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Marriage Is the Central Point of the Sacrament of Creation

97 (of 129) - Catechesis by John Paul II on the Theology of the Body
General Audience, Wednesday 6 October 1982 - in Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"1. We continue the analysis of the classic text of the Letter to the Ephesians, 5:21-33. For this purpose it is necessary to quote some phrases contained in one of the preceding analyses devoted to this theme: "Man appears in the visible world as the highest expression of the divine gift, because he bears within himself the interior dimension of the gift. With it he brings into the world his particular likeness to God, whereby he transcends and dominates also his 'visibility' in the world, his corporality, his masculinity or femininity, his nakedness. Resulting from this likeness there is also the primordial awareness of the conjugal significance of the body, pervaded by the mystery of original innocence" (L'amore umano nel piano divino, Citta del Vaticano, 1980, p. 90). These phrases sum up in a few words the result of the analyses devoted to the first chapters of Genesis, in relation to the words with which Christ, in his conversation with the Pharisees on the subject of marriage and its indissolubility, referred to the "beginning." Other phrases of the same analysis pose the problem of the primordial sacrament: "Thus, in this dimension, there is constituted a primordial sacrament, understood as a sign which effectively transmits in the visible world the invisible mystery hidden from eternity in God. This is the mystery of truth and love, the mystery of the divine life in which man really shares.... It is the original innocence which initiates this participation..." (ibid., p. 90).

2. It is necessary to look again at the content of these statements in the light of the Pauline doctrine expressed in the Letter to the Ephesians, bearing in mind especially the passage of chapter 5, verses 21-33, situated in the overall context of the entire letter. In any event, the letter authorizes us to do this, because the author himself referred to the "beginning," and precisely to the words of the institution of marriage in Genesis (Eph 5:31; cf. Gn 2:24). In what sense can we see in these words a statement about the sacrament, about the primordial sacrament? The previous analyses of the biblical "beginning" have led us gradually to this, in consideration of the state of the original endowment of man in existence and in grace, which was the state of innocence and original justice. The Letter to the Ephesians leads us to approach this situation—that is, the state of man before original sin—from the point of view of the mystery hidden in God from eternity. In fact, we read in the first phrases of the letter that "God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ...has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. He chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him" (Eph 1:3-4).

3. The Letter to the Ephesians opens up before us the supernatural world of the eternal mystery, of the eternal plans of God the Father concerning man. These plans precede the creation of the world, and therefore also the creation of man. At the same time those divine plans begin to be put into effect already in the entire reality of creation. If also the state of original innocence of man, created as male and female in the likeness of God, pertains to the mystery of creation, this implies that the primordial gift conferred on man by God already includes within itself the fruit of having been chosen, which we read of in the Letter to the Ephesians: "He chose us...that we should be holy and blameless before him" (Eph 1:4). This indeed seems to be indicated by the words of Genesis, when the Creator-Elohim finds in man—male and female—who appeared before him, a good worthy of gratification: "God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good" (Gn 1:31). Only after sin, after breaking the original covenant with the Creator, man feels the need to hide himself "from the Lord God." "I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself" (Gn 3:10).

4. On the contrary, before sin, man bore in his soul the fruit of eternal election in Christ, the eternal Son of the Father. By means of the grace of this election man, male and female, was "holy and blameless" before God. That primordial (or original) holiness and purity were expressed also in the fact that, although both were "naked, they were not ashamed" (Gn 2:25), as we have sought to make evident in the previous analyses. Comparing the testimony of the "beginning" found in the first chapters of Genesis, with the testimony of the Letter to the Ephesians, one must deduce that the reality of man's creation was already imbued by the perennial election of man in Christ. Man is called to sanctity through the grace of the adoption as sons. "He destined us to be his sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace which he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved" (Eph 1:5-6).

5. Man, male and female, shared from the beginning in this supernatural gift. This bounty was granted in consideration of him, who from eternity was beloved as Son, even though—according to the dimensions of time and history—it had preceded the Incarnation of this beloved Son and also the redemption which we have in him through his blood (cf. Eph 1:7).

The redemption was to become the source of man's supernatural endowment after sin and, in a certain sense, in spite of sin. This supernatural endowment, which took place before original sin, that is, the grace of justice and original innocence—an endowment which was the fruit of man's election in Christ before the ages—was accomplished precisely in reference to him, to the beloved One, while anticipating chronologically his coming in the body. In the dimensions of the mystery of creation the election to the dignity of adopted sonship was proper only to the first Adam, that is, to the man created in the image and likeness of God, male and female.

6. In what way is the reality of the sacrament, of the primordial sacrament, verified in this context? In the analysis of the beginning, from which we quoted a passage a short time ago, we said that "the sacrament, as a visible sign, is constituted by man inasmuch as he is a 'body,' through his visible masculinity and femininity. The body, in fact, and only it, is capable of making visible what is invisible: the spiritual and the divine. It was created to transfer into the visible reality of the world the mystery hidden from eternity in God, and thus to be its sign" (loc. cit., p. 90).

This sign has besides an efficacy of its own, as I also said: "Original innocence linked to the experience of the conjugal significance of the body" has as its effect "that man feels himself, in his body as male and female, the subject of holiness" (Ibid., p. 91). He feels himself such and he is such from the beginning. That holiness which the Creator conferred originally on man pertains to the reality of the "sacrament of creation." The words of Genesis 2:24, "A man...cleaves to his wife and they become one flesh," spoken in the context of this original reality in a theological sense, constitute marriage as an integral part and, in a certain sense, a central part of the "sacrament of creation." They constitute—or perhaps rather they simply confirm—the character of its origin. According to these words, marriage is a sacrament inasmuch as it is an integral part and, I would say, the central point of "the sacrament of creation." In this sense it is the primordial sacrament.

7. The institution of marriage,  according to the words of Genesis 2:24, expresses the beginning of the fundamental human community which through the "procreative" power that is proper to it serves to continue the work of creation. "Be fruitful and multiply" (Gn 1:28). Not only this, it expresses at the same time the salvific initiative of the Creator, corresponding to the eternal election of man, which the Letter to the Ephesians speaks of. That salvific initiative comes from God-Creator and its supernatural efficacy is identified with the very act of man's creation in the state of original innocence. In this state, already in the act of man's creation, his eternal election in Christ fructified. In this way one must recognize that the original sacrament of creation draws its efficacy from the beloved Son (cf. Eph 1:6 where it speaks of the "grace which he gave us in his beloved Son"). If then it treats of marriage, one can deduce that—instituted in the context of the sacrament of creation in its globality, that is, in the state of original innocence—it should serve not only to prolong the work of creation, that is, of procreation. But it should also serve to extend to further generations of men the same sacrament of creation, that is, the supernatural fruits of man's eternal election on the part of the Father in the eternal Son—those fruits which man was endowed with by God in the very act of creation.

The Letter to the Ephesians seems to authorize us to interpret Genesis in this way, and the truth about the "beginning" of man and of marriage contained therein."

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

Ai pellegrini di espressione tedesca

Liebe Brüder und Schwestern!

Ich freue mich über eure zahlreiche Teilnahme an dieser Audienz und grüße euch alle herzlich. Gott segne euren Romaufenthalt und schenke euch frohe und auch geistlich erlebnisreiche Tage.

Wir erörtern in unseren wöchentlichen Überlegungen weiterhin die Lehre der Heiligen Schrift über die Ehe. Die menschliche Ehe ist grundgelegt in der Erschaffung von Mann und Frau, von denen der Schöpfungsbericht sagt, daß sie sich miteinander vereinen und zu einem Fleisch werden (Cfr. Gen. 2, 24). Im Stand der ursprünglichen Unschuld war das erste Menschenpaar zugleich begnadet mit der übernatürlichen Gotteskindschaft. Sie hatten schon Anteil an der Erwählung, die Gott nach dem Epheserbrief vor der Erschaffung der Welt auf Christus hin getroffen hatte. Dadurch wurden sie befähigt, ”heilig und untadelig zu leben vor Gott“ (Eph. 1, 4). Ihre Erschaffung ist von Anfang an geprägt von der göttlichen Bestimmung, ”seine Söhne zu werden durch Jesus Christus“ (Ibid. 1, 5).

Diese ursprüngliche übernatürliche Begnadung des Menschen durch den Schöpfer um Christi willen gehört zur Wirklichkeit, die wir dar ”Sakrament der Schöpfung “nennen können. In diese Schöpfungswirklichkeit eingebettet ist die eheliche Zuordnung von Mann und Frau, wodurch die Ehe selbst zum Sakrament wird.

Sehr herzlich begrüße ich bei der heutigen Audienz die Teilnehmer am internationalen Symposium über die ”christliche Konzeption der Weltwirtschaftsordnung“, das zur Zeit in der Päpstlichen Universität Urbaniana stattfindet. Mit großer Aufmerksamkeit verfolge ich Ihre Überlegungen zu jener drängenden Frage, die für Millionen von Menschen lebenswichtig geworden ist: Wie können in den verschiedenen Ländern die menschliche Arbeit, die Wirtschaft und der Handel so organisiert werden, daß die begrenzten Güter dieser Welt möglichst gut genutzt werden, daß sie zugleich möglichst gerecht auf alle verteilt werden und daß dabei in einer ausgewogenen Wirtschaftordnung die Würde des Menschen in hohem Maße sichergestellt ist? Dieses weltweite Problem verdient Ihren ganzen Einsatz als katholische Sozialwissenschaftler und Experten auf dem gesellschaftspolitischen Gebiet. Als Christen erfüllen Sie damit ein spezielles Apostolat, dem der besondere Beistand des Heiligen Geistes gewiß nicht fehlen wird. Ich begleite Ihr Symposium und Ihre weiteren Arbeiten mit meinem Gebet und Segen.

* * *

Eine besondere Freude ist mir ferner der Romaufenthalt von zwanzig Priesterstudenten aus den Ländern Skandinaviens. Nützt, liebe, junge Freunde, diese Tage im Zentrum der katholischen Christenheit, um jene Fülle und Vielfalt zu erfahren, in welcher sich die eine Kirche Jesu Christi entfaltet. Alle Völker und Kulturen können darin ihre eigensten Werte einbringen und einander zum Geschenk machen. Gott segne euren Weg zum Priestertum!

* * *

In froher Erinnerung an meinen Aufenthalt in Fulda begrüße ich noch den dortigen Kinderchor der ”Rhön-Lerchen“. So wie ihr mit eurem Singen der Andacht und Freude eurer Hörer dient, so mögt ihr auch selbst durch euer Singen froh und fromm werden. Danke für euren Besuch und für eure Lieder!

Euch und allen hier anwesenden Besuchern erteile ich von Herzen den Apostolischen Segen.

Ai fedeli di lingua francese

A la lumière des premiers chapitres de la Bible, nous savons que l’être humain, homme et femme, être corporel, visible, a été créé à l’image de Dieu, pour être le signe visible de la vie divine à laquelle il participait dès le début dans l’état d’innocence qui était le sien.

Dans le nouveau Testament, la lettre aux Ephésiens - en parlant des époux chrétiens en camparaison avec le Christ qui a aimé l’Eglise et s’est livré pour elle - se réfère doublement au dessein de Dieu sur l’homme et la femme dès l’origine. D’abord pour ce qui concerne leur union, leur amour mutuel, leur œuvre procréatrice: “L’homme s’attachera à sa femme, et ils seront deux en une seule chair”. Plus encore, au début de la lettre, l’auteur se réfère au projet originel de Dieu sur l’homme et la femme en ce qui concerne leur vocation à être saints et immaculés en sa présence parce que choisis et adoptés comme fils dès avant la création, en rapport avec l’œuvre salvifique du Christ, le Fils Bien-Aimé, qui permettrait cette élection. Ainsi, on pourrait parler du “sacrement de la création”, avant la chute, en ce sens que la création de l’homme et de la femme devait rendre visible en ce monde l’amour invisible de Dieu, le Don de Dieu, et permettre de multiplier cette grâce de l’adoption en l’étendant à tous leurs descendants. Le sacrement du mariage dans la nouvelle alliance se relie ainsi à ce “sacrement originaire”.

En vous livrant cette méditation, et en vous invitant à l’action de grâce pour un si grand mystère, je salue cordialement tous les pèlerins présents à cette audience: les prêtres, les religieux et religieuses, les familles, les époux, les jeunes et les anciens, qui ont été à l’honneur cette semaine, et je les bénis de tout cœur.

Ai fedeli di espressione inglese

Dear brothers and sisters,

In our reflections on the sacrament of marriage we have been analyzing a text of the Letter to the Ephesians, which compares the love of Christ for his Church to the conjugal love between husband and wife.

Besides making this comparison, the Epistle also sheds light on the eternal plan of God the Father for man. This plan precedes not only the creation of man but also the creation of the world. This plan includes the state of the original innocence of man, who in the beginning was created as male and female, to the image of God. Before sin entered the world, man was chosen in Christ, as male and female, to the holy and pure in the sight of God. The reality of creation was already permeated by the call to holiness. From the beginning, man was called, as male and female, to receive the supernatural gift of becoming children of God.

Man’s original innocence was so linked to the experience of the sponsal nature of the body that he perceived himself to be the subject of holiness. In his or her masculinity, as created by God, the human person was, and is, the subject of holiness.

And it is in this sense that we speak of marriage as the first sacrament, “the sacrament of creation”.

With gratitude for your presence, I wish to extend cordial greetings to all of you, the English-speaking visitors present here today.

* * *

I offer a particular word of welcome to the Saint Pancras Choir from Brooklyn and to the members of the television program “That the Spirit”. Each of you, in your own way, is in an excellent position to contribute to the Church’s life, either by fostering liturgical worship or by promoting religious education through the media. Strive always to have a keen sense of mission in the Church.

* * *

My special encouragement goes to the Religious who are here, including the Daughter of Saint Paul from Japan and the members of the General Chapter of the Missionary Benedictine Sisters of Tutzing. Remember, dear Sisters, that by keeping alive the ideals of religious life - especially in its central aspect of consecration to the person of our Lord Jesus Christ - you can offer an incomparable gift to the Church and to all society Christ counts on your contribution, on your fidelity, on your love.

Ai pellegrini di lingua spagnola

Amadísimos hermanos y hermanas,

Saludo con afecto y doy la bienvenida a esta Audiencia a las personas, familias y grupos de lengua española, venidos de España y de varios Países de América Latina.

Continuamos con el análisis del capítulo quinto de la Carta a los Efesios. A este propósito conviene recordar algo de lo que dijimos anteriormente sobre los primeros capítulos del Génesis: El hombre es, en efecto, la más alta expresión del don divino en el mundo. Tiene una particular semejanza con Dios, con la cual él trasciende y domina su aspecto visible. Un reflejo de esta semejanza es la conciencia del significado esponsal del cuerpo, en cuya dimensión se constituye un sacramento primordial.

La realidad de la creación del hombre estaba ya marcada por su perenne elección en Cristo; es la llamada a la santidad mediante la gracia de adopción como hijos. Tal realidad constituye el matrimonio-sacramento en cuanto parte integrante y central del “sacramento de la creación”.

La institución del matrimonio, según el Génesis, expresa no solamente el inicio de la comunidad humana fundamental, mediante la propia fuerza “procreadora”, sino que manifiesta también la iniciativa salvífica del Creador en la elección eterna del hombre.

Un cordial saludo también al grupo procedente da Villa Martín. Seguid pidiendo, queridos hermanos y hermanas, como sé que estáis haciendo, por el éxito pastoral de mi próximo viaje a España.

Os doy mi Bendición, que extiendo a todos los grupos y personas de lengua española presentes en este encuentro.

Ai fedeli di espressione portoghese

Saúdo agora afectuosamente os peregrinos e ouvintes de língua portuguesa!

Com as boas-vindas, desejo transmitir-vos um pensamento acerca do plano eterno de Deus para com o homem. São Paulo, na carta aos Efésios, diz que este plano precede a criação. Nele se inclui a inocência originária do homem, criado como varão e mulher, à semelhança de Deus, para ser santo e imaculado diante dele. A própria realidade da criação está pois permeada pela adopção do homem em Cristo. A redenção, realizada mediante o sangue, torna-se a fonte de gratificação sobrenatural do homem depois do pecado.

O corpo humano, através do matrimónio, destina-se a tornar visível o invisível. Traz para a realidade do mundo o mistério escondido desde a eternidade em Deus. Neste sentido o matrimónio faz parte integrante e, até se poderia dizer, central do sacramento da criação.

Para que possais viver intensamente este mistério do amor de Deus, por intercessão de Nossa Senhora do Rosário, dou-vos a minha Bênção.

A due pellegrinaggi provenienti dalla Lettonia e dalla missione di Darmstadt, in Germania

Amati lettoni, con il cuore pieno di gioia vi saluto in Roma presso la tomba di san Pietro. Io prego per la Lettonia ogni giorno. Che la Regina della Terra Mariana protegga e custodisca voi, le vostre famiglie, il vostro popolo e la vostra Terra.

La benedizione apostolica, data con tutta la benevolenza paterna, accompagna questi miei voti.

Ai giovani di origine croata

Sia lodato Gesù e Maria!

Cari miei giovani Croati!

Saluto i Croati della missione di Darmstadt, Germania, vincitori quest’anno della Olimpiade d’istruzione religiosa. Lontani dalla patria, voi, con la vostra vittoria avete dato un bel contributo alla celebrazione dell’anno di san Francesco tra gli operai croati nella Germania Federale. La figura di san Francesco sia per voi modello della vostra vita, e la Bibbia una continua ispirazione per la vostra vita spirituale. A voi e a tutti i Croati sparsi nel mondo la mia apostolica benedizione.

Ai fedeli polacchi

Drodzy moi Rodacy!

Na pocsątku pażdziernika klękam przed Matką Jasnogórską z różańcem w ręku. I spotykam się z wami przy różańcu.

Mówimy sąowa najprostsze, które nigdy się nie przedawniają, gdyż jest w nich zdumiewająca głębia “pozdrowienia anielskiego”. Rozmawia Stwórca ze stworzeniem, Ojciec Przedwieczny z Niepokalaną Dziewicą. Rozmowa ta ustanawia rzeczywistość Tajemnicy Wcielenia - a równocześnie przesądza o godności, jaką ma człowiek: wobec wiekuistego Boga - i wobec całej ziemskiej historii.

Przed niedawnym czasem tak mówił arcybiskup krakowski i kardynał:

“Pragniemy, aby powrócił czas rozmowy i niczego nie zaniedbujemy na to, aby on mógł powrócić, niczego nie zaniedbujemy na to, aby nie zginęło nic z tego, co wielkie, sprawiedliwe - co powstało w ostatnich dwóch latach, dzięki czemu dziś czujemy się bardziej gospodarzami tej ziemi niż dawniej”.

Musimy się, drodzy Bracia i Siostry, mocno związać Różańcem, ażeby nic z tego w nas nie zginęło.

Musimy się bardzo związać modlitwą, ażeby człowiek, każdy człowiek, a wraz z człowiekiem cały Naród, utrzymał tę godność, jaka wyrasta w całym jego życiu przede wszystkim poprzez rozmowę z Bogiem.

Wzywa nas do tego w sposób szczególny “Rycerz Niepokalanej” i Męczennik z Oświęcimia, który w najbliższą niedzielę dostępuje chwały ołtarzy w Kościele Bożym.

Delle parole del Papa diamo qui di seguito la nostra traduzione italiana.

Cari miei Connazionali!

All’inizio del mese di ottobre mi inginocchio dinanzi alla Madre di Jasna Góra col Rosario in mano, e mi incontro con voi nel Rosario.

Diciamo le parole più semplici che mai vanno in prescrizione perché in esse vi è la stupenda profondità del “saluto angelico”. Il Creatore parla con il creato; il Padre Eterno con la Vergine Immacolata. Questo colloquio stabilisce la realtà del mistero dell’Immacolata - e nello stesso tempo decide della dignità che l’uomo ha: dinanzi a Dio eterno - e dinanzi a tutta la storia terrena.

Non molto tempo fa, il Cardinale Arcivescovo di Cracovia disse: “Desideriamo che ritorni il tempo del colloquio e non trascuriamo niente perché esso possa tornare; non trascuriamo nulla perché non vada perduto alcunché di quello che è grande e giusto, di quello che è nato nel corso dei due ultimi anni, e grazie al quale oggi ci sentiamo più che mai padroni di questa terra”.

Dobbiamo quindi, cari fratelli e sorelle, legarci fortemente con il Rosario perché non vada perduto in noi nulla.

Dobbiamo legarci molto alla preghiera perché l’uomo, ogni uomo, e insieme a lui l’intera Nazione, ottenga quella dignità che fiorisce in tutta la sua vita soprattutto mediante il colloquio con Dio.

Ci invita a ciò, in modo particolare, il “Milite dell’Immacolata” e Martire dell’Oswiecim che domenica prossima sarà elevato alla gloria degli altari nella Chiesa di Dio.

Ad alcuni gruppi italiani

Un cordiale saluto desidero rivolgere al gruppo di pellegrini dell’Agordino, terra natale del mio indimenticabile predecessore, Papa Giovanni Paolo I, i quali sono venuti a Roma per ricordare il loro caro e illustre conterraneo e per pregare sulla sua tomba.

A voi, carissimi fratelli, il mio vivo compiacimento per questo vostro delicato gesto e l’auspicio che conserviate sempre quella fede cristiana, limpida e forte, che è la grande eredità spirituale della vostra Regione.

* * *

Sono presenti a questa Udienza dei Missionari - sacerdoti, religiosi, religiose, laici - che si stanno preparando, nella preghiera e nella riflessione, a partire per l’Africa.

È con sincera emozione che vi rivolgo il mio affettuoso saluto, unito alla mia preghiera, perché le vostre fatiche e i vostri sacrifici per la diffusione del Vangelo siano accolti dal Signore e contribuiscano a far produrre frutti di grazia.

* * *

Il mio saluto si rivolge anche ai rappresentanti della Sezione di Pescara e dell’“Associazione Italiana contro le Leucemie”.

A voi ed ai vostri familiari presenti va il mio augurio perché possiate trascorrere una vita serena, confortata ed animata dalla fede in Gesù Cristo.

A tutti i menzionati gruppi la mia benedizione apostolica, che vuol confermare i miei voti augurali.

* * *

Il mio saluto vuole andare ora ai giovani qui presenti, e mi è suggerito dalla festa della Madonna del santo Rosario, che ricorre domani.

Vorrei chiedere: amate voi il Rosario, cari giovani? Esso è una devozione tanto cara a Maria, è una preghiera molto raccomandabile per crescere nella virtù e nella pratica della vita cristiana. Per questo, desidero esortarvi ad amarla ed a farne uso frequente, a nutrimento della vostra spiritualità.

* * *

E che dire del santo Rosario e del peculiare valore che esso ha per voi, cari ammalati? Quale dolce consolazione è questo intimo e filiale colloquio con Maria, nelle ore della solitudine, dell’angoscia, della desolazione! Vicino a Maria - voi lo sapete bene - ogni croce diventa leggera, e le stesse sofferenze diventano fonte di merito. Anche per voi, cari Sposi novelli, è necessaria e spiritualmente assai utile la protezione materna della Vergine, invocata sotto il titolo di Regina del santo Rosario. Anche a voi, pertanto, desidero rivolgere, col mio saluto, una parola di speciale esortazione a conferma dell’uso di questa pia pratica all’interno del focolare domestico, che avete da poco fondato. Darete così una dolce tonalità mariana al vostro amore di sposi cristiani.

Vi accompagni tutti la mia benedizione.

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