George Tyrrell.

Hard sayings; a selection of meditations and studies online

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Durus est hie sermo, et quis potest eum audire?" — 61.






•ffUbtl ©bstat :

Gulielmus Roche, S.J.,

Censor Depntatus.

imprimatur :


Archiep. Westmonast.

The Author wishes to thank those who have
in various ways helped him in the task of
producing the present volume; and more especially
Mr. C. Kegan Paul, who kindly read through the

M 3 17910


Although the following conferences and medita-
tions were in no way originally designed to be parts
of a whole, written, as they were, at sundry times
and in divers manners, yet there has been some
imperfect attempt at method in their selection and
arrangement which, though not very apparent on
the surface, may make itself felt in the unity of
their effect upon the reader's mind. Their purport
is to illustrate and, so to say, turn over in various
ways a very few of the deepest and most wide-
reaching principles of Catholic Christianity, by
which they are pervaded and upon which they have
been built up with a somewhat dialectical severity
which can hardly escape unfavourable criticism, as
seeming to encourage an excessive rationalizing in
matters too delicate for the coarse hands of the
logician. The writer has had this danger con-
tinually before his mind as something to guard
against, but since his aim has been confessedly to
simplify, explain, and co-ordinate, it would be too


much to hope that he has avoided all the errors and
extremes which usually beset such an undertaking.

For indeed there is a most unpardonable narrow-
ness as well as impertinence in the desire to repre-
sent the intercourse between the created spirit and
its indwelling Creator in terms as sharp and exact
as those which describe the dealings of father and
son, master and servant, ruler and subject, husband
and spouse. These familiar relationships bear a
distant analogy to those subsisting between God
and the soul, but fall immeasurably short of the
reality. They are as a few rough, suggestive strokes
drawn by a skilful hand, which will serve to bring
to our mind all the meaning and expression of a
face if only it be already familiar to us by experi-
ence. But an inordinate love of clearness, an over-
pressing of analogies and similitudes is a form of
rationalism very fruitful in fallacies, and not very
uncommon in ascetical writings. If, however, we
use these metaphors with a full reflex conscious-
ness of their imperfection, then indeed we may do
so fearlessly and abundantly, trusting that where
one is weak another may be strong, and that from
many faultv adumbrations some vague image of the
whole truth may shape itself in the mind.

What we have to guard against is the narrow
pride of that rationalism which inclines some to be
impatient of all ideas that are in any way obscure


and imperfectly denned ; to cast out of the mind as
worthless those that are not clear and distinct ; to
apply the methods and criteria of the " exact
sciences" to matters of a wholly different order;
to be abhorrent of all that savours of mysticism.
For this is to forget that every new idea that enters
our soul, so far as it is new and incomparable, and
unlike what we have previously known, is fringed
with mystery, and is only very gradually defined and
analyzed as to its full contents ; it is to ignore the
simple fact that our mind comprehends fully only
what it has itself created— forms and numbers, and
figures and relations ; and that of the least atom of
God's creations it can at best grasp a side or a surface
or a corner, but can penetrate nothing. Still more
evident is it that most of the truths relating to the
commerce of God with the soul are necessarily
veiled, aed obscure to us in our present embodied
condition, since they can never be properly ex-
pressed in terms of anything that falls under our
senses— in terms of the only language we are
skilled in. Ultimate truths, those which are con-
cerned with the Alpha and Omega of our existence,
are from their very nature set at the extreme limit
of our intellectual horizon, so that we never see all
round them or beyond them. Our mind is made
for what lies between : for movements and processes
and the laws by which they are governed ; but


before the " Ultimates," the unchanging realities of
the timeless, spaceless world, whose existence is
postulated in our every thought, our progress is
abruptly arrested as by a dead wall, behind which
all is impenetrable mystery : " Hitherto shalt thou
come and no further, and here shalt thou break thy
swelling waves."

Yet these are the truths most essential to our
spiritual life, and ignorance of which is chiefly to
be deplored. They are, moreover, truths for which
man has by nature a most insatiable intellectual
curiosity that breaks out everywhere, even in the
most barbaric and uncultivated minds ; and yet with
regard to which he is as helpless, as much in need
of God, as the babe is of its mother's breast ; and
if his craving for the mysterious, the wonderful, the
supernatural, be not fed by true religion, it will feed
itself on the garbage of any superstition that is
offered to it.

Indeed, the soul will never be raised higher or
further strengthened by any truth which it has once
thoroughly penetrated or comprehended, and which
therefore retains for it no element of mystery or
wonder, for it is only by straining to comprehend
what exceeds its present grasp that it grows great.

Mysticism deals with such half-veiled, half-
revealed truths as we speak of. There is no doubt
a false mysticism which values obscurity for its


own sake, and wraps up the simplest truisms of
morality in clouds of confusion till they loom great
and mysterious ; and which on this score lays claim
to special gnosis and prophetic insight. But this
child of affectation, or self-delusion, or ignorance, no
more discredits the true mysticism of a Kempis or
of St. Teresa, than spiritualism discredits spirits,
or jugglery discredits the miracles of Christ.

Having thus insisted on the reasonableness and
necessity of mysticism, as opposed to crude rational-
ism and to the non-sense of soi-disant "common
sense " in spiritual things, we must equally insist on
the importance of using all the light and help that
reason rightly used affords us in these matters ; of
recognizing here, as elsewhere, progress and develop-
ment in our understanding of Divine truth (itself
unchanging) — a progress in distinctness and coher-
ence of idea and statement ; a continual and faithful
retranslation of the words and forms of one age or
country into those of another; an adaptation of
immutable principles, to the ever mutable circum-
stances of human life. For where this work is
neglected, the language and conceptions of a former
generation become, first, tasteless and common-
place ; and then distasteful and repugnant to the
changing fashions of thought and speech in
succeeding generations — except in the case of those
rare works of genius and inspiration which, like


the Scriptures or the Imitation, are catholic and

Thus much, then, in justification of what might
seem to be a too dialectical treatment of subjects
to a great extent beyond the reach of so rude a

Again, the writer may be reproached with
a certain indecency and irreverence in attempting
to make bare to the public gaze many of those
deeper mysteries of our holy religion which the
instinct of more delicate minds has ever hidden in
a language " not understanded of the people." This
disciplina arcani the Church has learnt from her
Divine Master, whose parables were " words to the
wise," mercifully veiling from the many the light
which they could not bear, and which would have
been only to their ruin and not to their resurrection.
Also there is a sacred duty of guarding the higher
truths of the Eternal Kingdom from the profana-
tion of being discussed, perhaps ridiculed and
blasphemed by those whose minds and hearts are
void of the first principles whence a sympathetic
understanding of them might be evolved. As it is,
there is scarce a hireling journalist who is not as
ready with his flippant criticisms on the mysteries
of the Kingdom of God as he is with those on
political or scientific or literary topics. Nothing is
sacred from his omniscient pen. Is it then season-


able thus to cast pearls before those who will but
trample them under foot and turn again and
rend us ?

If after some hesitation the writer has deter-
mined to face the possibility of such ill-conse-
quences, it has been from a conviction that it is
rather through an insight into the high and all-
satisfying ethical conceptions of the Catholic religion
that men are drawn to embrace it than through any
more speculative considerations. Loquere ad cor
popidi hujus — Speak unto the heart of this people,
was the Prophet's commission ; nor can it be denied
that it was because He knew what was in man that
Christ had such irresistible power over the hearts of
men ; for here if anywhere knowledge is power. So
there is nothing that establishes and confirms our
implicit faith in the Catholic religion of Christ more
than the clear conviction that she alone knows what
is in man, and holds the secrets of life's problems ;
that she alone has balm for the healing of the
nations; that she alone can answer firmly and
infallibly what all are asking, with an answer harsh
at first sounding, and austere, but on reflection kind
and consolatory, and, like the " hard sayings " of
her Master, " full of grace and truth."

It is not till men's hearts are deeply drawn
towards the Church for one reason or another,
that their minds are sufficiently freed from the


natural bias against a creed so exacting and
imperious in many ways, to make them desirous
or capable of listening to her claims.

For this reason, therefore, it is to the heart we
must make our first appeal, by bringing together as
far as we can those various truths which embody
the Church's explanation of life as we find it ; by
showing their mutual bearings, their harmony with
one another, and with the stern facts they deal with
and explain. If the Church has an answer which
will give a meaning to pain and temptation and sin
and sorrow, which will point to law and order where
otherwise there is nothing apparent but painful
darkness and confusion, which will verify and
connect what is to all seeming manifold and dis-
connected, even though that answer be hard and
repulsive in its very simplicity, surely it should
make every honest truth-seeking mind pause to see
if indeed these things be so, if indeed darkness can
be so touched with light, and sorrow so turned into
joy. If the solution fits the problem it may indeed
be the result of chance, but it is a chance that
becomes ever more incredible as the conditions of
the problem are seen to be multiple and intricate :
and the more we know of life's complications on the
one hand and of the Church's simplification on the
other, the less possible is it for us to doubt that she
is from on high, the work of those hands which


fashioned the human soul, and which provide for
the needs of every creature they have fashioned.

We do not mean that our needs demand and
explain every point of Catholic teaching, as though
that religion were merely the complement of our
nature's exigencies, and were not also supernatural,
giving more than our heart as yet knows how to
desire. But the whole idea of personal trust and
faith is that those whom we have found loving and
true to us in matters we can test, should ever be
accredited with the same love and truth in matters
beyond our criticism. So it is with faith in God,
with faith in Christ, with faith in the Catholic
Church ; we understand enough to warrant full trust
in what we cannot understand, or cannot even
expect to understand.

It is, then, the belief that a deeper and more
comprehensive view of the Church's ethical and
spiritual ideals; of her conception as to the
capacities, the dignity and destiny of the human
soul, of the hope that she inspires in the midst of
so much that is otherwise disheartening, of the light
which she sheds over the dark abyss of sin and
temptation and sorrow — it is the belief that such a
comprehensive view may in some cases serve far
more effectually than any direct apologetic to win,
to establish, or to confirm an abiding faith in her
divine origin and operation, that must partly excuse


or justify an otherwise reprehensible popularizing of
the " secrets of the King."

Not indeed that any one mind however broad
and deep can ever hope to grasp the Catholic idea
in its entirety, or can ever count itself to have com-
prehended perfectly what by reason of its magni-
tude must elude all but an infinite thought. If every
advance in the knowledge of Nature advances us in
knowledge of our ignorance of Nature, the same
holds good of our study of the Christian revelation,
of the idea of Christ and the Church. Man's brain
grows-to and outgrows religions that are its own
creation, the provisional expression and images of
that Reality which touches him in conscience, and
cries out to him in Nature. But it does not, and
cannot, outgrow that revelation in which God has
expressed for him, albeit in faltering human
language, realities which are beyond all reason and
experience. Our conception of one whom we meet
and observe daily will grow in depth, in volume, in
accuracy; but our conception of one whom we
know only by hearsay cannot go beyond what is
contained in that hearsay. Yet this content may
be infinite in potentiality, like some mathematical
expression from which a process of endless building-
up can be started. And so it is with that conception
of Himself and of His Christ and of His Church
which God has given us in the Christian revelation.


It is an idea which admits of infinite evolution,
which the Church keeps and broods over and
ponders in her heart ; in which the best thought of
every age finds its highest ideals satisfied and
surpassed. Superficial critics who shrink from the
labour of a wide induction, are perpetually treating
this idea as it is found in some particular mind or
nationality or period, and by consequence con-
founding what is accidental with what is essential,
and failing to distinguish its morbid from its legiti-
mate developments.

And indeed it is to the Church, who watches
over this process, that we must look for our
guidance as to results already obtained. But starting
where she leaves off and following in the direction
of the lines she has laid down, the minds of her
children will ever press on towards a fuller intelli-
gence of the mysteries of faith, turning back at
times to gain her approval or to receive her rebuke
or to listen to her counsel; and thus, under her
supervision, they will purify the Catholic idea more
and more from all foreign admixture and build it
up member by member, nearing, yet never reaching,
a perfect disclosure of its organic unity, its simpli-
city in complexity, its transcendent beauty.

Finally, in choosing Hard Sayings for a title,
allusion is made to the occasion when many of the
disciples of Jesus turned back and walked with Him


no more, because of His doctrine concerning the
great Mystery of Divine Love, in which all the other
mysteries of the Catholic faith are gathered up.
That this Man should give us His Flesh to eat, that
bread should be His Body, is indeed a " hard
saying" for the many who are the slaves of their
imagination, and who fancy that they know some-
thing of the constitution of matter and the limits of
Divine omnipotence. But for the more thoughtful it
is a far harder saying that God should so care for
man's love as to come down from Heaven, and take
flesh that He might woo man in man's own
language — the language of suffering. And if these
things are hard to the understanding, it is still
harder for the weak will to hear that God must be
loved back as He has loved us, with a love that
yields pain for pain, sacrifice for sacrifice, death for

Here the Church has ever been faithful to her
Master. Others have, with false kindness, mitigated
the " hard sayings," and prophesied smooth things,
and drawn away the weak from her side. But
with all her human frailty, ever shrinking from the
stern ideal of the Cross, from the bitterness of the
Chalice of her Passion, when asked she has but one
ruthless answer, namely, that it is only through
many tribulations that we can enter the Kingdom
of God ; that Christ's yoke is easy, not because


it is painless, but because love makes the pain

To whom then shall we go but to her who has
the words of eternal life, who for two thousand
years has kept all these sayings and pondered them
in her heart ?

G. T.


SS. Peter and Paul, i«g3.



Introduction . . .


The Soul and her Spouse . .


The Hidden Life . . .

. 15

The Presence of God

. 29

God in Conscience • .

. 45

Sin judged by Faith . ,

. 69

Sin judged by Reason . «

. 93

Sin and Suffering . . ,

► . in

The Gospel of Pain

. 131

" Quid erit nobis ? " . ,

. 152

The Life Everlasting .

1 . 169

The Angelic Virtue ,

. 194

A Great Mystery .

, . 220

The Way of the Counsels

, . 261

The Divine Precept •

. 295

The Mystery of Faith

. 314

Idealism, its Use and Abuse

. 345

Discouragement .

. 376

The Mystical Body

. 397

Appendix. — Note to " The Gosp<

5l of Pa


• 449


Veni, Electa Mea, et ponam in Tc thronum tneum.
" Come, My Chosen One, and I will stablish My throne in

The end of man is, to save his soul — Salus amma.

T3,-.4- t.tI-,-,4- •fVd'c V»oo1fJ-» nnrl -H'£>1 1 _h<=>i n or miKKt; in IS


Page 6, line n, for "out " read "out of."
Page 68, line n, for "its" read "in its."
Page 8o, line 15, for "severence" read "severance"

Creator and Lord ; the submission of our mind to
the rule of Divine truth : of our affections to the
rule of Divine love. Hence the whole aim of the
Spiritual Exercises is to secure ordination ; to
induce that all-mastering love of God in which the
soul is saved, perfected, and brought to its highest
state and noblest activity.

As the natural life of the soul depends on God's
dwelling in its substance, so the supernatural life or
Eternal Life of the soul is God, who dwells as light

1 This discourse has reference to the opening words of the
Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola.


Introduction .

The Soul and her Spouse ,


The Life Everlasting ....

r-x D ^

• . I69

The Angelic Virtue ,

. 194

A Great Mystery

1 . 220

The Way of the Counsels

. . 26l

The Divine Precept . ,

. 295

The Mystery of Faith

• 314

Idealism, its Use and Abuse

• 345

Discouragement .

. 376

The Mystical Body

. 397

Appendix. — Note to " The Gospe

1 of Pai

n" ,

• 449


Veni, Electa Mea, et ponam in Te thronum vieum.
" Come, My Chosen One, and I will stablish My throne in

The end of man is, to save his soul — Salus animcz.
But what this health and well-being consists in is
specified when St. Ignatius 1 tells us that it is in
praising, reverencing, and serving God, in these
three manifestations of Divine love, that salvation
is realized. Health lies in the right balance of
nutrition, in regularity of function, in the orderliness
of our bodily conditions ; and our spiritual health,
in like manner, means ordination; the duo propor-
tion and subjection of all our faculties to God their
Creator and Lord ; the submission of our mind to
the rule of Divine truth ; of our affections to the
rule of Divine love. Hence the whole aim of the
Spiritual Exercises is to secure ordination ; to
induce that all-mastering love of God in which the
soul is saved, perfected, and brought to its highest
state and noblest activity.

As the natural life of the soul depends on God's
dwelling in its substance, so the supernatural life or
Eternal Life of the soul is God, who dwells as light

1 This discourse has reference to the opening words of the
Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola.



in the mind and as love in the heart, and who is
the object of that light and love.

Here, as hereafter, the life of the soul is to see
God and to love Him, though the mode of seeing is
different ; here, it is through a glass darkly, in a
riddle, there, face to face ; here, in part, there,
wholly and perfectly ; here, as a child, there, as
one who has put away the things of a child. A
little girl thinks herself absolutely happy when she
nurses her first doll. As a woman, with a living
babe at her breast, she looks back on that former
bliss and laughs. In Heaven she greets her child
once more ; and once more she wonders that she
could ever have rejoiced before.

Eternal life is God in the soul. God is the soul's
soul. As the body corrupts when abandoned by
the soul, so too, the soul corrupts, morally and
intellectually, it becomes foetid, loathsome, disin-
tegrated, deformed, apart from God. God is the
beauty, the health, the salvation of the soul. We
speak too exclusively of entering into Heaven, into
life, into God ; forgetting that the relation is truly —
perhaps more truly — expressed by saying that God,
and Heaven, and life, enter into us. We dwell in
God, just because God dwells in us. The branch
abides in the vine and the vine in the branch ; but
principally the vine in the branch. We feed upon
Christ, He does not feed upon us. " The Kingdom
of God is within you ; " it is in your midst ; there-
fore we pray: Adveniat regnum tuum. We speak
of that Kingdom coming to us, not of our going
to it.


Vegna ver noi la pace del tuo regno
Che noi ad essa non potem da noi,
S'ella non vien, con tutto nostro ingegno. 1

Heaven, in its substance and apart from mere
accessories, is simply the love of God perfected in the
soul ; the entire cleaving of the soul to God, whom
she embraces with mind and heart — Invent quern
diligit anima mea ; tenui nee dimittam. 2 And again:
Mini adhcerere Deo bonum est — My sovereign good,
my heaven, consists in cleaving to God. And as
eternal life is the love of God elevated and carried
to its extreme perfection, so eternal death is the
disease of sin worked out to its last consequences.
Hell, in its substance and apart from all accessories,
is in the soul, as truly as the soul is in Hell — perhaps
more truly.

This answer alone explains man, and proves its
own verity by its fitness. Were the soul a simple
problem, chance might stumble on many an apparent
solution ; but so complicated a riddle is past guess-
work. A lock with a hundred intricate wards is the
only possible explanation of the key which alone
fits it, and which tits it alone. The soul, apart from
God, is as meaningless, as useless as a stray key.
Its whole structure and movement cries out for
God. Who could understand the eye, with its lenses
and mirrors and inexplicable mechanism, who knew
nothing of light ? Everything in the eye has reference

1 Thy Kingdom come, that peace with us may reign ;
For if it come not of itself, in vain

Our wit would toil that Kingdom to attain. (Dante, Purg. xi.)
1 "I have found Him whom my soul loveth: I have laid hold
on Him, and I will not let Him go."


to light, and everything in the soul has reference to
God. Everything in the ear is unintelligible to one
born deaf, and everything in the soul is incoherent
and senseless for one who is dead to God. When
we see the vine straggling over the ground, its

Online LibraryGeorge TyrrellHard sayings; a selection of meditations and studies → online text (page 1 of 31)