The Power of Love Is Given to Man and Woman as a Share in God's Love

Author: Pope John Paul II


Pope John Paul II

General audience of October 10, 1984

1. We are continuing to outline the spirituality of married life in the light of the Encyclical "Humanae vitae".

According to the doctrine contained there, in conformity with biblical sources and all Tradition, LOVE, from the subjective viewpoint, is a POWER, that is, a capacity of the human soul, of a theological nature. It is therefore the power given to man in order to participate in that love with which God Himself loves in the mystery of creation and redemption. It is that love which "rejoices with the truth" (1 Cor 13:6), that is, in which there is expressed the spiritual joy (Augustine's "enjoyment") of every authentic value: a joy like that of the Creator Himself, who in the beginning saw that everything "was very good" (Gen 1:31).

If the powers of concupiscence try to detach the "language of the body" from the truth, that is, they try to falsify it, the power of love instead strengthens it ever anew in that truth, so that the mystery of the redemption of the body can bear fruit in it.

The Fullness of Good

2. Love itself—which makes possible and brings about conjugal dialogue according to the full truth of the life of the spouses—is at the same time a power or a capacity of a moral nature, actively oriented toward the fullness of good and for this very reason toward every true good. And therefore its role consists in safeguarding the inseparable connection between the "two meanings of the conjugal act," with which the encyclical deals (HV 12), that is to say, in protecting both the value of the true union of the couple (that is, the personal communion) and the value of responsible fatherhood and motherhood (in the form that is mature and worthy of man).

Love Coordinates

3. According to traditional language, love, as a higher power, coordinates the actions of the persons, the husband and the wife, in the sphere of the purposes of marriage. Although neither the conciliar constitution nor the encyclical, in dealing with the question, use the language at one time customary, they nonetheless deal with what the traditional expressions refer to.

Love, as a higher power that the man and the woman receive from God along with the particular "consecration" of the Sacrament of Marriage, involves a correct coordination of the purposes, according to which—in the traditional teaching of the Church—there is constituted the moral (or rather "theological and moral") order of the life of the couple.

The doctrine of the Constitution "Gaudium et spes", as well as that of the Encyclical "Humanae vitae," clarifies the same moral order in reference to love, understood as a higher power that confers adequate content and value to conjugal acts according to the truth of the two meanings, the unitive and the procreative, with respect for their inseparability.

In this renewed formulation the traditional teaching on the purposes of marriage (and their hierarchy) is reaffirmed and at the same time deepened from the viewpoint of the interior life of the spouses, that is, of conjugal and family spirituality.

4. The role of love, which is "poured out into [the] hearts" (Rom 5:5) of the spouses as the fundamental spiritual power of their conjugal pact, consists—as was said—in protecting both the value of the true communion of the spouses and the value of truly responsible fatherhood and motherhood. The power of love—authentic in the theological and ethical sense—is expressed in this, that love CORRECTLY UNITES "THE TWO MEANINGS OF THE CONJUGAL ACT," excluding not only in theory but above all in practice the "contradiction" that might be evidenced in this field. This "contradiction" is the most frequent reason for objecting to the Encyclical "Humanae vitae" and the teaching of the Church. There must be a well- examined analysis, and not only theological but also anthropological (we have tried to do this in the whole present reflection), to show that there is no need here to speak of "contradiction," but only of "difficulty."

Well then, the encyclical itself stresses this "difficulty" in various passages.

And this arises from the fact that the power of love is implanted in man lured by concupiscence: in human subjects love does battle with threefold concupiscence (cf. 1 Jn 2:16), in particular with the concupiscence of the flesh which distorts the truth of the "language of the body." And therefore love too is not able to be realized in the truth of the "language of the body" except through overcoming concupiscence.

Linked with Chastity

5. If the key element of the spirituality of spouses and parents— that essential "power" which spouses must continually draw from the sacramental "consecration"—is LOVE, this love, as it is seen from the text of the encyclical (HV 20), is by its nature linked with the chastity that is manifested as mastery over oneself, that is, continence: in particular, as periodic continence. In biblical language, the author of the letter to the Ephesians seems to allude to this when in his "classic" text he exhorts spouses to "defer to one another out of reverence for Christ" (Eph 5:21).

We can say that the Encyclical "Humanae vitae" constitutes precisely the development of this biblical truth about conjugal and family Christian spirituality. Nonetheless, to make it more manifest, there needs to be a deeper analysis of the virtue of continence and of its special significance for the truth of the mutual "language of the body" in married life and (indirectly) in the whole sphere of mutual relationships between man and woman.

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