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St Paul's Analogy of Union of Head and Body Does Not Destroy Individuality of the Person

91 (of 129) - Catechesis by John Paul II on the Theology of the Body
General Audience, Wednesday 25 August 1982 - in Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"1. In the preceding reflections on the Letter to the Ephesians (5:21-33), we drew attention especially to the analogy of the relationship which exists between Christ and the Church, and of that which exists between husband and wife united by the bond of marriage. Before undertaking the analysis of the further passages of the text in question, we must note that within the range of the fundamental Pauline analogy: Christ and the Church, on the one hand, and man and woman as spouses on the other, there is a supplementary analogy: the analogy of the head and of the body. This analogy confers a chiefly ecclesiological significance on the statement we analyzed: the Church as such is formed by Christ; it is constituted by him in its essential part, as the body is by the head. The union of the body with the head is above all of an organic nature. To put it simply, it is the somatic union of the human organism. The biological union is founded directly on this organic union, inasmuch as it can be said that the body lives by the head (even if at the same time, though in a different way, the head lives by the body). Besides, in the case of man, the psychic union, understood in its integrity, and the integral unity of the human person is also founded on this organic union.

2. As already stated (at least in the passage analyzed), the author of the Letter to the Ephesians has introduced the supplementary analogy of the head and the body within the limits of the analogy of marriage. He even seems to have conceived the first analogy, "head-body," in a more central manner from the point of view of the truth about Christ and the Church proclaimed by him. However, one must equally affirm that he has not placed it alongside or outside of the analogy of marriage as a conjugal bond—quite the contrary. In the whole text of the Letter to the Ephesians (5:21-33), especially in the first part with which we are dealing (5:22-23), the author speaks as if in marriage also the husband is "head of the wife," and the wife "the body of the husband," as if the married couple formed one organic union. This can find its basis in the text of Genesis which speaks of one flesh (Gn 2:24), or in that same text to which the author of the Letter to the Ephesians will shortly refer in the context of this great analogy. Nevertheless, the text of Genesis makes clear that the man and the woman are two distinct personal subjects who knowingly decide on their conjugal union, defined by that ancient text with the words "one flesh." This is equally clear also in the Letter to the Ephesians. The author uses a twofold analogy: head-body, husband-wife, for the purpose of illustrating clearly the nature of the union between Christ and the Church. In a certain sense, especially in the first part of the Letter to the Ephesians 5:22-23, the ecclesiological dimension seems decisive and dominant.

3. "Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the Church, his body, and is himself its Savior. As the Church is subject to Christ, so let wives also be subject in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the Church, and gave himself up for her..." (Eph 5:22-25). This supplementary analogy "head-body" indicates that within the limits of the entire passage of the Letter to the Ephesians 5:21-33, we are dealing with two distinct subjects. In virtue of a particular reciprocal relationship, in a certain sense they become a single subject. The head, together with the body, constitutes a subject (in the physical and metaphysical sense), an organism, a human person, a being. There is no doubt that Christ is a subject different from the Church. However, in virtue of a particular relationship, he is united with her, as in an organic union of head and body. The Church is so strongly, so essentially herself in virtue of a mystical union with Christ. Is it possible to say the same thing of the spouses, of the man and the woman united by the marriage bond? If the author of the Letter to the Ephesians sees also in marriage the analogy of the union of head and body, this analogy in a certain sense seems to apply to marriage in consideration of the union which Christ constitutes with the Church, and the Church with Christ. Therefore, the analogy regards, above all, marriage itself as that union through which "the two become one flesh" (Eph 5:31; cf. Gn 2:24).

4. This analogy, however, does not blur the individuality of the subjects: that of the husband and that of the wife, that is, the essential bi-subjectivity which is at the basis of the image of "one single body." Rather, the essential bi-subjectivity of the husband and wife in marriage, which makes of them in a certain sense "one single body," passes within the limits of the whole text we are examining (Eph 5:21-33) to the image of Church-Body united with Christ as head. This is seen especially in this text where the author describes the relationship of Christ to the Church precisely by means of the image of the relationship of the husband to the wife. In this description the Church-Body of Christ appears clearly as the second subject of the spousal union to which the first subject, Christ, manifests the love with which he has loved her by giving himself for her. That love is an image and above all a model of the love which the husband should show to his wife in marriage, when the two are subject to each other "out of reverence for Christ."

5. We read: "Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that he might present the Church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. Even so husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no man ever hates his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, as Christ does the Church, because we are members of his body. 'For this reason a man should leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'" (Eph 5:25-31).

6. It is easy to perceive that in this part of the text of the Letter to the Ephesians (5:21-33), bi-subjectivity clearly dominates. It is manifested both in the relationship Christ-Church, and also in the relationship husband-wife. This does not mean to say that the image of a single subject disappears: the image of "a single body." It is preserved also in the passage of our text, and in a certain sense it is better explained there. This will be seen more clearly when we submit the above-quoted passage to a detailed analysis. Thus the author of the Letter to the Ephesians speaks of the love of Christ for the Church by explaining the way in which that love is expressed, and by presenting at the same time both that love and its expressions as a model which the husband should follow in regard to his wife. The love of Christ for the Church has essentially her sanctification as its scope. "Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her that he might sanctify her" (5:25-26). Baptism is a principle of this sanctification. Baptism is the first and essential fruit of Christ's giving himself for the Church. In this text baptism is not called by its own proper name, but is defined as purification "by the washing of water with the word" (5:26). This washing, with the power that derives from the redemptive giving of himself by Christ for the Church, brings about the fundamental purification through which Christ's love for the Church acquires a spousal character, in the eyes of the author of the letter.

7. It is known that the sacrament of baptism is received by an individual subject in the Church. However, beyond the individual subject of baptism the author of the letter sees the whole Church. The spousal love of Christ is applied to her, the Church, every time that a single person receives in her the fundamental purification by means of baptism. Whoever receives baptism becomes—by the virtue of the redemptive love of Christ—at the same time a participant in his spousal love for the Church. In our text "the washing of water with the word" is an expression of the spousal love in the sense that it prepares the Bride (Church) for the Bridegroom. It makes the Church the spouse of Christ, I would say, in actu primo. Some biblical scholars observe that in this text, the washing with water recalls the ritual ablution which preceded the wedding—something which constituted an important religious rite also among the Greeks.

8. As the sacrament of baptism, "the washing of water with the word" (Eph 5:26) renders the Church a spouse not only in actu primo but also in the more distant perspective, in the eschatological perspective. This opens up before us when we read in the Letter to the Ephesians that "the washing of water" serves, on the part of the groom "to present the Church to himself in splendor without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish" (Eph 5:27). The expression "to present to himself" seems to indicate that moment of the wedding in which the bride is led to the groom, already clothed in the bridal dress and adorned for the wedding. The text quoted indicates that the Christ-spouse himself takes care to adorn the spouse-Church. He is concerned that she should be beautiful with the beauty of grace, beautiful by virtue of the gift of salvation in its fullness, already granted from the moment of the sacrament of baptism. But baptism is only the beginning from which the figure of the glorious Church will emerge (as we read in the text), as a definitive fruit of the redemptive and spousal love, only with the final coming of Christ (parousia).

We see how profoundly the author of the Letter to the Ephesians examines the sacramental reality, proclaiming its grand analogy. Both the union of Christ with the Church, and the conjugal union of man and woman in marriage are illumined in this way by a particular supernatural light."

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

Ai pellegrini francesi

Chers Frères et Sœurs,

Dans l'épître aux Ephésiens dont je poursuis le commentaire en italien, à l’analogie de l’époux et de l’épouse, - pour exprimer le rapport du Christ et de l’Eglise - l’auteur en ajoute une autre, celle de la tête et du corps. De même que l’on peut dire que le “corps vit de la tête”, ainsi l’Eglise vit-elle du Christ. Cette analogie, l’auteur ne l’a pas laissée de côté en parlant de la réalité du mariage. Il utilise la double analogie tête-corps, mari-femme, afin d’illustrer clairement la nature de l’union entre le Christ et l’Eglise. Devenus, en un certain sens, un seul sujet, comme la tête et le corps, l’homme et la femme conservent cependant leur individualité subjective. Dans cette union, on découvre l’amour premier du Christ pour l’Eglise qui s’exprime dans la sanctification qu’il lui apporte par le baptême. Expression de l’amour nuptial du Christ, le baptême rend l’Eglise Epouse, et rend le baptisé participant de cet amour du Seigneur envers l’Eglise.

Avec plaisir j’accueille tous les pèlerins de langue française, en particulier les groupes de jeunes, et un groupe de prêtres des diocèses de Tarbes et Lourdes, Bayonne et Dax, venus ici à l’occasion de leur dixième année de sacerdoce. Enfin, j’ai une pensée toute spéciale à l’intention d’un groupe de paralysés. A vous tous, je redis mon union dans le Seigneur et vous accorde ma Bénédiction Apostolique, que j’étends à tous ceux qui vous sont chers!

Ai fedeli di lingua inglese

Dear brothers and sisters,

I bid you all a warm welcome and assure you of my prayers for each one of you.

In my talk in Italian I spoke of the teaching of the Letter to the Ephesians on marriage. The Letter sees great similarity in three relationships: that between Christ and the Church, that between husband and wife, and that between head and body. The relationship between head and body indicates that in a sense the partners in marriage become a single subject, that the two persons become one flesh. They retain their own individuality, yet they are closely united, as Christ is one with the Church, and the head one with the Body. Baptism, referred to as “the washing of water with the word”, is seen as a means by which Christ lovingly prepares his bride the Church for union with him. The sacramental structure of marriage thus throws supernatural light both on the union between Christ and the Church and on that between husband and wife.

* * *

And now I would like to greet in a special way a few of the groups that have come today.

I greet the Anglican group from Walworth, with a prayer that through love and through respect for truth we may advance towards the unity that is Christ’s will.

I greet the pilgrimage led by Bishop Curtis of Bridgeport, present here together with a group from the Diocese of Caserta, under Archbishop Roberti. I am happy to know of your initiative in providing aid that is needed as a result of earthquake damage, and I gladly give you my blessing.

And finally, I wish to thank two groups who have brought here the joy of their art: the San Francisco Boys’ Chorus and The Little Flowers of Taiwan. May God bless you all, each and every one of you.

Ad un gruppo di studentesse giapponesi

Sia lodato Gesù Cristo!

Dilettissime alunne della “Università Juniore Junshin”, sono molto lieto di accogliervi qui in Vaticano.

Mi hanno detto che voi studiate Arte. Ora, Roma è un vero tesoro di Arte. Allora, ciò che avrete appreso qui a Roma, sappiate utilizzarlo non soltanto per l’arte, ma anche per la vostra vita.

Insieme con la patrona della vostra Scuola, la Madonna, impartisco di cuore la mia benedizione apostolica a voi, ai vostri familiari ed alla vostra scuola.

Sia lodato Gesù Cristo!

Ai fedeli di espressione tedesca

Auch euch, die ihr die deutsche Sprache versteht, möchte ich bei dieser kurzen Begegnung herzlich begrüßen. Ihr seid auf diesen großartigen Platz gekommen, um den Nachfolger Petri zu sehen. Dies wird ein besonderer Augenblick sein auf dem persönlichen Glaubensweg, den jeder von euch sein ganzes Leben lang durchschreitet. Fur diesen Weg möchte ich euch eine kleine geistige Speise anbieten aus dem Reichtum unseres Glaubens.

Im Epheserbrief der Heiligen Schrift lesen wir: ”Ihr Männer, liebt eure Frauen, wie Christus die Kirche geliebt und sich für sie hingegeben hat, um sie im Wasser und durch das Wort rein und heilig zu machen. So will er die Kirche herrlich vor sich erscheinen lassen, ohne Flecken, Falten oder andere Fehler; heilig soll sie sein und makellos“ (Eph. 5, 25-27).

Nein, der Apostel scheut sich nicht, die eheliche Liebe zwischen Mann und Frau mit der Liebe Christi zu seiner Kirche zu vergleichen. Diese Liebe ist für ihn ja auch nicht bloße Leidenschaft oder ein Sich-selbst-Bereichern. Sie ist vielmehr Hingabe an den anderen; sie will den Partner reich machen oder, wie Paulus sagt, ”rein und heilig“. Wie eine Braut steht die Kirche vor Christus; durch das Wasser der Taufe und durch sein Wort tut er alles, um diese seine Braut ”herrlich erscheinen zu lassen, ... heilig... und makellos“.

Gibt es wohl einen tieferen Vergleich für die liebende Einheit zwischen Mann und Frau in der Ehe? Gewiß kann auch eine christliche Ehe nicht ständig in dieser Tiefe bewußt gelebt werden. Aber als letzten Maßstab und höchstes Ideal sollten doch alle gläubigen Eheleute diesen kostbaren Vergleich im Herzen tragen. Das erbitte ich euch durch mein Gebet und meinen Segen.

* * *

Einen besonderen Gruß richte ich an die vereinigten Kirchenchöre der Region Trier. Ich danke euch für das Geschenk eures Gesanges, das ihr uns allen hier bei dieser Audienz macht. Vor allem aber möchte ich von Herzen anerkennen, was ihr in euren Heimatgemeinden für die musikalische Gestaltung der Gottesdienste tut. Dabei will ich auch nicht unerwähnt lassen, was eure Familien-angehörigen an Opfer und Rucksichtnahme für euren liturgischen Dienst aufbringen. Gott lohne es euch!

Ai fedeli di lingua spagnola

Amadísimos hermanos y hermanas,

Saludo cordialmente y doy la bienvenida a esta Audiencia a los peregrinos de lengua española, procedentes de diversos Países.

En las reflexiones anteriores sobre la Carta a los Efesios, nos hemos referido a la analogía de la relación que existe entre Cristo y la Iglesia, y la que hay entre el esposo y la esposa.

Como complemento de esta misma analogía paulina, encontramos otra referente a la analogía de la Cabeza y el Cuerpo, la cual da un significado eclesiológico al tema tratado sobre el matrimonio.

Cabeza y cuerpo constituyen un organismo, una persona humana, un ser. Por ello, aunque dentro del matrimonio, según la expresión bíblica, “los dos formen una sola carne”, tal analogía no oscurece la individualidad de los sujetos, marido y mujer, que encuentran su realización plena en el amor de donación mutua.

El amor de Cristo a la Iglesia tiene como finalidad esencial su santificación, en cuyo comienzo está el bautismo. De este modo la realidad sacramental ilumina con una particular luz sobrenatural la unión de Cristo con la Iglesia, así como la unión esponsal del hombre y la mujer.

Un saludo muy cordial al grupo de sacerdotes provenientes de España que celebran sus XXV años de ordenación.

Doy gracias a Dios con vosotros, queridos hermanos, por el don inestimable de vuestro sacerdocio. Renovad cada día la gracia que está en vosotros por la imposición de las manos y vivid con alegría la entrega a la Iglesia. Os bendigo con afecto, junto con vuestros familiares.

Saludo también y bendigo al grupo de la Obra de Ejercicios de Pamplona, animándoles a amar y difundir los valores de espíritu.

A todos los aquí presentes de lengua española imparto con afecto mi Bendición Apostólica.

Ai fedeli di lingua portoghese

Caríssimos peregrinos e ouvintes de língua portuguesa: com a minha saudação cordial, os meus votos das melhores felicidades em Cristo!

Continuamos a reflectir sobre o amor humano dos esposos, à luz dos ensinamentos do capítulo quinto da Epístola aos Efésios. Supondo a analogia principal, hoje detemo-nos noutra comparação suplementar, usada com o mesmo fim: realçar o amor de Cristo para com a Igreja e fazer ver as características e imperativos do amor conjugal.

Trata-se da analogia da relação existente entre a Cabeça, que se personifica em Cristo, e o seu Corpo, que é a Igreja; e diz-se que também no matrimónio o homem é cabeça da mulher; e a mulher, por seu turno, é corpo do homem. A necessária união mútua da cabeça com o corpo, a sustentar a harmonia da pessoa humana na sua integridade, é o termo de comparação para a relação de amor daqueles que se unem para “formar uma só carne”.

Nesta analogia não fica obscurecida a individualidade das pessoas, com a própria subjectividade; como no caso de Cristo, Cabeça da sua Igreja, Ele continua distinto, após ter-se unido a ela, com amor redentor e esponsal, para a “tornar santa”. Tal a purificação” ou santificação da Igreja começa no Baptismo, início de uma nova vida com Deus em amor, pelo qual cada pessoa, por Cristo, se torna participante, no tempo e numa perspectiva escatológica, do eterno amor de Deus para com o homem, integrada na única Igreja santa.

Ad un gruppo di fedeli ungheresi

Dall’Ungheria provengono dei pellegrini della parrocchia di Szajolad. Essi portano il loro crocifisso, che usano a casa nelle processioni solenni.

Custodite e consegnate agli altri la fede cristiana nello spirito di santo Stefano re, che or ora avete festeggiato. Con la mia benedizione apostolica.

La preghiera alla Madonna di Jasna Góra

Jutro uroczystość Matki Bożej na Jasnej Górze.

Uroczystośćszczgólna, bo związana z sześćsetna rocznicą obecności Jasnogórskiej Ikony na tym miejscu wybranym przez Opatrzność i uświęconym przez Tego, który jest Panem dziejów.

W tym Wizerunku przedziwnym rozpoznajemy Znak Bożej Tajemnicy objawionej synom i córkom całej ludzkiej rodziny w Jezusie Chrystusie.

W tym Wizerunku spotykamy Matkę, którą Syn - spełniając na Kalwarii Wolę Ojca - oddał jako matkę ludziom.

Historia ludzi - i historia ludów - związała się z tą Matką.

Wizerunek Jasnogórski jest trwałym wyrazem tego, jak historia naszego Narodu związała się z Matką Boga - i trwale z Nią się wiąże.

W przeddzie jutrzejszego święta pragnę duchem przyzwać tych wszystkich synów i córki naszej Ojczyzny, którzy mieli jakikolwiek udział w tym Sześćsetleciu.

W sposób szczególny zapraszam na tę wigilię: błogosławioną Królową Jadwigę, której czas panowania na polskim tronie zbiega się z początkami Jasnej Góry, ojca Augustyna Kordeckiego, który bronił Sanktuarium i obrazu jasnogórskiego w czasie “potopu” w XVII wieku, Kardynała Stefana Wyszyńskiego, zmarłego przed rokiem Prymasa Polski, który wraz z całym Episkopatem przygotowywał Kościół w Polsce do jubileuszu Sześćsetlecia.

Wraz z nimi wszystkimi - i z wami, drodzy Rodacy, stawiam się na apel jasnogórski w dzisieiszy wieczór - i powtarzam:

Maryjo, Królowo Polski, jestem przy Tobie, pamiętam, czuwam!

Ed ecco la preghiera del Papa in una nostra traduzione italiana.

Domani ricorre la solennità della Madre di Dio a Jasna Góra.

È una solennità speciale perché è collegata col 600° anniversario della presenza dell’Icona di Jasna Góra in questo luogo scelto dalla Provvidenza e santificato da Colui che è il Signore della storia.

In questa Effigie meravigliosa riconosciamo il Segno del Mistero di Dio, rivelato ai figli e alle figlie dell’intera famiglia umana in Gesù Cristo.

In questa Effigie incontriamo la Madre che il Figlio - compiendo sul Calvario la volontà del Padre - rese Madre di tutti gli uomini.

La storia degli uomini - e la storia dei popoli - si è legata con questa Madre.

L’Effigie di Jasna Góra è una permanente espressione di come la storia della nostra Nazione si è collegata con la Madre di Dio, e costantemente si collega con essa.

Alla vigilia di questa festa, desidero rievocare in spirito tutti i figli e le figlie della nostra Patria che hanno avuto parte in questi 600 anni. In modo particolare invito a questa vigilia:

La beata Edvige, Regina, il cui regno sul trono della Polonia coincide con gli inizi di Jasna Góra,

il Padre Agostino Kordecki, che ha difeso il Santuario e l’immagine di Jasna Góra ai tempi del “diluvio” nel XVII secolo,

il Cardinale Stefano Wyszynski, Primate della Polonia, morto un anno fa, che insieme con tutto l’Episcopato polacco ha preparato la Chiesa in Polonia al giubileo dei 600 anni.

Insieme con tutti loro e con voi, cari connazionali, mi presento all’appello di Jasna Góra questa sera e ripeto:

Maria, Regina della Polonia, sono vicino a te, mi ricordo di te, veglio!

Ai gruppi italiani

Rivolgo ora un saluto particolare a tre gruppi di suore, le quali in questi giorni si sono riunite per i loro rispettivi Capitoli Generali. Esse appartengono alle Congregazioni religiose rispettivamente delle Orsoline di Maria Vergine Immacolata di Gandino, del Sacro Cuore del Verbo Incarnato e delle Suore Francescane Alcantarine.

Carissime, sono lieto di esprimere a voi e a tutte le vostre consorelle il mio apprezzamento per il generoso servizio che voi rendete alla Chiesa ed alla società nei vari campi educativi, assistenziali e delle missioni, secondo lo spirito proprio delle vostre comunità religiose. Nella preghiera e nella riflessione di questi giorni, procurate di dare un nuovo e più efficace impulso alla vitalità e al carisma originario dei vostri Istituti, e siate consapevoli che la vostra consacrazione a Dio, oggi più che mai, deve essere vissuta nella sua integrità e nelle sue più profonde esigenze. Da parte mia, vi assicuro di seguirvi con le mie preghiere, che ora desidero avvalorare con una speciale benedizione.

* * *

Indirizzo poi un saluto particolarmente affettuoso ai giovani presenti all’Udienza. Sono molto lieto di vedervi e di sentire le vostre voci e le vostre acclamazioni! Vi auguro tanta gioia e serenità nel Signore e vi esorto a vivere con ferma fede cristiana e con ardente bontà verso tutti, ricordando ciò che diceva Pier Giorgio Frassati, un giovane allegro e fervoroso, che dal cielo è vostro modello e vostro amico: “Con la carità si semina negli uomini la pace... La vera pace che solo la fede in Cristo ci può dare, affratellandoci” (Pier Giorgio Frassati, Appunti per un discorso).

* * *

Anche a voi, carissimi malati, giunga la mia parola affettuosa e cordiale. Il vostro posto, lo sapete, è molto importante e privilegiato nel disegno della Provvidenza e nell’intera vita della Chiesa. Ricordate le commoventi parole di san Giovanni: “Noi abbiamo conosciuto e creduto all’amore che Dio ha per noi. Dio è amore e chi dimora nell’amore, dimora in Dio e Dio dimora in lui” (1 Gv 4, 16). Questa è la verità che veramente può consolare e sublimare la vostra sofferenza.

* * *

Infine l’ultimo speciale saluto lo riservo agli sposi novelli, che, in visita a Roma, hanno voluto incontrarsi con il Papa e ricevere la sua benedizione. Vi ringrazio per questo gesto di ossequio e di fede e vi auguro la felicità e la gioia che provengono dall’amore fedele e sacrificato. Ricordate ciò che disse Giovanni Paolo I, appena eletto al Soglio Pontificio? “Amare significa viaggiare, significa correre con il cuore verso l’oggetto amato”; e soggiungeva: “Amare Dio è un viaggiare col cuore verso Dio”. Viaggiate anche voi insieme, verso Dio e verso i fratelli! Con la mia preghiera e la mia benedizione!

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