The beauty of Christian marriage, which is not “simply the beauty of the ceremony that takes place in church, but rather the Sacrament made by the Church, giving rise to a new family community”, was the theme chosen by Pope Francis in the catechesis of this Wednesday’s general audience.
“It is what the apostle Paul summarizes in his famous expression: ‘This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the Church’. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Paul affirms that the love between spouses is the image of the love between Christ and the Church. An unimaginable dignity! But in reality it is inscribed in God’s plan of creation, and with Christ’s grace countless Christian couples, even with their limits, their sins, have achieved this”.
St. Paul, speaking of new life in Christ, says that “all Christians are called to love each other as Christ has loved them, that is ‘submitting to one another’, meaning at each other’s service. Here he introduces the analogy between the husband-wife couple and that of Christ and the Church. It is clear that this is an imperfect analogy, but we must grasp the spiritual meaning, elevated and revolutionary but at the same time very simple, within the reach of every man and woman who trust in God’s grace”.
“’Husbands should love their wives as their own bodies’, says Paul; ‘as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her’. The effect of this radicalism of the devotion required of man, for the love and the dignity of the woman, based on the example of Christ, must have been enormous within the Christian community itself. This seed of evangelical newness, that re-establishes the original reciprocity of devotion and respect, has ripened slowly throughout history, but in the end it has prevailed”.
The sacrament of marriage “is a great act of faith and of love: it bears witness to the courage of believing in the God’s creating act and of living that love that drives us always to go onwards, beyond ourselves and even beyond the family itself. The Christian vocation to love without reserve and without measure is such that, with Christ’s grace, it is at the base of the free consensus that constitutes marriage”. Furthermore, the Church herself “is fully involved in the history of each Christian marriage: she is built on its successes and suffers in its failures. However we must ask ourselves seriously: do we accept fully, ourselves, as believers and pastors, this indissoluble bond of the history of Christ and the Church with the history of marriage and the human family? Are we willing to take on this responsibility seriously?”.
The decision to ‘marry in the Lord’ also contains a missionary dimension, which means having at heart the willingness to become conduits of God’s blessing and the Lord’s grace for all. Indeed, Christian couples participate in the mission of the Church inasmuch as they are couples. … And thus the life of the Church is enriched every time by the beauty of this matrimonial alliance, just as it is impoverished every time it is defaced. The Church, to offer the gift of faith, love and hope to all, is in need of the courageous faithfulness of married couples in the grace of their sacrament. The people of God needs their daily progress in faith, love and hope, with all the joys and the hardships that this path involves in a marriage and in a family”.
“Yes: St. Paul was right, it is a great mystery”, concluded the Pope. “Men and women, courageous enough to place this treasure in the clay vessels of our humanity, are an essential resource for the Church, and also for all the world. May God bless you a thousand times for this!”.