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Celibacy Is a Particular Response to the Love of the Divine Spouse

80 (of 129) - Catechesis by John Paul II on the Theology of the Body
General Audience, Wednesday 28 April 1982 - in Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"1. "There are others who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven." This is how Christ expressed himself in St. Matthew's Gospel (Mt 19:12).

It is natural for the human heart to accept demands, even difficult ones, in the name of love for an ideal, and above all in the name of love for a person. (By its very nature, love is directed toward a person.) Therefore in that call to continence for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven, first the disciples themselves, and then the whole living Tradition of the Church, will soon discover the love that is referred to Christ himself as the Spouse of the Church, the Spouse of souls. He has given himself to them to the very limit, in the Paschal and Eucharistic mystery. In this way, continence for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven, the choice of virginity or celibacy for one's whole life, has become in the experience of Christ's disciples and followers the act of a particular response of love for the divine Spouse. Therefore it has acquired the significance of an act of nuptial love, that is, a nuptial giving of oneself for the purpose of reciprocating in a particular way the nuptial love of the Redeemer. It is a giving of oneself understood as renunciation, but made above all out of love.

2. In this way we obtained all the wealth of the meaning contained in the very concise, but at the same time very profound, statement of Christ about continence for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven. But now it is fitting that we direct our attention to the significance that these words have for the theology of the body, just as we tried to present and reconstruct the biblical foundations for it "from the beginning." Christ referred to that biblical "beginning" in his conversation with the Pharisees on the subject of marriage, its unity and indissolubility (cf. Mt 19:3-9). He did this shortly before addressing to his disciples the words about continence for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven (cf. Mt 19:10-12). This analysis of that "beginning" allows us to recall the profound truth about the nuptial meaning of the human body in its masculinity and femininity, as we deduced at that time from the analysis of the first chapters of Genesis (especially from 2:23-25). It was in just this way that it was necessary to formulate and specify what we find in those ancient texts.

3. The modern mentality is accustomed to thinking and speaking about the sexual instinct, transferring onto the level of human reality what is proper to the world of living beings, of animals. Now deep reflection on the concise text of the first and second chapters of Genesis permits us to establish with certainty and conviction that right from the beginning a very clear and univocal boundary is laid down in the Bible between the world of animals (animalia) and the man created in the image and likeness of God. In that text, though relatively brief, there is nevertheless enough to demonstrate that man has a clear awareness of what essentially distinguishes him from all other living beings (animalia).

4. Therefore, it is not at all appropriate and adequate to apply to man this substantially naturalistic category that is contained in the concept and in the expression of sexual instinct. It is obvious that such application can become the basis for a certain analogy. In fact, the particular characteristic of man compared with the whole world of living beings (animalia) is such that man, understood from the viewpoint of species, can not even basically qualify as an animal, but a rational animal. Therefore, despite this analogy, applying the concept of sexual instinct to man—given the dual nature in which he exists as male or female—nevertheless greatly limits, and in a certain sense diminishes what is the very masculinity-femininity in the personal dimension of human subjectivity. It limits and diminishes even what for both of them, man and woman, unite to become one flesh (cf. Gn 2:24). In order to express this in an appropriate and adequate way, we must use also an analysis different from the naturalistic one. It is precisely the study of the biblical beginning that obliges us to do this convincingly. The truth about the nuptial meaning of the human body in its masculinity and femininity seems to be a key concept in this area. It is deduced from the first chapters of Genesis (especially from 2:23-25), that is, the discovery at the time of the nuptial meaning of the body in the personal makeup of the subjectivity of man and woman. At the same time it is the only appropriate and adequate concept.

5. It is necessary to reread and understand Christ's words about continence for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven precisely in relation to this concept, to this truth about the nuptial meaning of the human body. His words were spoken in the immediate context of that reference to the beginning, on which he based his teaching about the unity and indissolubility of marriage. At the basis of Christ's call to continence there is not only the sexual instinct, which is in the category, I would say, of a naturalistic necessity. But there is also the consciousness of the freedom of the gift. This is organically connected with the profound and mature knowledge of the nuptial meaning of the body, in the total makeup of the personal subjectivity of man and woman. Only in relation to such a meaning of the masculinity and femininity of the human person does the call to voluntary continence for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven find full warranty and motivation. Only and exclusively in this perspective did Christ say, "He who is able to receive this, let him receive it" (Mt 19:12). With this, he indicated that such continence—although in each case it is above all a gift—can be also received. That is, it can be drawn and deduced from the concept that man has his own psychosomatic "I" in its entirety, and especially the masculinity and femininity of this "I" in the reciprocal relationship which is as though by nature inscribed in every human subjectivity.

6. As we recall from the previous analyses, developed on the basis of Genesis (cf. Gn 2:23-25), that reciprocal relationship of masculinity and femininity, that reciprocal "for" of man and woman, can be understood in an appropriate and adequate way only in the overall dynamics of the personal subject. Christ's words in Matthew (cf. 19:11-12) consequently show that this "for," present from the beginning at the basis of marriage, can also be at the basis of continence "for" the Kingdom of Heaven! Based on the same disposition of the personal subject, thanks to which man fully rediscovers himself through a sincere gift of himself (cf. Gaudium et Spes 24), man (male and female) is capable of choosing the personal gift of his very self. This is made to another person in a conjugal pact in which they become "one flesh." He is also capable of freely renouncing such a giving of himself to another person, so that, choosing continence for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven, he can give himself totally to Christ. On the basis of the same disposition of the personal subject and on the basis of the same nuptial meaning of the being as a body, male or female, there can be formed the love that commits man to marriage for the whole duration of his life (cf. Mt 19:3-10). But there can also be formed the love that commits man to a life of continence for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven (cf. Mt 19:11-12). Christ is speaking precisely about this in his overall statement addressed to the Pharisees (cf. Mt 19:3-10) and then to the disciples (cf. Mt 19:11-12).

7. It is evident that the choice of marriage, just as it was instituted by the Creator from the beginning, supposes the learning and the interior acceptance of the nuptial meaning of the body, bound up with the masculinity and femininity of the human person. In fact, this very thing is expressed concisely in the verses of Genesis. In listening to Christ's words addressed to the disciples about continence for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven (cf. Mt 19:11-12), we cannot think that this second kind of choice can be made consciously and freely without reference to one's masculinity or femininity and to that nuptial meaning which is proper to man precisely in the masculinity or femininity of his being as a personal subject. Furthermore, in the light of Christ's words, we must admit that this second kind of choice, namely, continence for the sake of the Kingdom of God, comes about also in relation to the masculinity or femininity proper to the person who makes such a choice. It comes about on the basis of full consciousness of that nuptial meaning which masculinity and femininity contain in themselves. If this choice should come about by way of some artificial "prescinding" from this real wealth of every human subject, it would not appropriately and adequately correspond to the content of Christ's words in Matthew 19:11-12.

Here Christ explicitly required full understanding when he said, "He who is able to receive this, let him receive it" (Mt 19:12)."

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

Ai pellegrini di lingua francese

Chers Frères et Sœurs,

Dans mon allocution en italien, j’ai continué à parler du choix volontaire de la continence, du célibat, pour le Royaume des cieux. Les paroles très concises de Jésus à ce sujet, non seulement ne contredisent pas la signification nuptiale du corps, du caractère masculin ou féminin des êtres humains appelés à se réaliser dans un rapport réciproque, mais elles la supposent. A condition, bien sûr, de ne pas enfermer l’être humain, rationnel et libre, dans les limites de l’instinct sexuel des animaux, qui comporte une nécessité d’ordre naturaliste. Ce qui caractérise l’homme et la femme, c’est la conscience de la liberté du don de soi, liée organiquement au sens nuptial du corps chez un sujet personnel. Ils peuvent donc choisir la donation personnelle d’eux-mêmes à une autre personne dans le pacte conjugal, et aussi y renoncer librement afin de pouvoir se donner totalement au Christ, qui est l’Epoux de l’Eglise et des âmes, et ainsi choisir la continence pour le Royaume des cieux.

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Mon salut chaleureux va d’abord aux huit cents pèlerins français des douze diocèses de la région apostolique du midi qui gravite autour de Toulouse. Je suis heureux d’y retrouver le cher Cardinal Marty, les évêques de Toulouse et de Mende. Malgré mon grand désir, je n’ai pas pu me rendre à Lourdes, mais vous, vous venez à Rome. Essayez, chers Frères et Sœurs, d’y redécouvrir l’Eglise, ses racines apostoliques, ses développements variés, de siècle en siècle, sa vocation universelle. Forts de l’espérance qui l’habite, vous continuerez à la construire chez vous, en vous appuyant sur le roc de la foi, en prenant chacun vos responsabilités dans vos communautés, prêtres, religieuses, laïcs, en vivant bien unis, sans rougir des exigences de l’Evangile, qui sont de surcroît un remède aux misères de notre société. Que l’intercession de Marie vous garde dans la joie de Pâques et la docilité à l’Esprit Saint!

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Je voudrais aussi assurer de ma sympathie le groupe des handicapés français, et tous ceux qui partagent continuellement leur vie et leur amitié dans les communautés de l’Arche. Comment ne pas encourager ce type de solidarité fraternelle, où chacun, fût-il démuni à un certain plan, est pleinement reconnu, et à même d’apporter sa part avec tout son cœur! Je bénis avec affection chacun d’entre vous.

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Et à tous les pèlerins de langue française, de France, de Suisse, jeunes, adultes, personnes du troisième âge, religieuses et prêtres, je souhaite la paix de Pâques. Portez-la autour de vous Avec ma Bénédiction Apostolique.

Ai pellegrini di lingua inglese

Dear brothers and sisters,

My very cordial welcome goes to all of you who are present here this morning. We have been speaking about the suject of continence “for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven”. The choice of lifelong virginity or celibacy was looked upon by Christ’s followers and disciples as a particular way of responding to the love of the divine Spouse. This choice thus became an act of spousal love, the giving of oneself in order to reciprocate the spousal love of the Redeemer. Virginity or celibacy is a gift of self that is made through renunciation, but above all a gift motivated by love.

It is from the Book of Genesis that we have discovered the spousal meaning of the body in the personal make-up of man and woman. And it is in the context of this key-concept that we must read Christ’s words about continence for the Kingdom of heaven. This continence is realized only on the basis of a full consciousness of the spousal meaning of the masculinity and femininity of the human person.

Ai fedeli di lingua tedesca

Liebe Brüder und Schwestern!

Herzlich willkommen in Rom und im Vatikan. Petrus, dessen Grab wir hier verehren, ist schon in der Bibel der bevorzugte Zeuge für die Auferstehung Christi. Sein unerschütterliches Bekenntnis verbürgt unseren Osterglauben: Christus ist wahrhaft auferstanden!

Wie wir in unseren vorhergehenden Überlegungen gesehen haben, bezieht sich der Verzicht auf die Ehe ”um des Himmelreiches willen“ auf Christus selbst als den Bräutigam der Kirche und der Seelen. Er ist ein Akt bräutlicher Liebe und Hingabe. Die heutige Zeit pflegt vom ”geschlechtlichen Instinkt“ zu sprechen, den der Mensch mit den Tieren gemeinsam habe. Aber schon der Schöpfungsbericht zieht eine deutliche Unterscheidungslinie zwischen der Welt der Tiere und dem Menschen, der nach Gottes Bild und Gleichnis geschaffen ist. Deshalb kann es zwischen Mensch und Tier immer nur eine gewisse Analogie geben. Die einfache Übertragung des Begriffs vom geschlechtlichen Instinkt auf den Menschen verkürzt ungebührlich die in seiner Geistigkeit grundgelegte personale Dimension seiner Geschlechtlichkeit als Mann und Frau. In dieser gründet sodann die bräutliche Bedeutung des menschlichen Leibes, durch die der Leib zum Mittel und Ausdruck personaler Hingabe zu werden vermag. In der freien Verfügung über sich als mögliches Geschenk an einen anderen kann der Mensch diese Fähigkeit zur Ganzhingabe entweder in der Ehe in Gemeinschaft mit einer anderen Person oder aber ”um des Himmelreiches willen“ in der ausschließlichen Liebe zu Christus verwirklichen. Beide Lebensformen entspringen letztlich derselben Wurzel: nämlich der bräutlichen Bedeutung und Verfügbarkeit des menschlichen Leibes sowie der Hingabe aus bräutlicher Liebe. ”Wer es fassen kann, der fasse es“, sagt uns der Herr. Erbitten wir uns eine solch tiefe Erkenntnis und Wertschätzung der Ehelosigkeit um des Himmelreiches willen, Dazu erteile ich Euch von Herzen meinen Apostolischen Segen.

Ai pellegrini di lingua spagnola

Amadísimos hermanos y hermanas,

Las palabras de Cristo sobre la continencia por el reino de los cielos, nos hacen ver que en la base de la llamada a esa continencia no está sólo el instinto sexual en cuanto tendencia de la naturaleza, sino también la conciencia de la libertad de la donación propia. Por ello, de la misma forma que en el matrimonio el hombre se encuentra en el don sincero y personal de sí mismo al otro, así también puede elegir libremente la renuncia a esa donación a otra persona, para darse totalmente a Cristo.

Esa entrega del hombre a Cristo, esposo de la Iglesia y de las almas, es una renuncia hecha por amor y para devolverle el amor recibido de El. Y tiene la misma disposición interior y el mismo significado esponsal cuando el hombre, en cuanto varón o mujer, se compromete a guardar la continencia por el reino de los cielos, como podría hacerlo en la entrega matrimonial. Este es el significado profundo que se da en la consagración de una persona a Cristo, hecha por amor y definitivamente.

Con mi saludo a cada grupo y persona de lengua española aquí presente, acompañado de mi cordial Bendición.

Ai fedeli di espressione portoghese

Saúdo com particular afecto os peregrinos e ouvintes de língua portuguesa.

Nestes encontros semanais estamos a considerar o significado teológico do corpo. O coração humano é capaz de aceitar exigências em vista de um ideal. O ideal que exige a continência perfeita é o amor para com Cristo, esposo da Igreja e esposo das almas. Implica renúncia; mas renúncia feita por amor.

A mentalidade contemporânea se acostumou a falar de “instinto sexual”, aplicando à realidade humana o que é característico dos animais. Isto não é correcto. Sendo animal, o homen é também racional. Para exprimir a sexualidade humana não basta pois o princípio naturalístico. A Bíblia nos revela o sentido esponsal do corpo, em cuja base se encontra não apenas o instinto, mas a consciência da liberdade do dom.

Que possais apreciar o valor do corpo, visto como dom, na perspectiva do amor. Com a minha Bênção Apostólica.

Ai suoi connazionali

“Za wolność naszą i waszą”.

Te słowa - dobrze znane z napisów na polskich sztandarach - stanęły mi w pamięci, gdy w niedzielę Oktawy Wielkanocnej znalazłem się w Bolonii. Wracając z cmentarza poległych drugiej wojny światowej w kierunku centrum miasta, odczytałem ponad ulicą napis:

“Tą ulicą wkraczali żołnierze polscy, przynosząc nam wolność: tą samą drogą Ty przynieś nam wiarę!”.

Pragnę wyznać przed Panią Jasnogórską, że głęboko wstrząsneły mną te słowa: świadectwo żywej pamięci po czterdziestu prawie latach - i zarazem gorące wezwanie.

Dziś, klęcząc w duchu na Jasnej Górze, powtarzam te słowa wobec was wszystkich, moi Rodacy, którzy mnie słuchacie.

Za wolność “naszą i waszą” ginęli Polacy na różnych frontach świata. Iluż ich poległo w czasie drugiej wojny światowej? Walczyli za sprawę słuszną u boku sprzymierzeńców. Jakże wielu ich nie znalazło dla siebie miejsca w Ojczyźnie!

Jakże wielu - poszło na emigrację!

Dziś, kiedy Naród nasz przechodzi przez nową próbę, wołamy głośno wobec Ciebie, Matko Jasnogórska:

W Polsce nie może brakować miejsca dla Polaków!

Każdy człowiek ma prawo do swojej Ojczyzny - nikt nie może być skazywany na emigrację.

Pani Jasnogórska! Raz jeszcze w ciągu tych trudnych miesięcy wołam do Ciebie, byś wzięła w obronę, prawa moich Rodaków.

Ed ecco le parole del Papa ai Polacchi in una nostra traduzione italiana.

“Per la libertà nostra e vostra”.

Queste parole - ben conosciute dalla iscrizione sulle bandiere polacche - mi sono venute in mente, la domenica dell’ottava di Pasqua mentre mi trovavo a Bologna. Tornando dal cimitero dei caduti nella seconda guerra mondiale, verso il centro della città, ho letto sopra una strada la seguente iscrizione:

“Per questa via entrarono i soldati polacchi portandoci la libertà”. Per la stessa via tu ci porti la fede!

Desidero manifestare dinanzi alla Signora di Jasna Góra che queste parole mi hanno scosso profondamente, questa testimonianza della viva memoria dopo quasi quaranta anni, ed insieme il cordiale invito.

Oggi, inginocchiato spiritualmente a Jasna Góra, ripeto queste parole dinanzi a voi tutti, miei connazionali, che mi ascoltate.

Per la libertà “nostra e vostra” i polacchi perirono sui vari fronti del mondo. Quanti sono caduti durante la seconda guerra mondiale? Hanno combattuto per la giusta causa a fianco degli alleati. Quanti di loro non hanno trovato posto nella Patria!

Quanti sono emigrati!

Oggi mentre la nostra Nazione attraversa una nuova prova, gridiamo ad alta voce dinanzi a te, Madre di Jasna Góra:

in Polonia non può mancare posto per i polacchi!

Ogni uomo ha diritto alla sua Patria, nessuno può essere condannato ad emigrare.

Signora di Jasna Góra!

Ancora una volta, nel corso di questi difficili mesi, grido a te, affinché tu prenda in difesa i diritti dei miei Connazionali.

Ai gruppi di lingua italiana.

Desidero ora porgere il mio saluto a vari Gruppi di pellegrini italiani presenti all’Udienza.

In primo luogo alla rappresentanza dell’Associazione Nazionale Alpini, che mi ha portato l’ossequio di tutti gli Alpini d’Italia, in occasione della centocinquantesima Adunata che si terrà prossimamente a Bologna; e con essi saluto i Membri dell’Associazione dei Commercianti di Via Borgognona, ringraziandoli di cuore per il simpatico omaggio dell’Ulivo d’Oro.

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Rivolgo poi un saluto particolarmente affettuoso al pellegrinaggio del Centro di Riabilitazione Psico-motoria di Valdagno ea tutti i malati: benedico con grande effusione voi, cari infermi, e tutti coloro che vi amano e vi aiutano. Soprattutto vi raccomando a Maria santissima: il mese di maggio, che presto inizieremo, porti a tutti consolazione e coraggio nel compiere la volontà di Dio per la salvezza del mondo.

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Una speciale parola va anche al pellegrinaggio della parrocchia di santa Lucia in Taranto, organizzato a coronamento della “missione del popolo” ivi svoltasi recentemente; come pure ai giovani della parrocchia dei santi Filippo e Giacomo in Giussano (Milano), venuti a Roma per commemorare il cinquantesimo di erezione della loro Chiesa parrocchiale. Accendo volentieri la fiaccola che è stata portata “come simbolo di fede e di comunione”, e prendo l’occasione per augurare a voi, e a tutti i giovani presenti all’Udienza di far sempre risplendere nelle opere la luce della Verità e della Carità.

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Infine intendo salutare gli Sposi novelli, che, venendo a Roma, hanno dato, con quest’atto di fede e di devozione, una particolare e significativa impronta alla loro nuova vita a due, appena iniziata. Consacrate alla Madonna i vostri ideali e i vostri propositi, in modo da mantenere con il suo aiuto sempre vivi e fermi gli impegni assunti con il sacramento del Matrimonio.

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