George Tyrrell.

Hard sayings; a selection of meditations and studies online

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which commends to us the example, not of one
who was merely a martyr to inevitable violence,
but of one who could have descended from the
Cross, yet would not.

Still, with all its short-sighted horror of suffering,
modern philanthropy is well aware that it is only
through much suffering that its aspirations can be
realized, that it is only at the cost of endless labour
and self-sacrifice that the sum of human misery can
be in any way lessened, or the sum of enjoyment
increased, that if such social and collective felicity
be life, then the law holds good : Aid pati, aid mori —
" Either suffer or perish." Still more evident is it
that if one's individual happiness is found only in
self-forgetful devotion to the vaguely conceived
welfare of others, such devotion involves continual
suffering, and that the life of altruism is a life of
pain. Aid pati, aid mori ; if selfishness be death, if
unselfishness be life, we must either suffer or die.

If now we turn from these who lay such


exaggerated stress on material comfort, and on free-
dom from bodily pain and from pain of the merely
sensitive affections and instincts, who reduce all
moral duties to the one universal duty of an unselfish
regard for the almost animal happiness of others ;
and if we turn to those who in all ages, guided
by the mere light of reason, have taken a higher
and nobler view of man's nature and capacities for
happiness, who find the value of life, in whatsoever
things are true, whatsoever things are pure, what-
soever things are just, whatsoever things are holy,
whatsoever things are lovable, who scorn to make
pleasure an object of direct pursuit, whose single
aim is objective truth and right, whether it bring
pleasure or pain in its wake, who define good as
that which ought to be and which they desire should
be; not as that which they would like to feel;
who (at least confusedly) recognize the interests of
reason and conscience as the universal interests of
God, to which they but minister as servants and
instruments in His hands; if we turn to these
and question them, we receive again the same
merciless sentence: Aut pati, ant mori — " Either
suffer or die."

They know well that restraint and suffering is
essential to the formation, the growth, the main-
tenance of every virtue — suffering in the mind, in
the will, in the heart, in the affections, in the

For does not the mind rebel against the yoke
not only of faith but of reason ? Does it not play
into the hands of the imagination and of the senti-


ments, and betray us at all points ? And is not
the natural will a rebel to all obedience and law ?
And are not the affections prone to selfishness and
narrowness, and hostile to the wide spirit of charity
and brotherly love ? And are not the senses and
passions stubborn against the control of temperance
and fortitude, and of all the other virtues included
under these ? Are they not all so many infidels
who have gained possession of God's holy land, that
is, of the sacred territory of the human soul —
infidels, in their blindness to the principles of faith
and reason, in their spirit of boundless self-
assertion at the expense of God's glory and man's
happiness, infidels who are to be, not slain, but
chastised and subdued and pressed into servitude
in the interests of Divine Wisdom, their conqueror?
Can all this disorder be checked, all these wild
forces be kept in hand, can the sweet yoke and
light burden of Heavenly Wisdom be imposed and
borne without suffering and pain? Ant pati, aid
movi. Life without suffering is impossible; if truth,
if holiness, if virtue, if friendship, if purity be life,
we must make up our mind either to suffer or to

And this, all the more, when we remember
that there are hours of special combat and fierce
temptation to be prepared for, when the rain
descends and the rushing flood rises and the storm
beats upon the citadel of our soul. For, against
these contingencies we are obliged to strengthen
ourselves in time of peace by frequent exercise, or
ascesis as it is called, by the practice not merely



of restraint but of mortification, by cutting off not
only all that is excessive or unlawful, but also much
that is lawful and permissible. These are the peace-
manoeuvres and sham-fights of the spiritual life,
or rather, of the moral life — for we are still in the
realm of natural religion ; Nonne et ethnici hocfaciunt ?
Did not the Pagan stoics teach us to do these
things ? Were they not truly ascetics, passing the
same verdict upon life as St. Teresa : Aut pati, aut
mori — life without suffering is impossible. If we
are to be victorious in the conflict with self, if we
are not to be castaways, we must suffer ; we must
chastise the body and bring it into subjection. If
to stand is to live, if to fall is to perish — Aut pati, aut
mori — we must either suffer or die.

Again, if we turn to the mystics, to the prophets,
poets, and seers of all ages, to those who being
lifted up from the earth have drawn all men unto
themselves, whose eyes have been fixed beyond
human wont on the intolerable brightness of the face
of Truth, who have been caught up to the heavens
and have heard words which it is not lawful for
man to utter, save wrapped close in the shroud of
symbolism ; when we turn to these and ask them
for the law of life, we get only the same sad answer:
Aut pati, aut mori — you must either suffer or die.
" If any man will come after Me," says the Truth,
"let him take up his cross and follow Me;"
" unless a man forsake all that he hath, he cannot
be My disciple." If light and vision be life, if
blindness and darkness be death — A tit pati, aut mori
w we must either suffer or die.


For even the very body itself must be exalted,
purified, and spiritualized by suffering, by fast
and vigil and penance ; it must be subdued,
tranquillized, and, as it were, put to sleep before
it is an apt medium for communication between
this world and the other, before it is attuned to
be a fit instrument of God's Holy Spirit. The
spiritual man understands the deep things of the
spirit because they are spiritually apprehended,
but the animal man never rises beyond the
laboured methods of reason ; he knows nothing
of the instincts of love, of that quick intuition
which leaps to the truth, from crag to crag, and
pinnacle to pinnacle, where others crawl and
clamber and stumble. Dilcdus mens, says Truth,
venit mihi saliens super monies — " My beloved comes to
Me leaping across the mountains." " What man can
know the counsels of God, or who can divine His
will ? For the thoughts of men are timid, and their
foresight is uncertain, because the corruptible body
weighs upon the soul, and its earthen tenement
drags down the mind with its many thoughts."
As far as she can by suffering shake herself free
from the embrace of this body of death, so far can
the soul fly to the embrace of Truth, her Spouse,
her Life : A ut pati, aut mori.

And if we inquire of religion in its various forms,
with its doctrine of sin and expiation, we universally
get the same response as from hedonism or stoicism
or mysticism : Aut pati, aut mori — " Either suffer or
die." Without the shedding of blood, without
penance and sackcloth and ashes, there is no re-


mission of guilt ; the soul that sinneth it shall
either suffer or die. For sin is more than the folly
of self-hurt and self-destruction, more than a
transgression of order. It is an offence against
God the Ordainer ; it is a rebellion of will against
will, of person against person, of the creature
against the Creator ; it is the uprising of a wave
that flings itself in vain pride against the solid rock,
to be thrown back and dashed to pieces for its
pains. Reason can ill-fathom the mystery, but the
instinct of all races has taught them that sin is in
some sense balanced and set right by suffering, and
that without suffering the disease is irremediable
and mortal. Aut pati, aut mori ; if sin be death, if
absolution be life, we must either suffer or die.

But in all this we have not yet touched the
secret of St. Teresa's passion for suffering ; for it
is no other than the secret of the lover. Love must
either suffer or die — Aut pati, aut mori ; suffering is
its very life and energy. As the ungrateful flame
burns and destroys what it feeds and lives upon,
so love seizes upon the heart and gnaws at it night
and day, and wears and wastes the frail body, and
consumes its strength with labours and sorrows.
And this we see to the full in the Divine Lover,
the Archetype of all lovers, the Man of Sorrows,
acquainted with grief, poor and in labours from His
youth, crushed and crucified and tormented by the
tyranny of love, and brought down to the very dust
of death. The Passion of Christ ! Why Passion ?
The all-devouring passion of God's love for the soul !
Was not suffering the very fuel and sustenance of


that fire — a fire to be fed on the wood of the Cross,
or else to die down and perish — Aut pati, aut
mori. St. Paul knew well what love meant when
he said to his little ones : " We would have plucked
out our very eyes and given them to you." He had
learnt in the school of the Good Shepherd, who
gave His Body to be torn in pieces for His sheep,
His Blood to be drained out to the last drop:
"Take ye and eat, this is My Body; take ye and
drink, this is My Blood ; take all that I have, all
that I am — Aut pati, aut mori — I must suffer for you
or else die." Nonne opportuit Christum pati ? If
love must suffer, did it not behove Christ to suffer?

Can we clearly or fully explain this or justify it
in the cold light of reason ? Can chill philosophy
tell us why love thirsts for suffering, why it is
straitened till its baptism of blood be accomplished ?
Even if it cannot, what need we care ? Far more
things are true than can be explained, else, there
were little truth to be had. The experience of
mankind cannot only vouch for the fact, but can, so
to say, feel the reasonableness of it, better than it
can say it. Expcrtus potest credere ! Which of the
saints and lovers of Christ has not felt a craving
that suffering alone can appease, or has not felt
that he must simply die if he cannot suffer ? And
does not the history of every pure and noble human
love tell us the same tale ?

Love, then, was the secret of St. Teresa's
passion for suffering ; love ever seeking to express
itself to the full ; making difficulties, where it found
none made to hand, that it might have occasion to


embody itself in strenuous effort, and so relieve the
pressure and tension of its unused energy and
strengthen itself by strong acts oft-repeated. Suffer-
ing was the food and fuel for which it hungered:
Aut pati, aut mori, without suffering it must have
died down and perished.

And what was the secret of her love ? For love
is our life, the eternal life of our soul ; and the secret
of loving God is the one thing worth knowing.
Alas ! man can but speak the words of that secret,
God alone can open the understanding; man can
transmit the dead letter, God only can breathe into
it the quickening spirit ; man can plough and sow
and water, God alone can give the increase. It
cometh up we know not how. Let St. John, the
Doctor of Divine Love, the guardian of the mysteries
of the Sacred Heart, be our teacher. "We love
Him," he says, " because He first loved us." It is
when God first reveals Himself to the soul as her
Lover, that she falls at His feet as one dead, pierced
through, as St. Teresa saw herself in vision, with a
fiery dart. Vulnerasti cor meum uno oculorum tuorum
— " Thou hast wounded my heart with one glance
of Thine eyes." One clear gaze upon that mystery,
and the soul is for ever the slave of love. As long
as our mind is filled with some distorted abstract,
half-true notion of the complete self-sufficingness of
God, as long as our puerile imaginings picture Him
as merely benevolent and patronizing in our regard,
as offering us the alms of His benefits, but caring
little whether we accept or decline them ; until we
receive and believe without understanding or recon-


ciling it with His self-sufficingness, the mystery of
God's dependence and indigence, love will but
slumber in our heart, as fire in the cold, hard flint
till struck from it by the steel.

But let us once look upon the love-worn face
of the Man of Sorrows, and read in its lines,
its tear-stains and blood-stains, the record of
the ravages of Divine love, pent up and com-
pressed within the narrow walls of a finite heart ;
let us but see in Him the Spouse of man's thought-
less, thankless soul, coming to us in beggary, poor,
naked, hungry, and thirsty, to be enriched, and
clothed, and fed, and refreshed by our love; let us
but hear Him as He knocks at our heart's portal
and cries : " Open to Me, My sister, My spouse, for
My hair is drenched with the dew, and My locks
with the night rain;" let us but realize that in
very deed our God wants us, pines for us, hungers
and thirsts for us, and lo ! we have passed from
death unto life, from twilight to noonday, we have
found a key to the seeming extravagances, the
follies, the delirium, the reckless prodigalities of the
saints and of the King of saints, to whom not to
suffer was to die. Were that light to break upon us
only for a moment we could understand, as now we
cannot, the love that burned so fiercely in the heart
of Teresa, a love stronger than death ; bearing all
things, believing all things, hoping all things, endur-
ing all things ; a love which swept aside every
obstruction in its impetuous course ; a love which
for twenty dark years endured the searching sword
of separation from the Beloved, the privation of all


consciousness of His presence, of all sensible conso-
lation and spiritual joy ; a love whose insupportable
strength at last shattered the too straitened vessel
of her heart, and lending wings to her emancipated
soul, bore it up to its nest in the embrace of God ;
towards the life of painless love matured and made
perfect by suffering. 1

1 A further elucidation of the doctrine of pain will be found in
the Appendix


Ah ! Christ, if there were no hereafter
It still were best to follow Thee ;

Tears are a nobler gift than laughter ;

Who wears Thy yoke, alone is free. — C.K.P.

It may not be altogether useless and unprofitable
for us to see in what sense, if in any, we can accept
the sentiment embodied in these lines, and recon-
cile it with the teaching of St. Paul, where he tells
us 1 that if our hope in Christ be only for this life,
then are we of all men most to be pitied, and
where he asks, what will it profit him (humanly
speaking) to have fought with wild beasts at
Ephesus if the dead rise not ? " Let us eat and
drink, for to-morrow we die." Let us snatch the
fleeting day as it slips by, let us seize on each
precious " now " and make the most of it, let us
crown ourselves with the perishable roses of life
before they fade, let us, not work, but rejoice and
make merry "while it is yet day," ere the sombre
night of death wrap us in everlasting darkness and

St. Peter says to our Saviour : " Lo ! we have
left all and followed Thee ; we have forsaken all
that makes life valuable to the majority of man-

1 i Cor. xv.


kind, and we have embraced the life of the Cross ;
what therefore shall be our reward ; what shall we
get by it ? " And Jesus answers : " Amen, I say to
you that you who have followed Me, in the Resurrec-
tion, when the Son of Man shall sit upon the throne
of His majesty, shall sit on twelve thrones judging
the twelve tribes of Israel. And every one who
shall have left home, or brethren, or sisters, or
father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands for
My Name shall receive a hundred-fold in the present
life, with persecutions, and shall possess everlasting

At first hearing, this question of St. Peter's seems
to spring from a sentiment altogether opposite to
that which is expressed in the words :

Ah ! Christ, if there were no hereafter,
It still were best to follow Thee ;

and to that which taught Aquinas to answer the
question: "What reward wilt thou have?" with,
"None other than Thyself, Lord;" and which made
a Kempis cry out : " I had rather be a stranger
upon earth with Thee, than possess Heaven without
Thee. Where Thou art, there is Heaven ; " and taught
St. Francis Xavier to sing : " My God, I love Thee,
not because I hope for Heaven thereby; " and even
which broke from the lips of Peter himself when he
cried, " Lord, though all men should forsake Thee,
yet not I. I will lay down my life for Thee; I am
ready to go with Thee to prison and to death " — as
though he would say : " Better to fail with Thee,
than to triumph without Thee; Truth is none the


less great even should it never prevail, and the
gloom of Calvary no less glorious than the brightness

And so if we look closely into the matter we
shall find that the very form in which he puts his
seemingly ignoble question, exculpates him from all
ignoble intent. " Lo, we have left all and followed
Thee ; what therefore shall be unto us ? " Evidently
then, when they left all and followed Him, they
were moved by no definite prospect of other gain,
and it is only some considerable time after the event
that human prudence wakes for a moment from its
dream, to seek reason for what has been done
unreasoningly, in defiance of worldly wisdom, in a
sudden burst of Divine enthusiasm. There was no
reasoning or calculating, no quid erit nobis ? when,
at a word, or a glance, they left all and rose up and
followed Him, lured away from home and kindred
and possessions by the spell of His wondrous per-
sonality, by the irresistible magnetism which draws
the soul back to the bosom of God, whence it
came. He Himself was that hundred-fold beside
whom all gain sesmed but loss, whose possession
secured an immutable peace in the midst of the
bitterest persecution and temptation ; He was that
pearl of great price, cheaply purchased at the sacri-
fice of home and brethren and sisters and father and
mother and wife and children and lands. Nor did
they pause to think, as they let go everything to
grasp at that treasure, whether it was to be the
possession of a moment or of eternity. Love does
not reason or reckon, but leaps up to follow


the Beloved blindfold " whithersoever He goeth,"
whether to prison and to death, or to victory and
life. " Where Thou goest," it seems to say, " I will
go ; where Thou lodgest, I will lodge ; where Thou
diest, I will die, and there also will I be buried."
Who has ever heard of any true human love which
tempered its sacrifices according to length of golden
days presumably in store for it ; or which regulated
its fervour on the principles which govern life-
insurance ; or who can believe that St. Peter's
enthusiasm would have been damped in any degree
had the cause of Christ been doomed to failure,
rather than to eternal victory ? Eamus et nos, he
would have said, et moriamur cum Mo — " Let us
also go and die with Him." Have not thousands
of heroes counted it gain to face death and defeat
beside a loved leader; and has any leader ever been
loved as Christ was ?

It was for His own sake that they left all and
followed Him, and not for the sake of aught He
might give them. He Himself was the gift. But later,
when they heard our Saviour saying, " Go, sell what
thou hast and give to the poor, and thou shalt have
treasure in Heaven, and then come and follow Me,"
they wondered what this treasure in Heaven might
be which was promised to those who should do
what they had already done. And what, in effect,
was it, but to be with Christ in His triumph as they
were to be with Him in His defeat; what, but the
eternal prolongation of the bliss which they had
already entered upon ? It was because they sought
nothing that they were to gain everything ; because


in blind obedience to the call of love they left all,
that they were to find all — a hundred-fold in this
life, in spite of persecutions, and in the world to
come life everlasting; for in choosing Christ they
chose a treasure infinite and eternal, albeit they
knew it but indistinctly.

" One day in Thy courts," says David, " is better
than a thousand ;" one instant of eternal life better
than a century of time ; one kiss from the lips of
God better than unending ages of the tenderest
human affection. And this were true even were it
not equally true that the embrace of the Creator
locks the soul to God's bosom for ever and for ever.

If it is better to have been a man for a few brief
years, than a toad slumbering through a century or
more in the heart of a tree, it is also better to have
lived the highest life of the soul, to have breathed
the atmosphere of Heaven for even one day, than to
have passed a whole lifetime on a base or even on a
lower level, —

One crowded hour of glorious life
Is worth an age without a name.

How many lives have been ennobled, redeemed from
insignificance by the heroism or the inspiration of a
moment, or of a few moments, which has made
them immortal. How often have the stains of a
worldly or wicked career been wiped out by some
single purgatorial act of sacrificial unselfishness ?
Have we not all moments of clear insight or high
aspiration which are more precious to us than
weeks and months of our normal mediocrity ? Is


it not by the recognition of this that the Church is
rightly excused from the charge of prodigality and
extravagance when she crowns a momentary act of
pure love or Divine sorrow with the plenitude of
her absolution and indulgence ?

Can we then doubt that if friendship with Christ,
the God-Man, be the highest life of which the soul
of man is capable, it must then be a good beyond
every other good, and one for which every other
should be sacrificed, since we should not attempt to
measure quantitatively, one against another, things
of a wholly different order. As a moment's thought
exceeds a life-time of sensation, so the briefest
experience of Divine friendship outweighs in solid
value all other possible experiences in a lower plane.
Senectus enim vencrabilis est non diuturna, nee annorum
numero computata. Cani enim sunt sensus hominis et
(Etas senectutis vita immaculata — " Life is measured
by experience, and not by years." One instant of
that immaculate life which the soul lives as it flits
like a moth through the bright, all-consuming,
all-purifying flame of the Divine presence, one
moment of close union with the Eternal, the
" Ancient of Days," and it has lived with a fulness
of life all but Divine, — " made perfect in a little
space, it has accomplished the labour of many

We have spoken so far of conscious personal
friendship with Christ, as being the essence of this
higher life whose value were no less supreme, even
were it but of briefest duration ; and of which it
may most truly be said,


'Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.

But our concern here is rather with what we might
call the unconscious friendship with Christ of those
who walk with Him by the way, their hearts burning
within them, though their eyes are holden so that
they know Him not; those namely, who, not knowing
Christ, yet to some greater or less extent live the
life of Christ ; who, not having the Gospel, are
imbued with the principles and sentiments of the
Gospel, being a Gospel unto themselves ; who
perhaps obscurely hear Him and feel Him guiding
them through the voice of conscience — as the unseen
Shepherd and Bishop of their souls, ever walking
with them in the way ; in a word, those animce
naturaliter Christiana which the spirit of Christ
fashions to His likeness in all ages and climes.

Can it then be said, speaking of the life and way
of Christ, rather than of Christ Himself,

Ah ! Christ, if there were no hereafter,
It still were best to follow Thee,

it still were best, apart from all distinct recognition
of that Heavenly Friend who is the Way, the Truth,
and the Life, to walk in the narrow way of the Cross,
to hold that truth, to live that life, for its own sake ?

Online LibraryGeorge TyrrellHard sayings; a selection of meditations and studies → online text (page 11 of 31)