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Benedict XVI on Anthropological Foundation of the Family (Part 2 of 2)

6/13/2005 - 6:30 AM PST

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Addresses Congress of Diocese of Rome

ROME, JUNE 13, 2005 (Zenit) - Here is a translation of the second part of an address Benedict XVI delivered Monday in the Basilica of St. John Lateran, when presiding at the opening of the Ecclesial Congress of the Diocese of Rome. The theme of the congress was "Family and Christian Community: Formation of the Person and Transmission of the Faith."

A translation of Part 1 appeared Friday.

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Marriage and Family in the History of Salvation

The truth of marriage and the family, which sinks its roots in the truth of man, has found its application in the history of salvation, at whose center is the word: "God loves his people." In fact, biblical revelation is above all the expression of a history of love, the history of God's covenant with men. For this reason, God has been able to assume the history of love and of the union of a man and a woman in the covenant of marriage, as symbol of the history of salvation. The ineffable fact, the mystery of God's love for men, takes its linguistic form from the vocabulary of marriage and the family, both positive and negative: God's approach to his people is presented with the language of conjugal love, while Israel's infidelity, its idolatry, is designated as adultery and prostitution.

In the New Testament, God radicalizes his love until he becomes himself, through his Son, flesh of our flesh, authentic man. Thus, God's union with man has assumed its supreme, irreversible and definitive form. And in this way, the definitive form of human love is also drawn, that reciprocal "yes" that cannot be revoked. It does not alienate man, but liberates him from the alienations of history to return him to the truth of creation. The sacramental character that marriage assumes in Christ means, therefore, that the gift of creation has been raised to the grace of redemption. Christ's grace is not superimposed from outside of man's nature, it does not violate it, but liberates and restores it, by raising it beyond its frontiers. And just as the Incarnation of the Son of God reveals its true meaning in the cross, so also authentic human love is surrender of oneself; it cannot exist if it avoids the cross.

Dear Brothers and Sisters, this profound bond between God and man, between the love of God and human love, is also confirmed by some negative tendencies and developments, whose weight we all experience. The degradation of human love, the suppression of the authentic capacity to love appears in our time as the most effective weapon for man to crush God, to remove God from man's sight and heart. However, the desire to "liberate" God's nature makes one lose sight of the very reality of nature, including man's nature, reducing it to an ensemble of functions, which can be disposed of according to one's pleasure to build a so-called better world and a happier humanity. But on the contrary, the plan of the Creator is destroyed as is the truth of our nature.

Children

Also in the procreation of children, marriage reflects its divine model, the love of God for man. In man and woman, paternity and maternity, as happens with the body and with love, the biological aspect is not circumscribed: life is only given totally when with birth, love and meaning are also given, which make it possible to say yes to this life. Precisely because of this, it is clear to what point the systematic closing of the union itself to the gift of life and, even more, the suppression or manipulation of unborn life is contrary to human love, to the profound vocation of man and woman.

However, no man and no woman, on their own and by their own strength, can give love and the meaning of life adequately to their children. To be able to say to someone: "your life is good, even if I don't know your future," needs a superior authority and credibility which the individual cannot give himself on his own. The Christian knows that that authority is conferred to that larger family that God, through his Son, Jesus Christ, and the gift of the Holy Spirit, has created in the history of men, namely, to the Church. It acknowledges the action of that eternal and indestructible love that assures to the life of each one of us a permanent meaning, even if we do not know the future.

For this reason, the building of each of the Christian families is framed in the context of the great family of the Church, which supports and accompanies it, and guarantees that there is a meaning and that in the future there will be the "yes" of the Creator. And, reciprocally, the Church is built by families, "small domestic Churches," as Vatican Council II called them ("Lumen Gentium," 11; "Apostolicam Actuositatem," 11), rediscovering an ancient patristic expression (St. John Chrysostom, "In Genesim serm," VI,2; VII,1). In this connection, "Familiaris Consortio" ...

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