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Continence for the Sake of the Kingdom Meant to Have Spiritual Fulfillment

75 (of 129) - Catechesis by John Paul II on the Theology of the Body
General Audience, Wednesday 24 March 1982 - in Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"1. We continue our reflections on celibacy and virginity "for the kingdom of heaven".

Continence for the kingdom of heaven is certainly linked to the revelation of the fact that in the kingdom of heaven people "will no longer marry" (Mt 22:30). It is a charismatic sign. The human being, male and female, who, in the earthly situation where people usually marry (Lk 20:34), freely chooses continence for the kingdom of heaven, indicates that in that kingdom, which is the other world of the resurrection, people will no longer marry (Mk 12:25), because God will be "everything to everyone" (1 Cor 15:28). Such a man, masculine and feminine, indicates the eschatological virginity of the risen man. In him there will be revealed, I would say, the absolute and eternal nuptial meaning of the glorified body in union with God himself through the "face to face" vision of him, and glorified also through the union of a perfect intersubjectivity. This will unite all who participate in the other world, men and women, in the mystery of the communion of saints. Earthly continence for the kingdom of heaven is undoubtedly a sign that indicates this truth and this reality. It is a sign that the body, whose end is not the grave, is directed to glorification. Already by this very fact, continence for the kingdom of heaven is a witness among men that anticipates the future resurrection. However, this charismatic sign of the other world expresses the force and the most authentic dynamics of the mystery of the redemption of the body. Christ has inscribed this mystery in man's earthly history and it has been deeply rooted by him in this history. So, then, continence for the kingdom of heaven bears, above all, the imprint of the likeness to Christ. In the work of redemption, he himself made this choice for the kingdom of heaven.

2. Indeed, Christ's whole life, right from the beginning, was a discreet but clear distancing of himself from that which in the Old Testament had so profoundly determined the meaning of the body. Christ—as if against the expectations of the whole Old Testament tradition—was born of Mary, who, at the moment of the annunciation, clearly says of herself: "How can this be, since I know not man" (Lk 1:34), and thereby professes her virginity. Though he is born of her like every other man, as a son of his mother, even though his coming into the world is accompanied by the presence of a man who is Mary's spouse and, in the eyes of the law and of men, her husband, nonetheless Mary's maternity is virginal. The virginal mystery of Joseph corresponds to this virginal maternity of Mary. Following the voice from on high, Joseph does not hesitate to "take Mary...for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit" (Mt 1:20). Even though Jesus Christ's virginal conception and birth were hidden from men, even though in the eyes of his contemporaries of Nazareth he was regarded as "the carpenter's son" (Mt 13:55) (ut putabatur filius Joseph: Lk 3:23), the reality and essential truth of his conception and birth was in itself far removed from what in the Old Testament tradition was exclusively in favor of marriage, and which rendered continence incomprehensible and out of favor. Therefore, how could continence for the kingdom of heaven be understood, if the expected Messiah was to be David's descendant, and as was held, was to be a son of the royal stock according to the flesh? Only Mary and Joseph, who had lived the mystery of his conception and birth, became the first witnesses of a fruitfulness different from that of the flesh, that is, of a fruitfulness of the Spirit: "That which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit" (Mt 1:20).

3. The story of Jesus' birth is certainly in line with that "continence for the kingdom of heaven" of which Christ will speak one day to his disciples. However, this event remained hidden to the men of that time and also to the disciples. Only gradually would it be revealed to the eyes of the Church on the basis of the witness and texts of the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. The marriage of Mary and Joseph (in which the Church honors Joseph as Mary's spouse, and Mary as his spouse), conceals within itself, at the same time, the mystery of the perfect communion of the persons, of the man and the woman in the conjugal pact, and also the mystery of that singular continence for the kingdom of heaven. This continence served, in the history of salvation, the most perfect fruitfulness of the Holy Spirit. Indeed, in a certain sense it was the absolute fullness of that spiritual fruitfulness, since precisely in the Nazareth conditions of the pact of Mary and Joseph in marriage and in continence, the gift of the Incarnation of the Eternal Word was realized. The Son of God, consubstantial with the Father, was conceived and born as man from the Virgin Mary. The grace of the hypostatic union is connected precisely with this—I would say—absolute fullness of supernatural fruitfulness, fruitfulness in the Holy Spirit, participated by a human creature, Mary, in the order of continence for the kingdom of heaven. Mary's divine maternity is also, in a certain sense, a superabundant revelation of that fruitfulness in the Holy Spirit to which man submits his spirit, when he freely chooses continence in the body, namely, continence for the kingdom of heaven.

4. This image had to be gradually revealed to the Church's awareness in the ever new generations of confessors of Christ. This happened when—together with the infancy Gospel—there was consolidated in them the certainty of the divine maternity of the Virgin, who had conceived by the Holy Spirit. Even though only indirectly—yet essentially and fundamentally—this certainly should help one to understand, on the one hand, the sanctity of marriage, and on the other, the disinterestedness in view of the kingdom of heaven, of which Christ had spoken to his disciples. Nonetheless, when he spoke to them about it for the first time (as attested by the evangelist Matthew in chapter 19:10-12), that great mystery of his conception and birth was completely unknown to them. It was hidden from them as it was from all the hearers and interlocutors of Jesus of Nazareth. When Christ spoke of those who "had made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven" (Mt 19:12), the disciples could understand it only on the basis of his personal example. Such a continence must have impressed itself on their consciousness as a particular trait of likeness to Christ, who had himself remained celibate "for the kingdom of heaven." In the tradition of the old covenant, marriage and procreative fruitfulness in the body were a religiously privileged condition. The departure from this tradition had to be effected especially on the basis of the example of Christ himself. Only little by little did it come to be realized that "for the sake of the kingdom of heaven" attaches a particular meaning to that spiritual and supernatural fruitfulness of man which comes from the Holy Spirit (Spirit of God), and that fruitfulness, in a specific sense and in determined cases, is served precisely by continence for the kingdom of heaven.

More or less all these elements of Gospel awareness (that is, of an exact consciousness of the new covenant in Christ) concerning continence are found in Paul. We shall seek to show that at a suitable time.

To sum up, we can say that the principal theme of today's reflection has been the relationship between continence for the kingdom of heaven, proclaimed by Christ, and the supernatural fruitfulness of the human spirit which comes from the Holy Spirit."

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

Ai gruppi di lingua francese

Chers Frères et Sœurs,

Signe charismatique en vue du Royaume des cieux, la continence, librement choisie, exprime la force et le dynamisme de la rédemption des corps dont elle anticipe l’état glorieux. Mais surtout, elle comporte l’empreinte d’une ressemblance avec le Christ. Marie et Joseph, appelés à la continence, ont été les premiers témoins de cette nouveauté apportée par le Christ. Celle-ci se révèlera plus tard aux disciples, puis aux générations chrétiennes, sous l’action de l’Esprit Saint. Elles découvriront en particulier que le mariage de Joseph et de Marie contient à la fois le mystère de la parfaite communion des personnes, et celui de la continence en vue du Royaume. Cela a permis d’aider à comprendre tant la sainteté du mariage que celle de la continence, où se manifeste la fécondité spirituelle et surnaturelle de l’homme, grâce à l’Esprit Saint. Tel est le thème de l’allocution que j’ai prononcée il y a un instant en Italien.

* * *

Parmi les pèlerins, je salue d’abord les membres du chapitre général des Frères de l’Instruction chrétienne de Ploërmel. Chers Frères, vous venez d’ouvrir une page nouvelle de la très belle histoire de votre Institut, avec ce chapitre et l’élection d’un nouveau Supérieur général, auquel j’offre tous mes vœux. Poursuivez l’éducation de la jeunesse en répondant au mieux aux besoins humains et spirituels des nouvelles générations, avec la compétence que requiert une telle œuvre, et le témoignage de votre vie profondément religieuse et fraternelle. Dans un contexte nouveau, vous aurez la même ardeur que le vénérable Jean-Marie de La Mennais et tant de vos Supérieurs méritants. Que la Vierge de l’Annonciation, que nous célébrons demain, ouvre vos cœurs et ceux de vos disciples à l’Esprit Saint! Et que le Seigneur bénisse toute votre Congrégation!

* * *

Je salue avec un égal plaisir les groupes venus des différents diocèses de France: Langres, Paris, Orléans, Rodez, Dax. Je vous bénis tous et toutes, ainsi que ceux des vôtres que la maladie ou la vieillesse retient loin d’ici.

Ai gruppi di lingua inglese

Although it is not possible for me to greet all the English-speaking groups individually, I wish to extend a special welcome to the Lutheran pastors from Sweden. Your visit gives joy to the Church in Rome and honour to our Lord Jesus Christ.

I also wish to mention the students, together with the Sisters and the lay staff of Marymount International School. May the education you receive in Rome open your hearts ever more to God’s love and to the needs of all your brothers and sisters.

My special greeting goes likewise to the Conference of IBM International Executives meeting in Rome. I have noted with pleasure your declared interest in the Encyclical “Laborem Exercens” and wish you success in your deliberations and in serving humanity. Dear brothers and sisters.

I am happy to welcome all of you to Saint Peter’s Square. We have been reflecting on the meaning of virginity or celibacy, the meaning of continence that is embraced for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven. Virginity or celibacy is a free choice that becomes a charismatic sign of God’s Kingdom in the world to come, where people will no longer marry, but where God will be “all to every one”. In this sense it is a witness that anticipates the future resurrection; it reveals the absolute and eternal nuptial meaning of the glorified body as it will be for ever in union with God. At the same time, this continence for the Kingdom of heaven, which Christ revealed and exemplified in his own life, is meant to have a spiritual fulfilment. It has a fruitfulness that comes from the Holy Spirit. This was the case with the Virgin Mary who, while remaining a virgin, became the Mother of the Son of God.

Ai rifugiati dall’Afganistan

With deep affection I turn to the group from Afghanistan now residing in Ladispoli. Your presence here reminds us about the plight of many refugees from your country; it likewise evokes the generous efforts made by so many members of the local community who thus give expression to their sentiments of universal brotherhood and true Christian charity. Your presence recalls to us and to the world all your fellow-countrymen at home, as well as the aspirations that are theirs for a future that offers freedom and justice and is expressed in peace. May God, our common Father, the almighty and merciful Lord of history, bless you and your beloved country of Afghanistan.

Ai fedeli di espressione tedesca

Liebe Brüder und Schwestern!

Herzlich willkommen dieser ersten Audienz auf dem Petersplatz im neuen Jahr. Möge euch das Erlebnis der weltweiten Gemeinschaft der Kirche eures Glaubens froh machen und euch in eurem persönlichen Zeugnis für Christus bestärken!

Das Thema unserer heutigen Überlegungen ist noch einmal die Ehelosigkeit ”um des Himmelreiches willen“. Sie ist ein charismatisches Zeichen für jenen endzeitlichen Zustand, in dem die Menschen nach der Auferstehung ”nicht mehr heiraten“ (Marc. 12, 25). Sie ist zudem eine besonders enge Form der Nachfolge Christi, der selbst um des Himmelreiches willen ehelos geblieben ist. Schon seine jungfräuliche Empfängnis und Geburt zeugen in einer besonderen Weise von jener anderen, höheren Fruchtbarkeit, nämlich der des Heiligen Geistes, der im Neuen Bund die leibliche Enthaltsamkeit fortan dienen soll. Die Jünger selbst haben nur allmählich die tiefe Bedeutung der Ehelosigkeit um des Himmelreiches willen verstanden, die später im Leben der Kirche jedoch reiche Früchte hervorgebracht hat. Erbitten wir uns eine hohe Wertschätzung für diese Lebensform der Ganzhingabe an Christus und sein Reich.

* * *

Besonders herzlich grüße ich die neugeweihten Diakone mit ihren Angehörigen aus dem Collegium Germanicum - Hungaricum sowie aus der Diözese Mainz. Möge euer ”Ja“ zu dieser ganzheitlichen Christusnachfolge euren späteren priesterlichen Dienst reich befruchten und euer Leben selbst zu einem leuchtenden Glaubenszeugnis machen. Das erbitte ich euch mit meinem besonderen Apostolischen Segen.

* * *

Einen brüderlichen Willkommensgruß richte ich ferner an die Gruppe der Pastoren des Predigerseminars in Hofgeismar. Erbitten wir uns in dieser österlichen Bußzeit gegenseitig die Gnade, durch Besinnung und Läuterung den Willen Gottes immer besser zu verstehen und zu verwirklichen. Dies ist zugleich ein wichtiger Beitrag auf dem gemeinsamen Weg zur Einheit der Kirche. Möge Gott unser aufrichtiges Bemühen mit seinem Segen begleiten.

Ai pellegrini spagnoli e portoghesi

Amadísimos hermanos y hermanas:

Continuamos nuestra reflexión acerca de la continencia por el reino de los cielos.

El matrimonio de María y José, contraído en una perfecta comunión de personas dentro del misterio virginal que lo acompaña, es un primer ejemplo de esa fecundidad espiritual que va más allá de la fecundidad carnal. En efecto, en la decisión virginal de los esposos - que se separan de las valoraciones seguidas en el Antiguo Testamento - se realiza el don de la Encarnación del Verbo Eterno, del Hijo de Dios y a la vez Hijo de María, en una plenitud de fecundidad sobrenatural en el Espíritu Santo.

El ejemplo de Cristo, que permanece célibe, y su enseñanza marcan el paso definitivo hacia la comprensión de un tipo nuevo de fecundidad sobrenatural, que tantas personas han abrazado luego como método de vida.

Saludo y bendigo a todos y cada uno de los hispanohablantes presentes en esta Audiencia, en particular al grupo de Olesa de Montserrat. Que la Pasión del Señor sea para vosotros constante aliento hacia una vida cristiana de veras.

* * *

Caríssimos peregrinos e ouvintes de língua portuguesa: com saudações afectuosas em Cristo, desejo-vos uma santa Quaresma!

Sobre o tema do sentido do corpo humano, à luz da Revelação, meditamos no valor da continência “por amor do reino dos Céus”. Jesus Cristo, com factos e palavras, rompendo com a tradição do Antigo Testamento, veio manifestar e proclamar: na perspectiva desse “reino”, que é do “outro mundo” da ressurreição, a pessoa - homem ou mulher - pode abracar a continência perfeita, para nela se exprimir a fecundidade espiritual, elevada à ordem sobrenatural, por um dom proveniente do Espírito Santo.

Concebido e nascido da Virgem Maria, em cujo matrimónio com São José se verifica uma continência singular e uma perfeita comunhão de pessoas, Cristo Senhor, sobretudo com o próprio exemplo, deixou à Igreja uma imagem nova ta continência do homem, com o seu corpo, a amar e a servir o “reino”, em tensão para a glória do “Céu” e para a comunhão dos santos.

Em penhor da esperança pascal, dou-vos a Bênção Apostólica.

Agli artisti del “Circo di Mosca”

Saluto i rappresentanti del Circo di Mosca e sono felice di averli qui all’udienza. Vi auguro il successo nel vostro lavoro difficile, il quale dà al popolo la gioia e la serenità nella nostra vita turbolenta.

Ai gruppi di lingua italiana

Rivolgo ora un saluto al gruppo dei sacerdoti dell’arcidiocesi di Benevento, che celebrano il cinquantesimo anniversario della loro Ordinazione e che sono qui convenuti con i loro familiari ed amici.

Carissimi, per mezzo secolo avete svolto il Ministero nella Chiesa, a servizio della porzione di Popolo di Dio affidato alle vostre cure pastorali. Siete stati testimoni, guide e padri nella fede.

Auspico di cuore che il Signore continui a rendere fecondo di frutti il servizio apostolico per il quale avete donato, con gioia, tutta la vostra vita.

* * *

Intendo poi salutare gli Ufficiali ed il Personale Civile della Scuola Militare in Maddaloni; i militari “Lancieri di Montebello” e del Decimo Battaglione Trasmissioni; il gruppo di ex Militari Soci del Nucleo di Adria dell’Associazione Nazionale Arma Aeronautica, con i loro familiari.

* * *

Il mio pensiero si rivolge ora a tutti gli ammalati. Saluto in modo particolare gli ospiti delle Case di Roma e di Ferrara, delle Piccole Suore degli Anziani abbandonati; i Ciechi ed i Sordomuti dell’Istituto “Cappabianca” di santa Maria Capua Vetere; il “Gruppo della sofferenza” della parrocchia di sant’Ambrogio “ad Fontes” di Segrate e tutti gli ammalati qui presenti.

Carissimi, vi invito a meditare, specialmente in questi giorni che ci prepariamo alla Settimana Santa, la passione di Cristo, per attingere da essa sostegno e forza: la vostra sofferenza, unita a quella di Cristo Salvatore diventa sorgente di bene e di salvezza per il mondo.

* * *

Desidero ora rivolgere un saluto particolare a tutti i giovani venuti, da vicino e da lontano, a portare con la loro presenza una ventata di primavera. Carissimi, il vostro entusiasmo, il vostro calore umano, la vostra generosità rappresentano la speranza del domani.

È per questo che voglio ricordarvi il senso della festività liturgica, di cui oggi è la vigilia: l’Annunciazione, ricorrenza legata al rinnovamento della vita e alla giovinezza.

L’annuncio dell’incarnazione del Signore, portato dall’Arcangelo Gabriele a Maria costituisce una vera svolta nella storia dell’umanità. Nessun avvenimento umano, per quanto grande, può reggere il confronto con la portata di vita e di novità connessa a tale annuncio. Ma il disegno di amore e di salvezza per tutti si realizza col consenso e la collaborazione di Colei, che viene invitata ad accettare il compito di Madre.

Maria di Nazaret, con la sua fede e la sua disponibilità alla volontà di Dio, sia il modello della vostra vita, vi guidi e vi protegga.

* * *

Infine, rivolgo un cordiale saluto agli Sposi novelli, assicurandoli di una particolare benedizione.

La preghiera alla Madonna di Jasna Góra

Matko, od sześciu wieków Twój Obraz jest na Jasnej Górze.

Przed lat tysiącem Chrzest stał się początkiem naszych dziejów. Według tej daty liczymy nasz historyczny byt: rok 966.

Czy rok 1382 nie stał się jakby nowym początkiem zakorzenionym w tamtym pierwszym Początku?

Przybyłaś, aby połączyć z sobą epoki i serca ludzi z odległych pokoleń.

A także z różnych narodów. Były to wszakże czasy błogosławionej Jadwigi, królowej i matki narodów.

Pomóż nam teraz po sześciuset latach znowu połączyć epoki.

Pomóż nam, Matko, znaleźć siły do: “pracy dla dobra wspólnego, unikania nierozważnych reakcji zbiorowych, a także roztropnego określania swoich wymagań indywidualnych i społecznych - oraz dalekosiężnego spojrzenia w przyszłość narodowa”.

O tym piszą Biskupi Polscy.

I o to się modli cały naród.

Patrzymy w naszą przeszłość - oceniamy teraźniejszość - zawierzamy Tobie, Matko, naszą przyszłość.

Questo il testo della preghiera in una traduzione italiana.

Madre, da sei secoli la tua immagine è a Jasna Góra.

Mille anni fa il battesimo segnò l’inizio della nostra storia.

In base a questa data contiamo la nostra esistenza storica: l’anno 966.

L’anno 1382 non è forse diventato quasi il nuovo inizio, radicato in quel primo inizio?

Sei venuta per unire le epoche e i cuori umani delle generazioni remote, e anche delle diverse nazioni. Infatti quelli furono i tempi della beata Edwige, regina e madre della Nazione.

Aiutaci, ora, dopo seicento anni, ad unire di nuovo le epoche.

Aiutaci, Madre, a trovare la forza affinché possiamo lavorare per “il bene comune” e possiamo evitare “reazioni collettive irreversibili; e con prudenza presentare le esigenze sia dell’individuo che della società e guardare al futuro della nazione”.

Questo scrivono i Vescovi polacchi. E per questa intenzione prega tutta la nazione.

Guardiamo il nostro passato - valutiamo il presente - affidiamo a te, Madre, il nostro futuro.

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