Blessed John Paul II on marriage

Parents of Karol Wojtyla
Pope John Paul II defines marriage in light of the Triune God as the primary point of understanding communion of persons. The self-giving and self-sacrifice that constitutes this communion of persons is not derived from the philosophy of Aristotle. Life long fidelity in marriage and openness to procreation are not derived from Aristotle, but from the covenantal relationship between the husband and wife. The highest purpose for procreation, according to Aristotle, is to perpetuate the species as an imitation of the eternal being of the separate substance: in De Anima Aristotle said, “the most natural act is the production of another like itself, an animal producing an animal, a plant a plant, in order that, as far as its nature allows, it may partake in the eternal and divine. . . . Since then no living thing is able to partake in what is eternal and divine by uninterrupted continuance (for nothing perishable can for ever remain one and the same), it tries to achieve that end in the only way possible to it,  . . . so it remains not indeed as the self-same individual but continues its existence in something like itself-not numerically but specifically one.”
John Paul II discovers the authentic meaning of the sexual union of male and female, neither in sheer perpetuation of the species (as in Aristotle), nor the expression of personal affection or self-identity (as in contemporary liberalism), but in self-giving and communion.
Here is his definition in Familiaris consortio:

God created man in His own image and likeness: calling him to existence through love, He called him at the same time for love. God is love and in Himself He lives a mystery of personal loving communion. Creating the human race in His own image and continually keeping it in being, God inscribed in the humanity of man and woman the vocation, and thus the capacity and responsibility, of love and communion. Love is therefore the fundamental and innate vocation of every human being.

As an incarnate spirit, that is a soul which expresses itself in a body and a body informed by an immortal spirit, man is called to love in his unified totality. Love includes the human body, and the body is made a sharer in spiritual love.

Consequently, sexuality, by means of which man and woman give themselves to one another through the acts which are proper and exclusive to spouses, is by no means something purely biological, but concerns the innermost being of the human person as such. It is realized in a truly human way only if it is an integral part of the love by which a man and a woman commit themselves totally to one another until death. The total physical self-giving would be a lie if it were not the sign and fruit of a total personal self-giving, in which the whole person, including the temporal dimension, is present: if the person were to withhold something or reserve the possibility of deciding otherwise in the future, by this very fact he or she would not be giving totally.

This totality which is required by conjugal love also corresponds to the demands of responsible fertility. This fertility is directed to the generation of a human being, and so by its nature it surpasses the purely biological order and involves a whole series of personal values. For the harmonious growth of these values a persevering and unified contribution by both parents is necessary.

The only “place” in which this self-giving in its whole truth is made possible is marriage, the covenant of conjugal love freely and consciously chosen, whereby man and woman accept the intimate community of life and love willed by God Himself which only in this light manifests its true meaning. The institution of marriage is not an undue interference by society or authority, nor the extrinsic imposition of a form. Rather it is an interior requirement of the covenant of conjugal love which is publicly affirmed as unique and exclusive, in order to live in complete fidelity to the plan of God, the Creator. A person’s freedom, far from being restricted by this fidelity, is secured against every form of subjectivism or relativism and is made a sharer in creative Wisdom.  Familiaris consortio §11

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1 Comment
  1. I have been reading Wendell Berry's essay, "Sex, Economy, Freedom, and Community" an he seems to be of the same mind as Bl. JPII on the sacramental (he uses this term specifically) nature of marriage. Berry is a Protestant but there is much for ecumenical dialogue here. Given his commitment to a rightly ordered ecology I think one could even begin a dialogue on contraception (particularly artificial but not limited to that)from ecological standpoint, properly understood.

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