GENERAL AUDIENCE OF 4 JULY 
At the general audience in St Peter's Square on Wednesday morning,
4 July, Pope John Paul II continued his series of catechetical talks on
the theology of human love, basing his reflections on the biblical
reading from Ephesians 5:22, 24-25.
1. Today let us return to the classic text of the fifth chapter of
the Letter to the Ephesians, which reveals the eternal sources of the
covenant of the Father's love and at the same time the new and
definitive institution of that covenant in Jesus Christ.
This text brings us to such a dimension of the language of the body that
could be called mystical. It speaks of marriage as a great mystery"This
is a great mystery" (Eph 5:32). This mystery is fulfilled in the spousal
union of Christ the Redeemer with the Church, and of the Church-Spouse
with Christ ("I mean that it refers to Christ and the Church"
Eph 5:22), and it is definitively carried out in eschatological
dimensions. Nevertheless the author of the Letter to the Ephesians does
not hesitate to extend the analogy of Christ's union with the Church in
spousal love, outlined in such an absolute and eschatological way, to
the sacramental sign of the matrimonial pact between man and woman, who
"defer to one another out of reverence for Christ" (Eph 5:21). He does
not hesitate to extend that mystical analogy to the "language of the
body," reread in the truth of the spousal love and the conjugal
union of the two.
2. We must recognize the logic of this marvelous text which radically
frees our way of thinking from elements of Manichaeism or from a non-personalistic
consideration of the body. At the same time it brings the language of
the body, contained in the sacramental sign of matrimony, nearer to the
dimension of real sanctity.
The sacraments inject sanctity into the plan of man's humanity. They
penetrate the soul and body, the femininity and the masculinity of the
personal subject, with the power of sanctity. All of this is expressed
in the language of the liturgy. It is expressed there and brought about
The liturgy, liturgical language, elevates the conjugal pact
of man and woman, based on the language of the body reread in truth,
to the dimensions of mystery. At the same time it enables that pact
to be fulfilled in these dimensions through the language of the body.
It is precisely the sign of the sacrament of marriage that speaks of
this. In liturgical language this sign expresses an interpersonal event,
laden with intense personal content, assigned to the two "until death."
The sacramental sign signifies not only the fieri (the
birth of the marriagebut
builds its whole esse (its "being"), its duration, both the one
and the other as a sacred and sacramental reality, rooted in the
dimension of the covenant and gracein
the dimension of creation and redemption. In this way, the liturgical
language assigns to both, to the man and to the woman, love, fidelity
and conjugal honesty through the language of the body. It assigns them
the unity and the indissolubility of marriage in the language of the
body. It assigns them as a duty all the sacrum (holy) of the
person and of the communion of persons, and likewise their
femininity and masculinityprecisely
in this language.
Profound experience of the holy
3. In this sense we affirm that liturgical language becomes the
language of the body. This signifies a series of acts and duties which
form the spirituality of marriage, its ethos. In the daily
life of the spouses these acts become duties, and the duties become
acts. These actsas
also the commitmentsare
of a spiritual nature. Nevertheless, they are expressed at the same time
with the language of the body.
The author of the Letter to the Ephesians writes in this regard:
"Husbands should love their wives as they do their own bodies..." (Eph
5:28) ("as he loves himself"--Eph 5:33), and "the wife for her part
showing respect for her husband" (Eph 5:33). Both, for that matter, are
to "defer to one another out of reverence for Christ" (Eph 5:21).
The "language of the body," as an uninterrupted continuity of liturgical
language, is expressed not only as the attraction and mutual pleasure
of the Song of Songs, but also as a profound experience of the sacrum
(the holy). This seems to be infused in the very masculinity and
femininity through the dimension of the mysterium (mystery), the
mysterium magnum of the Letter to the Ephesians. This mystery
sinks its roots precisely in the beginning, that is, in the mystery of
the creation of man, male and female, in the image of God, called from
the beginning to be the visible sign of God's creative love.
4. So therefore that reverence for Christ and respect which the author
of the Letter to the Ephesians speaks of, is none other than a
spiritually mature form of that mutual attractionman's
attraction to femininity and woman's attraction to masculinity, which is
revealed for the first time in Genesis (Gn 2:23-25). Consequently, the
same attraction seems to flow like a wide stream through the verses of
the Song of Songs to find, under entirely different circumstances, its
concise and concentrated expression in the book of Tobit.
The spiritual maturity of this attraction is none other than the
blossoming of the gift of fearone
of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, which St. Paul speaks of in First
Thessalonians (cf. 1 Thes 4:4-7).
On the other hand, Paul's doctrine on chastity as "life according to the
Spirit" (cf. Rom 8:5) allows us (especially on the basis of First
Corinthians, chapter 6) to interpret that respect in a
charismatic sense, that is, as a gift of the Holy Spirit.
A virtue and a gift
5. The Letter to the Ephesians, in exhorting spouses to defer to each
other "out of reverence for Christ" (Eph 5:21), and in urging them,
consequently, to show respect in their conjugal relationship, seems to
keeping with Pauline traditionchastity
as a virtue and as a gift.
In this way, through the virtue and still more through the
gift ("life according to the Spirit") the mutual attraction
of masculinity and femininity spiritually matures. Both the man
and woman, getting away from concupiscence, find the proper dimension of
the freedom of the gift, united to femininity and masculinity in the
true spousal significance of the body.
Thus liturgical language, that is, the language of the sacrament and of
the mysterium, becomes in their life and in their living together
the language of the body in a depth, simplicity and beauty hitherto
Conjugal life becomes liturgical
6. This seems to be the integral significance of the
sacramental sign of marriage. In that signthrough
the language of the bodyman
and woman encounter the great mystery. This is in order to transfer the
light of that mysterythe
light of truth and beauty, expressed in liturgical languageto
the language of the body, that is, to the language of the practice of
love, fidelity, and conjugal honesty, to the ethos rooted in the
redemption of the body (cf. Rom 8:23). In this way, conjugal life
becomes in a certain sense liturgical.