Five Favorite Quotes from Veritatis Splendor (“The Splendor of Truth”)

Five Favorite Quotes from Veritatis Splendor (“The Splendor of Truth”)

Veritatis Splendor is actually the very first document I read from Pope John Paul II. It was the summer of 1993 and I was just starting to pay attention to what John Paul II was doing. I heard through various Catholic news outlets that a new encyclical was coming out on moral theology. I didn’t really even know what an encyclical was at the time, but I read it with great interest when it was released.

John Paul II helped me understand that the moral life is not just about “following rules” but about fulfilling the very meaning of life. It’s not about a cold life of duty, but about encountering the God who is love and allowing that love to inform and transform the way we live our lives. This was life-changing for me. It was only a month and a half later that someone encouraged me to read his Theology of the Body (TOB). Having read Veritatis Splendor, I was more than excited to see what this TOB was all about.

Here are five of my favorite quotes from Veritatis Splendor. The third one is probably my all-time favorite John Paul II quote. You can read the full encyclical here.

Christ’s words about lust are “an invitation to a pure way of looking at others, capable of respecting the spousal meaning of the body.”

(VS, 15)

“Love and life according to the Gospel cannot be thought of first and foremost as a kind of precept, because what they demand is beyond man’s abilities. They are possible only as a result of a gift of God who heals, restores, and transforms the human heart by his grace.” Living the Gospel, then, is “a possibility opened to man exclusively by grace, by the gift of God, by his love.”

(VS 23, 24)

“What are the ‘concrete possibilities of man’? And of which man are we speaking? Of man dominated by lust or of man redeemed by Christ? This is what is at stake: the reality of Christ’s redemption. Christ has redeemed us! This means He has given us the possibility of realizing the entire truth of our being; He has set our freedom free from the domination of concupiscence. And if redeemed man still sins, this is not due to an imperfection of Christ’s redemptive act, but to man’s will not to avail himself of the grace which flows from that act. God’s command is of course proportioned to man’s capabilities; but to the capabilities of the man to whom the Holy Spirit has been given.”

(VS 103)

“For the young man, the question is not so much about rules to be followed but about the full meaning of life … This question is ultimately an appeal to the absolute Good which attracts us and beckons us; it is the echo of a call from God who is the origin and goal of man’s life. Precisely in this perspective the Second Vatican Council called for a renewal of moral theology, so that its teaching would display the lofty vocation which the faithful have received in Christ, the only response fully capable of satisfying the desire of the human heart.”

(VS 7)

“The commandments … are the first necessary step on the journey towards freedom, its starting point.” But learning to follow the commandments “is only the beginning of freedom, not perfect freedom.”

(VS 13)

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Image: Pope John Paul II by L’Observatore Romano.