Explaining love that is human, sexual, married, chaste


8. As the image of God, man is created for love. This truth was fully revealed to us in the New Testament, together with the mystery of the inner life the Trinity: "God is love (1 John 4: 8) and in himself he lives a mystery of personal loving communion. Creating the human race in his own image....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."9 The whole meaning of true freedom, and self-control which follows from it, is thus directed towards self-giving in communion and friendship with God and with others.10

Human Love as Self-Giving

9. The person is thus capable of a higher kind of love than concupiscence, which only sees objects as a means to satisfy one's appetites; the person is capable rather of friendship and self- giving, with the capacity to recognize and love persons for themselves. Like the love of God, this is a love capable of generosity. One desires the good of the other because he or she is recognized as worthy of being loved. This is a love which generates communion between persons, because each considers the good of the other as his or her own good. This is a self-giving made to one who loves us, a self-giving whose inherent goodness is discovered and activated in the communion of persons and where one learns the value of loving and of being loved.

Each person is called to love as friendship and self-giving. Each person is freed from the tendency to selfishness by the love of others, in the first place by parents or those who take their place and, definitively, by God, from whom all true love proceeds and in whose love alone does man discover to what extent he is loved. Here we find the root of the educative power of Christianity: "Humanity is loved by God! This very simple yet profound proclamation is owed to humanity by the Church."11. In this way Christ has revealed his true identity to man: "Christ the new Adam, in the very revelation of the mystery of the Father and of his love, fully reveals man to himself and brings to light his most high calling."12 The love revealed by Christ "which the Apostle Paul celebrates in the First Letter to the Corinthians...is certainly a demanding love. But this is precisely source of its beauty: by the very fact that it is demanding, it builds up the true good of man and allows it to radiate to others."13 Therefore it is a love which respects and builds up the person because "Love is true when it creates the good of persons and of communities; it creates that good and gives it to others."14

Love and Human Sexuality

10. Man is called to love and to self-giving in the unity of body and spirit. Femininity and masculinity are complementary gifts, through which human sexuality is an integrating part of the concrete capacity for love which God has inscribed in man and woman. "Sexuality is a fundamental component of personality, one of its modes of being, of manifestation, of communicating with others, of feeling, of expressing and of living human love."15 This capacity for love as self-giving is thus "incarnated" in the nuptial meaning of the body, which bears the imprint of the person's masculinity and femininity. "The human body, with its sex, and its masculinity and femininity, seen in the very mystery of creation, is not only a source of fruitfulness and procreation, as in whole natural order, but includes right 'from the beginning' the 'nuptial' attribute, that is, the capacity of expressing love: that love precisely in which the man-person becomes a gift and - by means of this gift - fulfils the very meaning of his being and existence."16 Every form of love will always bear this masculine and feminine character.

11. Human sexuality is thus a good, part of that created gift which God saw as being "very good", when he created the human person in his image and likeness, and "male and female he created them" (Genesis 1:27). Insofar as it is a way of relating and being open to others, sexuality has love as its intrinsic end, more precisely, love as donation and acceptance, love as giving and receiving. The relationship between a man and a woman is essentially a relationship of love: "Sexuality, oriented, elevated and integrated by love acquires truly human quality."17 When such love exists in marriage, self-giving expresses, through the body, the complementarity and totality of the gift. Married love thus becomes a power which enriches persons and makes them grow and, at the same time, it contributes to building up the civilization of love. But when the sense and meaning of gift is lacking in sexuality, a "civilization of things and not of persons" takes over, "a civilization in which persons are used in the same way as things are used. In the context of a civilization of use, woman can become an object for man, children a hindrance to parents..."18

12. The gift of God: this great truth and basic fact stands at the centre of the Christian conscience of parents and their children. Here we refer to the gift which God has given us in calling us to life, to exist as man or woman in an unrepeatable existence, full of endless possibilities for growing spiritually and morally: "human life is a gift received in order then to be given as a gift."19 "In fact the gift reveals, so to speak, a particular characteristic of human existence, or rather, of the very essence of the person. When God Yahweh says that 'it is not good that man should be alone' (Genesis 2:18), he affirms that 'alone', man does not completely realize his existence. He realizes it only by existing 'with some one' - and even more deeply and completely: by existing 'for someone'."20 Married love is fulfilled in openness to the other person and in self-giving, taking the form of a total gift that belongs to this state of life. Moreover, the vocation to the consecrated life always finds its meaning in self-giving, sustained by a special grace, the gift of oneself "to God alone with an undivided heart in a remarkable manner"21 in order to serve him more fully in the Church.

13. "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."22 The meaning of sexuality itself is to be understood in the light of Christian Revelation: "Sexuality characterizes man and woman not only on the physical level, but also on the psychological and spiritual, making its mark on each of their expressions. Such diversity, linked to the complementarity of the two sexes, allows thorough response to the design of God according to the vocation to which each one is called."23

Married Love

14. When love is lived out in marriage, it includes and surpasses friendship. Love between a man and woman is achieved when they give themselves totally, each in turn according to their own masculinity and femininity, founding on the marriage covenant that communion of persons where God has willed that human life be conceived, grow and develop. To this married love, and to this love alone, belongs sexual giving, "realize 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."24 The Catechism of the Catholic Church recalls: "In marriage the physical intimacy of the spouses becomes a sign and pledge of spiritual communion. Marriage bonds between baptized persons are sanctified by the sacrament."25

Love Open to Life

15. The revealing sign of authentic married love is openness to life: "In its most profound reality, love is essentially a gift; and conjugal love, while leading the spouses to the reciprocal 'knowledge'....does not end with the couple, because it makes them capable of the greatest possible gift, the gift by which they become cooperators with God for giving life to a new human person.

Love is chaste: next document

From THE TRUTH AND MEANING OF HUMAN SEXUALITY: Guidelines for Education within the Family (THE PONTIFICAL COUNCIL FOR THE FAMILY, Rome 1995), #8-15

Excerpted and presented by the Catholic Perspectives project at the Caltech Newman Center