1. We said previously that in the
context of the present reflections on the structure of marriage as a
sacramental sign, we should bear in mind not only what Christ said
about its unity and indissolubility in reference to the beginning,
but also (and still more) what he said in the Sermon on the Mount
when he referred to the human heart. Referring to the commandment,
"You shall not commit adultery," Christ spoke of adultery in the
heart. "Everyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already
committed adultery with her in his heart" (Mt 5:28).
The sacramental sign of marriage—the sign of the conjugal covenant
of a man and a woman—is formed on the basis of the language of the
body reread in truth (and continuously reread). In stating this, we
realize that he who rereads this language and then expresses it, not
according to the requirements proper to marriage as a pact and a
sacrament, is naturally and morally the man of concupiscence—male
and female, both of them understood as the "man of concupiscence."
The prophets of the Old Testament certainly have this man before
their eyes when, using an analogy, they condemn the "adultery of
Israel and Judah." The analysis of the words Christ spoke in the
Sermon on the Mount lead us to understand more deeply "adultery"
itself. At the same time it leads us to the conviction that the
human heart is not so much accused and condemned by Christ because
of concupiscence (concupiscentia carnalis), as first of all called.
Here there is a decisive difference between the anthropology (or the
anthropological hermeneutics) of the Gospel and some influential
representatives of the contemporary hermeneutics of man (the
so-called masters of suspicion).
The man who is "called"
2. Continuing our present analysis we can observe that even though
man, notwithstanding the sacramental sign of marriage,
notwithstanding conjugal consent and its actuation, remains
naturally the "man of concupiscence," he is at the same time the man
who has been "called." He is called through the mystery of the
redemption of the body, a divine mystery, which at the same time
is—in Christ and through Christ in every man—a human reality. That
mystery, besides, implies a determinate ethos which is essentially
human, and which we have previously called the ethos of the
3. In the light of the words Christ spoke in the Sermon on the
Mount, in the light of the whole Gospel and of the new covenant, the
threefold concupiscence (and in particular the concupiscence of the
flesh) does not destroy the capacity to reread in truth the language
of the body—and to reread it continually in an ever more mature and
fuller way—whereby the sacramental sign is constituted both in its
first liturgical moment, and also later in the dimension of the
whole of life. In this light one must note that concupiscence per se
causes many errors in rereading the language of the body. Together
with this it gave rise also to sin—moral evil, contrary to the
virtue of chastity (whether conjugal or extra-conjugal).
Nevertheless in the sphere of the ethos of redemption the
possibility always remains of passing from error to the truth, as
also the possibility of returning, that is, of conversion, from sin
to chastity, as an expression of a life according to the Spirit (cf.
Sacramental sign of love
4. In this way, in the evangelical and Christian perspective of
the problem, historical man (after original sin), on the basis of
the language of the body reread in truth, is able—as male and
female—to constitute the sacramental sign of love, of conjugal
fidelity and integrity, and this as an enduring sign: "To be
faithful to you always in joy and in sorrow, in sickness and in
health, and to love and honor you all the days of my life." This
signifies that man, in a real way, is the author of the meanings
whereby, after having reread in truth the language of the body, he
is also capable of forming in truth that language in the conjugal
and family communion of the persons. He is capable of it also as the
man of concupiscence, being at the same time called by the reality
of the redemption of Christ (simul lapsus et redemptus).
Hermeneutics of the sacrament
5. By means of the dimension of the sign proper to marriage as a
sacrament there is confirmed the specific theological anthropology,
the specific hermeneutics of man. In this case it could also be
called the hermeneutics of the sacrament, because it permits us to
understand man on the basis of the analysis of the sacramental sign.
Man—male and female—as the minister of the sacrament, the author
(co-author) of the sacramental sign, is a conscious and capable
subject of self-determination. Only on this basis can he be the
author of the language of the body, the author (co-author) of
marriage as a sign—a sign of the divine creation and redemption of
the body. The fact that man (male and female) is the man of
concupiscence does not prejudice his capacity to reread the language
of the body in truth. He is the man of concupiscence. But at the
same time he is capable of discerning truth from falsity in the
language of the body. He can be the author of the meanings of that
language, whether true or false.
Called, not accused
6. He is the man of concupiscence, but he is not completely
determined by libido (in the sense in which this term is often
used). Such a determination would imply that the ensemble of man's
behavior, even, for example, the choice of continence for religious
motives, would be explained only by means of the specific
transformations of this libido. In such a case—in the sphere of the
language of the body—man would, in a certain sense, be condemned to
essential falsifications. He would merely be one who expresses a
specific determination on the part of the libido, but he would not
express the truth or falsity of spousal love and of the communion of
the persons, even though he might think to manifest it.
Consequently, he would then be condemned to suspect himself and
others in regard to the truth of the language of the body. Because
of the concupiscence of the flesh he could only be accused, but he
could not be really called.
The hermeneutics of the sacrament permits us to draw the conclusion
that man is always essentially called and not merely accused, and
this precisely inasmuch as he is the man of concupiscence.
Taken from: L'Osservatore Romano Weekly Edition in English 14
February 1983, page 11
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