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Language of the Body, the Substratum and Content of the Sacramental Sign of Spousal Communion

104 (of 129) - Catechesis by John Paul II on the Theology of the Body
General Audience, Wednesday 5 January 1983 - in Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"1. "I take you as my wife"; "I take you as my husband"—these words are at the center of the liturgy of marriage as a sacrament of the Church. These words spoken by the engaged couple are inserted in the following formula of consent: "I promise to be faithful to you always, in joy and in sorrow, in sickness and in health, and to love and honor you all the days of my life." With these words the engaged couple enter the marriage contract and at the same time receive the sacrament of which both are the ministers. Both of them, the man and the woman, administer the sacrament. They do it before witnesses. The priest is a qualified witness, and at the same time he blesses the marriage and presides over the whole sacramental liturgy. Moreover, all those participating in the marriage rite are in a certain sense witnesses, and some of them (usually two) are called specifically to act as witnesses in an official way. They must testify that the marriage was contracted before God and confirmed by the Church. In the ordinary course of events sacramental marriage is a public act by means of which two persons, a man and a woman, become husband and wife before the ecclesial society, that is, they become the actual subject of the marriage vocation and life.

2. Marriage is a sacrament which is contracted by means of the word which is a sacramental sign by reason of its content: "I take you as my wife—as my husband—and I promise to be always faithful to you, in joy and sorrow, in sickness and in health, and to love you and honor you all the days of my life." However, this sacramental word is, per se, merely the sign of the coming into being of marriage. The coming into being of marriage is distinguished from its consummation, to the extent that without this consummation the marriage is not yet constituted in its full reality. The fact that a marriage is juridically contracted but not consummated (ratum—non consummatum) corresponds to the fact that it has not been fully constituted as a marriage. Indeed the very words "I take you as my wife—my husband" refer not only to a determinate reality, but they can be fulfilled only by means of conjugal intercourse. This reality (conjugal intercourse) has moreover been determined from the very beginning by institution of the Creator: "Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh" (cf. Gn 2:24).

3. Thus then, from the words whereby the man and the woman express their willingness to become "one flesh" according to the eternal truth established in the mystery of creation, we pass to the reality which corresponds to these words. Both the one and the other element are important in regard to the structure of the sacramental sign, to which it is fitting to devote the remainder of the present reflections. Granted that the sacrament is a sign which expresses and at the same time effects the saving reality of grace and of the covenant, one must now consider it under the aspect of sign, whereas the previous reflections were dedicated to the reality of grace and of the covenant.

Marriage, as a sacrament of the Church, is contracted by means of the words of the ministers, that is, of the newlyweds. These words signify and indicate, in the order of intention, that which (or rather, who) both have decided to be from now on, the one for the other and the one with the other. The words of the newlyweds form a part of the integral structure of the sacramental sign, not merely for what they signify but also, in a certain sense, with what they signify and determine. The sacramental sign is constituted in the order of intention insofar as it is simultaneously constituted in the real order.

4. Consequently, the sacramental sign of marriage is constituted by the words of the newlyweds inasmuch as the "reality" which they themselves constitute corresponds to those words. Both of them, as man and woman, being the ministers of the sacrament in the moment of contracting marriage, constitute at the same time the full and real visible sign of the sacrament itself. The words spoken by them would not per se constitute the sacramental sign of marriage unless there corresponded to them the human subjectivity of the engaged couple and at the same time the awareness of the body, linked to the masculinity and femininity of the husband and wife. Here it is necessary to recall to mind the whole series of our previous analyses in regard to Genesis (cf. Gn 1:2). The structure of the sacramental sign remains essentially the same as "in the beginning." In a certain sense, it is determined by the language of the body. This is inasmuch as the man and the woman, who through marriage should become one flesh, express in this sign the reciprocal gift of masculinity and femininity as the basis of the conjugal union of the persons.

5. The sacramental sign of marriage is constituted by the fact that the words spoken by the newlyweds use again the same language of the body as at the "beginning," and in any case they give a concrete and unique expression to it. They give it an intentional expression on the level of intellect and will, of consciousness and of the heart. The words "I take you as my wife—as my husband" imply precisely that perennial, unique and unrepeatable language of the body. At the same time they situate it in the context of the communion of the persons: "I promise to be always faithful to you, in joy and in sadness, in sickness and in health, and to love you and honor you all the days of my life." In this way the enduring and ever new language of the body is not only the "substratum." But in a certain sense, it is the constitutive element of the communion of the persons. The persons—man and woman—become for each other a mutual gift. They become that gift in their masculinity and femininity, discovering the spousal significance of the body and referring it reciprocally to themselves in an irreversible manner—in a life-long dimension.

6. Thus the sacrament of marriage as a sign enables us to understand the words of the newlyweds. These words confer a new aspect on their life in a dimension strictly personal (and interpersonal: communio personarum), on the basis of the language of the body. The administration of the sacrament consists in this: that in the moment of contracting marriage the man and the woman, by means of suitable words and recalling the perennial language of the body, form a sign, an unrepeatable sign, which has also a significance for the future: "all the days of my life," that is to say, until death. This is a visible and efficacious sign of the covenant with God in Christ, that is, of grace which in this sign should become a part of them as "their own special gift" (according to the expression of 1Cor 7:7).

7. Expressing this matter in socio-juridical terms, one can say that between the newlyweds there is a stipulated, well-defined conjugal pact. It can also be said that following upon this pact, they have become spouses in a manner socially recognized, and that in this way the family as the fundamental social cell is also constituted in germ. This manner of understanding it is obviously in agreement with the human reality of marriage. Indeed, it is also fundamental in the religious and religious-moral sense. However, from the point of view of the theology of the sacrament, the key for the understanding of marriage is always the reality of the sign whereby marriage is constituted on the basis of the covenant of man with God in Christ and in the Church. It is constituted in the supernatural order of the sacred bond requiring grace. In this order marriage is a visible and efficacious sign. Having its origin in the mystery of creation, it derives its new origin from the mystery of redemption at the service of the "union of the sons of God in truth and in love" (Gaudium et Spes 24). The liturgy of the sacrament of marriage gave a form to that sign: directly, during the sacramental rite, on the basis of the ensemble of its eloquent expressions; indirectly, throughout the whole of life. As spouses, the man and woman bear this sign throughout the whole of their lives and they remain as that sign until death."

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

Ai Fratelli di San Gabriele a Roma per il Capitolo 

Je salue spécialement les Frères de Saint-Gabriel présents à Rome pour leur Chapitre, autour de leur Supérieur général, réélu ces jours-ci. Chers Frères, votre vocation dans l’Eglise a toujours été d’offrir aux enfants et aux jeunes les conditions d’une éducation chrétienne complète, avec de bonnes bases de formation humaine, parfois un apprentissage technique de qualité, et une formation spirituelle adaptée à leur appartenance religieuse, avec la possibilité catéchistique de découvrir et de pratiquer l’Evangile. C’est cela l’école catholique, dont l’Eglise et la société civile, dans un pluralisme bien compris, bénéficient à coup sur. Aux responsables et à tous les Frères de Saint-Gabriel j’exprime mes encouragements, pour leur vie religieuse et leur tache d’enseignants! Que, par l’intercession de Marie, Dieu garde et développe votre Congrégation! De tout coeur, je vous bénis.

Ai fedeli di lingua tedesca

Sehr geehrte Herren, liebe Mitbruder!

Herzlich Grüße ich Sie als die Verantwortlichen Für die ökumenische Arbeit in der Diözese Rottenburg-Stuttgart und in der Evangelischen Landeskirche von Württemberg. Ich freue mich über diese Ihre gemeinsame Studienreise nach Rom und Ihre Gespräche mit verschiedenen kirchlichen Stellen im Vatikan. Solche Kontakte sind sehr wichtig Für das gegenseitige Verständnis und die Annäherung der Konfessionen. Sie tragen dazu bei, daß wir jener Einheit der Christen näher kommen, die Jesus Christus gewollt, Grundregel und uns aufgetragen hat: ”ut unum sint“.

Ich wiederhole, was ich bei meiner Pastoralreise in Ihre Heimat gesagt habe: Im Land, wo die Reformation ihren Anfang nahm, mögen sich auch die ökumenischen Bemühungen verdoppeln. Ich ermutige Sie auf diesem gemeinsamen Weg zu Geduld und Beharrlichkeit. Werden wir nicht müde, aufeinander zuzugehen in brüderlichem Vertrauen und Zuversicht, auch wenn im Augenblick die volle eucharistische Gemeinschaft zwischen uns noch nicht möglich ist. Wer den Gipfel erreichen will, darf die Muhe eines langen und beschwerlichen Aufstiegs nicht scheuen. Bleiben wir also miteinander auf dem Weg zum gemeinsamen Ziel. Vermeiden wir, was trennt, und tun wir, was einst. Mit meinen besten Wünschen Für fruchtbare Begegnungen und Erfahrungen in der Ewigen Stadt erbitte ich Ihnen und Ihrer weiteren ökumenischen Arbeit in der Heimat Gottes besonderen Beistand und Segen.

Preghiera alla Madonna di Jasna Gora 

U początku Nowego Roku klękam przed Twoim Wizerunkiem. Jest w nim wypisana tajemnica Bożego Narodzenia. Jest to właśnie dzień Nowego Roku.

U Twoich stóp, na Jasnej Górze, pragnę przeżyć ten dzień wraz z moim Narodem, który od sześciu wieków wpatrzony jest w twe Boże Macierzyństwo przez ten w szczególności Wizerunek.

Dzięki niemu w Twoim Bożym Macierzyństwie odnajduje przez tyle pokolén swoją wałsną Matkę. I Matce tej powierza siebie: całą ludzką i polską społeczność - wspólnotę Narodu i jego dzieje.

W tym więc trudnym momencie dziejów pragnę przed tobą, Matko, wypowiedzieć synowskie życzenia dla Polski, dla mej Ojczyzny i Narodu.

Życzę, ażeby Naród ten mógł żyć pokoju; nie w klimacie wojny. Aby mógł żyć swoim prawdziwym życiem.

Życzę, aby zachowane były - jako nieodzowny warunek pokoju - wszystkie prawa człowieka.

Życzę, aby zachowane były również wszystkie te prawa narodu, przez które mógłby on być sobą i stanowić o sobie wedle swoich słusznych dążeń i pragnień.

Te życzenia przyjmij, o Matko Jasnogórska, jako modlitwę, poprzez którą doznaje czci Twoje Boskie i ludzkie zarazem Macierzyństwo.

Wysłuchaj ją - i pomóż wypełnić! 

Signora di Jasna Gora!

All’inizio dell’anno nuovo mi inginocchio dinanzi alla tua Effigie. In essa è iscritto il mistero della Divina Maternità che noi veneriamo nel giorno dell’ottava del Natale del Signore, che è anche il giorno del Capodanno.

Ai tuoi piedi, a Jasna Gora, desidero vivere questa ricorrenza insieme con la mia Nazione che da sei secoli fissa lo sguardo sulla tua Maternità Divina in particolare mediante questa Effigie.

Grazie ad essa, nella tua Divina Maternità la Nazione polacca ritrova, attraverso tante generazioni, la sua propria Madre. E a questa Madre affida se stessa: tutta la società umana e polacca, la comunità della Nazione e la sua storia.

In questo difficile momento della storia desidero dinanzi a te, Madre, esprimere i filiali auguri per la Polonia, per la mia Patria e per la Nazione.

Auguro che questa Nazione possa vivere nella pace e non nel clima di guerra; che possa vivere la sua propria vita.

Auguro che vengano rispettati - come condizione indispensabile per la pace - tutti i diritti dell’uomo.

Auguro che vengano rispettati pure tutti i diritti della Nazione, attraverso i quali essa possa essere se stessa e decidere di sé secondo le sue giuste aspirazioni e i suoi desideri. Accogli questi auguri, o Madre di Jasna Gora, come preghiera mediante la quale viene venerata la tua divina e insieme umana maternità.

Esaudiscila! e aiuta a realizzarla. 

Ai gruppi italiani 

Rivolgo ora il mio affettuoso saluto ai fedeli di Torre del Greco, che concludono la commemorazione del 150° anniversario della morte del Beato Vincenzo Romano, il quale per ben 35 anni fu sacerdote zelante e preposito nella loro cittadina.

Carissimi, vi ringrazio della vostra presenza, che ricorda la devozione del beato Vincenzo al Papa ed alla Chiesa e vi esorto a mantenere sempre convinta e ardente la fede cristiana da lui vissuta e insegnata con tanto amore e ansia apostolica. Egli che fu sempre e solamente dedito alla cura delle anime a lui affidate, con il suo esempio e la sua intercessione, ottenga dal signore per la Chiesa di oggi numerosi e santi sacerdoti, pienamente impegnati nella vita pastorale. A tutti la mia Benedizione. 

* * * 

Partecipa ora all’udienza un gruppo di Padri Oblati di San Giuseppe, responsabili delle Comunità religiose dell’istituto nella Provincia italiana.

Carissimi, nel rivolgervi il mio cordiale saluto, desidero esprimervi sincero apprezzamento per l’iniziativa di raccogliervi a riflettere sui compiti connessi con la responsabilità a voi affidata nell’ambito della Congregazione. Sia vostra costante cura di orientare le singole Comunità verso la percezione sempre più chiara del carattere soprannaturale e della santità della vita religiosa, perseguendo quelle virtù che hanno in Cristo la loro sorgente e in San Giuseppe, vostro Patrono, l’impareggiabile modello. Di gran cuore benedico voi e i vostri Confratelli, come anche le molteplici attività pastorali della Congregazione.

* * * 

Rivolgo ora un cordiale saluto, e la mia paterna esortazione ai giovani che partecipano a questa Udienza. Carissimi, la Liturgia di questo tempo ci parla dell’Epifania, cioè di Cristo che si è manifestato ai magi, primizia e simbolo dei popoli chiamati alla salvezza messianica. A imitazione di questo sapienti dell’Oriente, anche voi cercate Gesù, contemplate Gesù, accogliete Gesù in voi e sarete traboccanti di gioia, messaggeri di pace, motivo di sicura speranza per il mondo. E’ questo il mio augurio per l’anno nuovo, accompagnato dalla mia Benedizione.

* * * 

Al gruppo degli ammalati qui presenti ed a quanti soffrono nel corpo e nello spirito desidero riservare un particolare pensiero, che è conferma del mio affetto per essi, oltre che assicurazione del mio costante ricordo nella preghiera ed augurio di serenità nel Signore per l’anno nuovo. Gesù Bambino vi apre le braccia e il cuore. Accostatevi a Lui, come si accostarono i Magi, offrendoGli i doni del vostro spirito, cioè l’oro del vostro amore, l’incenso della vostra preghiera e la mirra della vostra sofferenza quotidiana. Egli darà a ciascuno di voi la risposta, che sarà luce e conforto per la vostra esistenza. 

* * * 

Infine, mi rivolgo ai novelli Sposi e vi dico: “Siate i benvenuti nella casa del Papa e ricevete il suo affettuoso saluto con un fervido augurio!”. A voi che, ricevendo il Sacramento del Matrimonio, vi siete giurati eterno amore ed indefettibile fedeltà di fronte a Dio e alla Chiesa, auspico di cuore - all’inizio dell’anno nuovo - di vivere “in santità e giustizia” per tutti i giorni della vostra vita. Invoco, pertanto, sulle vostre nascenti famiglie la continua assistenza dell’Emmanuele, “Dio con noi”, perché come vi ha uniti nel vincolo dell’amore sponsale, vi conservi sempre in esso per la vostra gioia e la gloria del Padre Celeste. Confermo tali voti con la mia Benedizione.

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