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The Effective and Privileged Way of Continence

76 (of 129) - Catechesis by John Paul II on the Theology of the Body
General Audience, Wednesday 31 March 1982 - in Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"1. We continue our reflections on celibacy and on virginity for the kingdom of heaven, on the basis of Matthew's Gospel (Mt 19:10-12).

Speaking of continence for the kingdom of heaven and basing it on the example of his own life, Christ undoubtedly wished that his disciples should understand it especially in relation to the kingdom which he had come to announce and for which he indicated the correct ways. The continence he spoke of is precisely one of these ways. As appears from the context of Matthew's Gospel, it is an especially effective and privileged way. Indeed, that preference given to celibacy and virginity for the kingdom was an absolute novelty in comparison with the old covenant tradition, and had a decisive significance both for the ethos and the theology of the body.

2. Christ, in his statement, points out especially its finality. He says that the way of continence, to which his own life bore witness, not only exists and not only is it possible, but it is especially efficacious and important for the kingdom of heaven. So should it be, seeing that Christ chose it for himself. If this way is so efficacious and important, then continence for the kingdom of heaven must have a special value. As we have already noted, Christ did not approach the problem on the same level and according to the same line of reasoning in which it was posed by the disciples when they said: "If such is the is not expedient to marry" (Mt 19:10). Their words implied a certain utilitarianism. However, in his reply Christ indicated indirectly that marriage, true to its original institution by the Creator (we recall that the Master at this point spoke of the beginning), is fully appropriate and of a value that is fundamental, universal and ordinary. If this is so, then continence, on its part, possesses a particular and exceptional value for this kingdom. It is obviously a question of continence consciously chosen for supernatural motives.

3. If Christ in his statement points out, before all else, the supernatural finality of that continence, he does so not only in an objective sense, but also in a sense explicitly subjective—that is to say, he indicates the necessity of a motivation that corresponds adequately and fully to the objective finality implied by the expression "for the kingdom." To achieve the end in question—that is, to rediscover in continence that particular spiritual fruitfulness which comes from the Holy Spirit—then continence must be willed and chosen by virtue of a deep faith. This faith does not merely show us the kingdom of God in its future fulfillment. It permits us and makes it possible for us to identify ourselves in a special way with the truth and reality of that kingdom, such as it is revealed by Christ in his Gospel message and especially by the personal example of his life and manner of behavior. Hence, it was said above that continence for the kingdom of heaven—as an unquestionable sign of the other world—bears in itself especially the interior dynamism of the mystery of the redemption of the body (cf. Lk 20:35). In this sense it possesses also the characteristic of a particular likeness to Christ. Whoever consciously chooses such continence, chooses, in a certain sense, a special participation in the mystery of the redemption (of the body). He wishes in a particular way to complete it, so to say, in his own flesh (cf. Col 1:24), finding thereby also the imprint of a likeness to Christ.

4. All this refers to the motivation of the choice (or to its finality in the subjective sense). In choosing continence for the kingdom of heaven, man should let himself be guided precisely by this motivation. In the case in question, Christ did not say that man is obliged to it (in any event it is certainly not a question of a duty deriving from a commandment). However, without any doubt, his concise words on continence "for the kingdom of heaven" place in bold relief its precise motivation. They point that out (that is, they indicate the finality of which the subject is well aware), both in the first part of the entire statement, and also in the second part. They indicate that here it is a question of a particular choice—a choice that is proper to a rather exceptional vocation, and not one that is universal and ordinary. At the beginning, in the first part of his statement, Christ spoke of an understanding: "Not all men can understand it, but only those to whom it is given" (Mt 19:11). It is not a question of an understanding in the abstract, but such as to influence the decision, the personal choice, in which the gift, that is, the grace should find an adequate response in the human will. Such an understanding involves the motivation. Subsequently, the motivation influences the choice of continence, accepted after having understood its significance for the kingdom of heaven. In the second part of his statement, Christ declared then that a man makes himself a eunuch when he chooses continence for the kingdom of heaven and makes it the fundamental situation or state of his whole earthly life. In such a firm decision a supernatural motivation exists, from which the decision itself originated. It subsists by renewing itself continually.

5. Previously we have already turned our attention to the particular significance of the final assertion. If Christ, in the case quoted, speaks of making oneself a eunuch, not only does he place in relief the specific importance of this decision which is explained by the motivation born of a deep faith, but he does not even seek to conceal the anguish that such a decision and its enduring consequences can have for a man for the normal (and on the other hand noble) inclinations of his nature.

The reference to "the beginning" in the problem of marriage enabled us to discover all the original beauty of that vocation of man, male and female. This vocation comes from God and corresponds to the twofold constitution of man, as well as to the call to the communion of persons. In preaching continence for the kingdom of God, Christ not only took a stand against the whole tradition of the old covenant, according to which marriage and procreation were religiously privileged, as we have said. But in a certain sense he expressed himself even in opposition to that beginning to which he himself had appealed. Perhaps also for this reason he nuanced his words with that particular rule of understanding to which we referred above. The analysis of the beginning (especially on the basis of the Yahwist text) had demonstrated that, even though it be possible to conceive man as solitary before God, God himself drew him from this solitude when he said: "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him" (Gn 2:18).

6. So then, the double aspect, male and female, proper to the constitution of humanity, and the unity of the two which is based on it, remain the work of God "from the beginning," that is, to their ontological depth. Speaking of continence for the kingdom of heaven, Christ had before him this reality. Not without reason did he speak of it (according to Matthew) in the most immediate context in which he referred precisely to the beginning, that is, to the divine beginning of marriage in the constitution of man.

On the strength of Christ's words it can be asserted that marriage helps us to understand continence for the kingdom of heaven. Not only that, but also continence itself sheds a particular light on marriage viewed in the mystery of creation and redemption."

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

Ai fedeli di lingua francese

Chers Frères et Sśurs,

Poursuivant notre méditation sur la continence choisie consciemment pour des motifs surnaturels, nous découvrons que le Christ lui accorde une valeur particulière et exceptionnelle, dans le même temps où il reconnaît au mariage une valeur fondamentale et universelle. Ce choix requiert une motivation subjective correspondant à son objet: “Le règne des cieux”, c’est-à-dire une foi capable de rendre compte de la vérité et de la réalité présentes de ce règne. Nous en voyons l’exemple en ce que le Christ a fait ce choix de la continence pour lui-même. Cela implique une participation au mystère de la rédemption du corps. Une telle décision naît d’une compréhension propre, qui n’est pas donnée à tous. La motivation surnaturelle ainsi mise en lumière, subsiste de façon permanente dans cette décision. Nous pouvons affirmer que la chasteté pour le Royaume éclaire le mariage, et celui-ci jette une lumière sur elle.

Ai rappresentanti dell’Associazione “Magnificat”

Je salue cordialement tous les pèlerins présents à cette audience, et particulièrement ceux de l’Association “Magnificat” que j’encourage à travailler en confiance avec l’ensemble des Pasteurs de l’Eglise et à contribuer, pour leur part et en union avec les efforts des autres associations catholiques, au respect de la vie humaine à tous ses stades, et notamment à l’accueil de l’enfant.

Ai giovani della parrocchia parigina di Saint-Léon

Je salue Aussi les très nombreux jeunes de la paroisse Saint-Léon de Paris, et tous les autres jeunes: je vous souhaite, chers amis, de découvrir ici, non seulement les vestiges d’une grande histoire, mais le secret de la force des martyrs, de la vitalité des saints, de l’élan missionnaire et de l’unité de l’Eglise; je vous invite surtout à vous préparer chacun, en profondeur, au renouveau pascal.

Agli anziani del Québec

Enfin, je souhaite la bienvenue à toutes les personnes âgées venues du Québec en pèlerinage à Rome: puissiez-vous, non seulement connaître une retraite sereine, mais aussi la joie de découvrir encore les richesses spirituelles et artistiques de l’Eglise et de participer, à votre façon, à son apostolat.

A tous j’exprime mes vœux de sainte fête de Pâques, et je vous bénis de tout cœur.

Ai pellegrini di lingua inglese

Dear brothers and sisters,

I extend a cordial greeting to all of you for today as we draw closer to Easter and to the celebration of Christ’s Paschal Mystery. We have been speaking about the original beauty of the vocation of the human person, male and female, to a communion of persons. We have also been speaking about virginity or celibacy that is chosen for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven. Christ himself, by his teaching and his example, showed us the value of continence that is embraced for the Kingdom of heaven. He presented continence as something that is not only possible but also particularly important. The value that it has depends, however, on the motivation for which it is embraced. Christ is speaking about a free choice, made for supernatural reasons. In the background of his teaching, marriage truly helps us to understand celibacy or verginity, and celibacy or virginity gives us deep insights into marriage.

Agli studenti del Centro Romano di Arti Liberali dell’Università di Chicago

On the twentieth anniversary of the Rome Liberal Arts Center of the University of Chicago, I am happy to welcome the Rector of the University, together with a group of students and staff of the Rome Center. Your presence here is an expression of the institutional commitment of your program and the University to the goals of Catholic education. Dear young people, may Christ show you ever more the deepest meaning of your own humanity.

Ai pellegrini di lingua tedesca

Liebe Brüder und Schwestern!

Aufrichtig freue ich mich über eure so zahlreiche Teilnahme an dieser vorösterlichen Audienz. Ich grüße euch alle herzlich: aus Deutschland, Österreich, der Schweiz und den Niederlanden. Lebt mit der Kirche in der Liturgie die kommenden Gnadentage des Leidens und der Auferstehung unseres Herrn. Christus, der Gekreuzigte und Auferstandene, schenke euch allen seinen reichen österlichen Frieden!

Wir setzen heute unsere Überlegungen über die Ehelosigkeit um des Himmelreiches willen fort. Dieser sogenannte evangelische Rat ist sowohl gegenüber dem Alten Testament als auch gegenüber der Schöpfungsordnung etwas absolut Neues. Die Berufung zur Ehelosigkeit ist eine besondere Berufung; gleichsam eine Ausnahme von der Regel. Entscheidend ist vor allem der Beweggrund, warum sie gewählt wird, nämlich ”um des Himmelreiches willen“, aus vorbehaltloser Liebe zu Gott, um allein ihm anzugehören. Nur wenn der Verzicht auf die Ehe aus einem tiefen Glauben um einer engeren Christusnachfolge willen geschieht, kann die leibliche Enthaltsamkeit sich zu einer um so reicheren geistigen Fruchtbarkeit entfalten. Durch sie nimmt der Mensch in einer besonderen Weise teil am Geheimnis der Erlösung, vor allem an der Erlösung des Leibes, die in der Auferstehung ihre endgültige Vollendung finden wird. Deshalb aber bleibt die Ehelosigkeit um des Himmelreiches willen stets auch zutiefst gezeichnet vom Kreuz. Sie geschieht durch Verzicht und Opfer - gegen die natürlichen Neigungen des Herzens. ”Wer es fassen kann, der fasse es“, sagt der Herr. Bemühen wir uns stets um die richtige Wertschätzung dieser ganzheitlichen Christusnachfolge in der Ehelosigkeit um des Himmelreiches willen.

Noch einmal wünsche ich euch allen und euren Lieben daheim eine geistlich fruchtbare Mitfeier der Karwoche sowie ein frohes und gnadenreiches Osterfest. Dazu erteile ich euch und allen, die euch nahestehen, von Herzen meinen besonderen Apostolischen Segen.

Ai fedeli di lingua spagnola

Amadísimos hermanos y hermanas,

Proseguimos nuestra reflexión sobre el celibato y la virginidad, que Cristo ha propuesto en vistas del reino de los cielos, ese reino que El mismo vino a anunciar.

Con su propio ejemplo Jesucristo enseña que el camino de la continencia no sólo existe en el Nuevo Testamento y que es posible, sino que tiene un valor singular, cuando es aceptada por una motivación superior, cual es una nueva fecundidad espiritual que procede del Espíritu Santo. Para ello es necesario elegirla con fe profunda, no solamente mirando al reino de Dios que se completa en la eternidad, sino para abrazar ya en el presente la verdad y realidad de ese reino revelado por Cristo.

La elección de la virginidad supera, pero no niega el valor de la vocación ordinaria al matrimonio. Lleva consigo un esfuerzo que se sublima por razones sobrenaturales, que renuevan constantemente la decisión de consagrarse enteramente a vivir y proclamar el misterio de salvación en Cristo.

Antes de concluir, saludo con afecto y bendigo a cada persona y grupo de lengua española procedentes de España, México, Venezuela y Colombia, particularmente a los jóvenes.

Ai fedeli di lingua portoghese

Saúdo cordialmente os peregrinos e ouvintes de língua portuguesa, neste “tempo da Paixão” do Senhor, que nos veio redimir.

Tratando ainda do sentido do corpo humano e da sua “redenção”, reflectimos hoje no valor do celibato e da virgindade, abraçados “por amor do reino dos Céus”. Ao proclamar tal valor, Cristo, sem se ater à tradição do Antigo Testamento quanto ao matrimónio, pôs em realce a sua finalidade e motivação.

Para escolher conscientemente viver em continência perfeita - Cristo foi bem claro - é necessário ser-se motivado por uma finalidade esclarecida, “entendida” só pelos chamados. É uma decisão pessoal, por motivos sobrenaturais, que tem de assentar numa fé profunda e levar a identificar-se com a verdade e a realidade do “reino dos Céus”.

É uma vocação excepcional e exigente, mas válida e importante para o testemunho e serviço do “reino”; e quem a segue tem uma participação particular no mistério da Redenção (do corpo).

Desejo-vos uma frutuosa Semana Santa, com a minha Bênção Apostólica.

Ai partecipanti al “XII Congresso Nazionale di Studio degli Economi Generali e Provinciali”.

Ho il piacere di salutare ora i Partecipanti al “XII Congresso Nazionale di Studio degli Economi Generali e Provinciali”, promosso dal Centro Nazionale degli Economi di Comunità.

Vi esprimo la mia stima perché, pur essendo persone consacrate a Dio e quindi dedite alla contemplazione delle verità della fede, voi non avete rifiutato il peso - non sempre lieve - della conduzione degli affari economici delle vostre rispettive Famiglie religiose. Sappiate infondere in questo vostro servizio uno spirito di evangelica dedizione, offrendo così ai vostri confratelli un insostituibile aiuto. Abbiate una sempre maggiore consapevolezza delle vostre responsabilità, specializzandovi accuratamente in questo campo che non ammette improvvisazioni ed empirismi, tanto gravi essendo i suoi aspetti tecnici, giuridici e sociali. E soprattutto, anche se immersi nelle difficoltà quotidiane, abbiate sempre di mira Cristo, il quale è la ragion d’essere della vostra vita religiosa e non vi fa mancare la sua ricompensa (cf. Mt 10, 40). Vi sia di conforto e di sprone la mia speciale benedizione.

Ai giovani e ai volontari del Movimento dei Focolari

Un saluto particolare va anche oggi, come di consueto, a tutti i giovani e le giovani, i ragazzi e le ragazze, che sono venuti a rallegrare questo incontro settimanale. Tra essi ci sono 500 volontarie del Movimento dei Focolari, riunite in questi giorni presso la Mariapoli di Rocca di Papa per un loro convegno sul tema della unità.

Sì, carissimi giovani, non stancatevi mai di alimentare nei vostri cuori generosi gli ideali dell’unità, della concordia e della pace: doni, questi, oggi più che mai inestimabili, in un mondo troppo spesso diviso e dilacerato da rivalità ed antagonismi. Vivete soprattutto nell’unità di fede e di amore, portando scolpite nel vostro animo le parole del testamento del Signore: “Ut omnes unum sint” (Gv 17, 21). Con questi voti vi benedico tutti.

* * *

Rivolgo anche un affettuoso saluto a tutti i Seminaristi, presenti a questa Udienza, in particolare a quelli della diocesi di Venezia. Carissimi, a voi, che volete seguire più da vicino Gesù Sommo ed Eterno Sacerdote, auguro che in questi anni di preparazione al presbiterato viviate sempre più intimamente uniti con lui nella preghiera, nella meditazione, nello studio, nel sacrificio, per essere un giorno degni ministri di Cristo e dispensatori dei misteri di Dio.

Agli ammalati

A voi ammalati qui presenti e a quanti soffrono negli ospedali o nelle proprie case esprimo la mia solidarietà, il mio affetto e la mia benevolenza. Come già ho detto altre volte, la Chiesa conta molto su di voi, perché la vostra condizione vi avvicina di più al Crocifisso e quindi potete più direttamente collaborare con lui per la conversione e la salvezza degli uomini. Se saprete soffrire con questo animo ed offrire i vostri patimenti a questo scopo sarete i più grandi benefattori dell’umanità e il vostro nome sarà scritto in cielo a lettere d’oro. Vi sia di sostegno nelle vostre prove la mia speciale benedizione.

Agli sposi novelli

Non può mancare, infine, un cordiale e beneaugurante pensiero per gli Sposi novelli. Carissimi, nell’esprimervi le mie felicitazioni per l’importante passo compiuto, auspico per voi una vita matrimoniale serena, in cui regni un amore reciproco sempre crescente ed una fede cristiana forte, che vi faccia veri figli di Dio ed autentici testimoni del Vangelo. Vi accompagni in ogni circostanza della vostra vita la mia benedizione apostolica.

La preghiera del Papa alla Madonna di Jasna Góra

Matko z Jasnej Góry!

Pragnę dzisiaj modlić się do Ciebie jako do Matki polskiej kultury.

W taki sposób myślą o Tobie ludzie kultury - i w taki sposób Ciebie czczą.

Dziękujemy Ci za to, że od początku, od pieśni Bogurodzica, pomogłaś wyrazić się polskiej duszy. Za to, że pomagałaś nam poprzez dzieła kultury: literatury, nauki, wielu sztuk, tworzyć te treści i wartości, którymi żywią się pokolenia. Dzięki którym mogliśmy przetrwać nawet w najcięższych próbach dziejowych.

Biskupi polscy piszą: “Zasadnicze znaczenie dla zaistnienia ugody społeczne; mają religia i kultura. Dlatego konieczne jest zabezpieczenie pełnej wolności dla życia religijnego i rozwoju kultury”.

W religii i kulturze człowiek wyraża się jako istota rozumna i wolna. Wolność też jest warunkiem obojga. W szczególności jest ona warunkiem prawdziwej kultury, poprzez którą naród żyje swym autentycznym życiem.

Gdy zaś chodzi o życie - któż głębiej je odczuwa, jak Matka? I dlatego Tobie, Matko Jasnogórska, zawierzam w sposób szczególny dziś i jutro ojczystej kultury.

Niech przedłuża się w niej i rozwija coraz pełniej życie Narodu.

Della preghiera diamo una nostra traduzione italiana.

Madre di Jasna Góra!

Desidero oggi rivolgere a te la mia preghiera come alla Madre della cultura polacca.

In questo modo ti pregano i miei connazionali.

In questo modo pensano a te gli uomini della cultura, e in questo modo ti venerano.

Ti rendiamo grazie perché all’inizio, dal canto Bogurodzica, hai aiutato l’anima polacca ad esprimersi; perché ci hai aiutato mediante le opere della cultura: della letteratura, della scienza, delle molte opere d’arte, a creare i contenuti e i valori con i quali si nutrono le generazioni; grazie ai quali abbiamo potuto sopravvivere anche nelle più pesanti prove storiche.

I Vescovi polacchi scrivono:

“Significato fondamentale per la creazione di un’intesa sociale hanno la religione e la cultura; è infatti necessario assicurare la piena libertà alla vita religiosa e allo sviluppo della cultura”.

Nella religione e nella cultura l’uomo si esprime come essere intelligente e libero. La libertà è pure la condizione per ambedue. In particolare essa è la condizione della vera cultura, mediante la quale la Nazione vive la sua vita autentica.

Per quanto riguarda la vita, chi la risente più profondamente della Madre? E perciò a te, Madre chiaromontana, affido in modo particolare l’oggi e il domani della cultura nazionale.

Continui in essa e si sviluppi sempre più pienamente la vita della Nazione.

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