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123. The Power of Love Is Given to Man and Woman as a Share in God's Love
By Pope John Paul II

 

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). In it, the spiritual joy (Augustine's "enjoyment") of every authentic value is expressed. It is a joy like that of the Creator himself, who in the beginning saw that everything "was very good" (Gn 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 that conjugal dialogue, is had 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 reason toward every true good. And therefore its role consists in safeguarding the inseparable connection between the "two meanings of the conjugal act," which the encyclical deals with (HV 12). That is, it concerns 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 in dealing with the question neither the conciliar constitution nor the encyclical use the language at one time customary, they nonetheless deal with what the traditional expressions refer to.

 

As a higher power that the man and the woman receive from God along with the particular "consecration" of the sacrament of marriage, love 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. Love is 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 we 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, 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 the threefold concupiscence (cf. 1 Jn 2:16), especially with the concupiscence of the flesh which distorts the truth of the language of the body. 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 (cf. 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 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.

 

We will take up this analysis during the upcoming Wednesday reflections.

 

Source: L'Osservatore Romano

124. Continence Protects the Dignity of the Conjugal Act - 10.24.1984

 

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