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A Meditation on Fruitfulness, Fidelity, and the Conjugal Embrace

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Phillip Vescio (1000625344)

Prof. Giulio Silano

SMC 308

23 November 2016

Article Review: God’s Gift of Life and Love: On Marriage and the Eucharist

Author: John Paul II

        In his article, God’s Gift of Life and Love: On Marriage and the Eucharist, Pope John Paul II offers his address on the subject outlining the intrinsic sacramental relation between marriage and the Eucharist within Christianity. Furthermore, the pope unfolds God’s covenant with man and Christ’s self-gift to both mankind and the Church, which ultimately bridges humanity, and communion with the Holy Trinity. More specifically, the Pope emphasizes the importance of the Eucharist, which he describes as the gateway that makes this supreme gift accessible to mankind describing it as an intimate bound to the conjugal covenant. The Pope then correlates the conjugal covenant with marriage suggesting that a spouses’ love is a testament to the gift of God as it fulfills the new covenant in doing so. John Paul II furthers his argument by suggesting that Christian marriage builds up the Church over time through a paschal journey that converts and flourishes the new and eternal Covenant – a new sign to the world.

        Pope John Paul II organizes this article by dividing it up into subcategories to better convey his address on the gift of God. Beginning with the mystery of the covenant the pope describes God’s gift to man as life and love. This gift is a way of God binding himself to mankind, but should not be seen as a simple contract or a political alliance, rather a commitment of God’s Word and Life, the Pope argues. This commitment of love and tenderness is expressed through marriage. Although, an indissoluble Covenant is established when Christ converted the Word into flesh in the womb of Virgin Mary it is in terms of marriage that the mystery truly reveals itself as the pope refers to the wedding at Cana. More importantly, Pope John Paul II reminds the reader that Jesus is the Bridegroom as, “he seals the Covenant in the blood of his Cross, and gave up his spirit to the Church, his bride” (John Paul II 464). This essentially means that the Church, which is the universal sacrament of salvation and the proclamation of the Word is the end goal of the Covenant.

        Secondly, the pope ties in the sacraments of the Eucharist and marriage into his address, directly connecting them to the Covenant. He differentiates the New Covenant from the Old Covenant to include more than human marriage but also the reality of Christian marriage, where its importance is also expressed in his Familiaris consortio. Thirdly, John Paul II draws attention to another sacrament, communion. Here he describes the Eucharist as a way of access or gateway to the Covenant in the sense that “he who eats my flesh remains in [Christ] and [Christ] in him” (Jn 6:56).  Furthermore, he draws the connection between Christ’s Covenant and the conjugal covenant as they both lead to tenderness, mercy, justice and righteousness all simultaneously. It is through marriage that conjugal love and love of the Lord merge as one and if the couple allows, they can love with the new experienced established by the New Covenant.  The Eucharist he suggests is a reminder that the blood of this new eternal Covenant is the blood of the Lamb. This essentially means that it guides spouses on a path that inevitably encounters the Cross, which complexly leads to joy, as the pope suggests. John Paul II labels this as a Pasch.

         John Paul II then resorts to what he calls “building up the church” where every Christian family can be seen as a “little church”, a place where just like the Covenant of Christ and the Church, the conjugal covenant blossoms into joy, gratitude and thanksgiving. Although the Church makes the Eucharist, the pope reminds the reader that it is the Eucharist that makes the Church, and transcends all types of human diversities to build up the Body of Christ that is the Church. The pope furthers by outlining that through the sacrament of Covenant, a Christian family will live a life of communion that is not a closed chapel, rather open to mission with the assistance of bishops and pastors of the Church.  Bearing children, the pope suggests, is the culmination of marriage and teaches a family to discern its own vocation that promotes authentic love revealed by the New and eternal Covenant.  

        Finally, Pope John Paul II addresses the Lord’s return to fulfill the covenant and how the Eucharist helps prepare for that moment where it will be no longer necessary. He relates this to marriage and how love builds up eternity while also molding tenderness and fidelity, which ultimately prevents this love from ending in the spouses’ body, rather transcends from the conjugal Covenant to the divine covenant. The pope supports this claim by reminding the readers that, “the supreme gift of God is not a creature, however beloved, but the Lord himself” (John Paul II 469). The pope goes onto explain that we cannot fully comprehend the gift of God given to mankind through the sacrament of the Covenant and even if we could, the conjugal life would not be enough time to explore it, even for the Church. The pope relates marriage to a tall mountain that places the couple at the top of it near the heavens. It requires a lot of energy and time; however, to reach this peak John Paul II reminds the reader.  

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