità della sua cultura.

I docenti si lascino guidare dall’amore alla verità, poiché questa “libera”, secondo le parole di Cristo stesso (cf. Gv 8, 32). Educhino con la rettitudine delle loro opere e dei loro atteggiamenti.

I giovani cerchino onestamente la verità e si maturino nella rettitudine. Ai giovani si riferiscono le parole di una lettera che è giunta recentemente nelle mie mani.

“Credete nei valori. Essi esistono. Li ha verificati la storia dell’umanità e li ha formulati il cristianesimo e ogni buon pensiero umano, poiché su ogni buono e saggio pensiero aleggia lo Spirito di Dio . . .

Questi valori sono: il bene, il lavoro, l’onestà, la probità, la solidarietà, l’amore, l’amicizia. Non avvelenate questi valori . . .”.

Nel giorno di san Giovanni di Kety prego perché questi valori abbiano a sopravvivere a tutte le prove e alle esperienze dei nostri tempi e riporti la vittoria.

Insieme col santo patrono dei professori e degli studenti, li raccomando a te, Regina della Polonia di Jasna Góra.

A gruppi italiani

Sono presenti all’Udienza i partecipanti al Congresso Straordinario di Gerontologia e Geriatria, che sta tenendo i suoi lavori presso la Facoltà di Medicina e Chirurgia dell’Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore.

Nel rivolgervi, illustri Signori, il mio cordiale saluto, desidero esprimervi il mio apprezzamento per l’opportuna iniziativa, che vi vede impegnati nell’approfondire dei problemi connessi con la cosiddetta “terza età” in questo anno, che l’Organizzazione Mondiale della Sanità ha voluto fosse dedicato all’Anziano.

La vecchiaia è fenomeno di sempre, ma essa presenta oggi caratteristiche nuove sia per le conseguenze sociali che l’accresciuto numero delle persone anziane comporta, sia per i risvolti umani di emarginazione e di avvilimento, che spesso accompagnano questo periodo dell’esistenza. Molte cose è necessario prevedere, programmare ed attuare per far fronte alle richieste di questa vasta schiera di fratelli e di sorelle. Ciò che urge maggiormente è un cambiamento di mentalità: alla cultura utilitaristica e materialistica che misura il valore dell’uomo sulla base di ciò che egli può produrre e consumare, è necessario sostituire una cultura che riconosca il valore “assoluto” di ogni persona, qualunque sia il grado della sua capacità ed efficienza. A tale nobile fine auspico possano recare un valido contributo i lavori del vostro Congresso, sul quale invoco l’abbondanza dei celesti favori.

A tutti imparto di cuore la propiziatrice benedizione.

* * *

Ed ora il mio saluto va a voi, cari giovani che siete qui presenti. Il cuore del Papa ha sempre per voi un pensiero speciale, perché ama profondamente quanto c’è di bello nella vostra età, e ancor più si sente vicino alle difficoltà proprie della vostra condizione. Per questo, voglio ricordarvi che ad ogni età Dio dà luce e forza sufficienti per superare le prove proprie di essa: abbiate dunque chiara coscienza, alla luce di Cristo, di quanto c’è di buono e di bello nella vostra gioventù, e ciò vi permetterà di superare ogni difficoltà.

La preghiera del Papa vi accompagna in questa vostra ricerca.

* * *

E voi, cari ammalati, che ora affettuosamente saluto, sapete vedere un aspetto di bellezza nella vostra condizione? Oh, sappiamo cosa è la sofferenza: quando si soffre, tutta la realtà in noi e attorno a noi sembra rabbuiarsi. Ma, nell’intimo del vostro cuore, ciò non può spegnere la luce consolante della fede, nella quale comprendiamo che, vicino a Gesù crocifisso, quella è l’“occasione favorevole”, quella è l’“ora” della salvezza (cf. 2 Cor 6, 2)! Possa questa luce farvi gustare la bellezza soprannaturale della vostra condizione, fino al momento della guarigione, che vi auguro di cuore.

* * *

Quanto al vostro stato d’animo, cari Sposi novelli, esso è invece probabilmente tutto gioia ed esultanza, adesso che avete coronato il vostro sogno d’amore: ed è giusto che sia così. Siano tuttavia questi vostri sentimenti la viva espressione di gratitudine a Dio che vi ha uniti, cosicché, quando giungerà l’inevitabile momento della prova, possiate essere in grado di superarla riandando col pensiero e con la volontà a quel dono di Dio che ha fatto di voi “una cosa sola” per un amore fecondo e imperituro.

Questo il mio augurio, carissimi sposi novelli, questa la mia preghiera. A tutti i giovani, agli ammalati, agli sposi va la mia benedizione più affettuosa.

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