VATICAN CITY, OCT. 6, 2004 ( The frequent unwillingness of couples in the West to have children conceals a view of marital love incapable of confidence in the future, warns John Paul II.

The love of spouses was the focus of the Pope's address at today's general audience, in which he reflected on the second part of Psalm 44(45).

The biblical passage offers a "gentle feminine portrait" of the bride of a symbolic Jewish king, in whom the Jewish tradition has seen the Messiah, and the Christian tradition Christ himself.

The Holy Father dedicated the poetic composition "to all couples who live their marriage with intensity and inner freshness."

After commenting last Wednesday on the first part of the Psalm, which focuses on the beauty and greatness of the king, the Pontiff's attention centered on "the bride queen" who "advances, with her nuptial cortege, which takes the gifts toward the king, fascinated by her beauty."

"The nuptial vocation is a life-altering event, as already seen in the Book of Genesis: 'Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh,'" the Pope told the 13,000 people gathered in St. Peter's Square.

John Paul II highlighted "the insistence with which the Psalmist exalts the woman: she is 'all beautiful' and this magnificence is expressed in her wedding robe, of pearls and brocade."

"The Bible loves beauty as a reflection of the splendor of God himself; clothes can also reflect the sign of a brilliant inner light, of innocence of soul," he said.

"Together with beauty, joy is exalted, which is reflected in the festive cortege of the 'maids of her train,' the young girls who accompany the Bride 'with glad and joyous acclaim,'" he continued.

"Genuine gladness, much more profound than simple gaiety, is an expression of love, which participates in the good of the person loved with serenity of heart," the Holy Father said.

Together with this happiness, the Psalm mentions "another reality" which "is radically inherent in marriage: fecundity," he emphasized.

"The future, not just of the dynasty but of humanity, is brought about precisely because the couple offers new creatures to the world," he added.

"It is an important and timely topic in the West, often incapable of ensuring its own existence in the future through the generation and care of new creatures, who will continue the civilization of peoples and realize the history of salvation," the Holy Father concluded.

With this meditation, John Paul II continued with the series of commentaries on the Psalms and canticles that form part of the Liturgy of Vespers. Other commentaries may be consulted in the Wednesday's Audience section of ZENIT's Web page.