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George Tyrrell.

Hard sayings; a selection of meditations and studies online

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for him, the only help that was meet for him, that
could deliver him from solitude midst the teeming
life and endless stir of the natural world.

Yes, God had withheld the good wine till the last.
And whence is He to fashion this help for man ?
Not as Adam was fashioned from the rude dust of
the earth, but from man himself, "bone of his bone
and flesh of his flesh," taken from his very substance,
in a sense his child, his offspring; bound to him
with all the ties that bind child to parent, and with
ethers not less close and tender. And so, when
Adam had sought in vain a help meet for him, God
created woman and brought her to him ; and man
said, " ' This is now bone of my bone, flesh of my
flesh; she shall be called woman, for that she is
taken out of man : ' for this cause shall a man leave
his father and mother and cleave to his wife,
and they shall be two in one." Two in one : one
perfect being made of two parts. Neither complete
without the other, bodily or spiritually. If, as the
religion of Mahomet teaches, woman's end were but
to help man in the work of perpetuating the race,
then indeed she need not have been spiritually
man's equal ; God need not, as the Mahometans
suppose He did not, have endowed her with an
immortal soul. He might have created her to be
man's abject slave, in no sense his human equal,



A GREAT MYSTERY. 223

But man's work, man's end, is not merely animal,
is not merely to live and multiply. Our mind
refuses to rest in the thought that one gene-
ration exists principally for the sake of the next ;
and not primarily for its own sake. Man's chief
and only essential duty, end, and work is to praise,
reverence, and serve the Lord his God, and thereby
to save his soul ; and it is principally to help him
in this spiritual work that woman was created,
and matrimony instituted. In this she could not
help him, were she not destined with him for a
like end ; were she not capable herself of praising,
reverencing, and serving God, and had she not a
soul to save.

How, then, does she help him in this work ?
As a wife principally, and then as a mother.

It is needless to point out how imperfect a man's
spiritual education must be, if he lives a life of
complete solitude ; how many possible virtues must
lie dormant and inactive, or simply wither away
for want of exercise. There are recorded cases of
children who have been lost in woods and forests,
and have grown up in the company of wild beasts,
far removed from all human intercourse. And when
they were discovered, they were found to be dumb,
savage, and unreasoning, like the animals among
which they had lived. Now the marriage-bond is
the elementary bond with respect to human society,
and community of life. It is the first, the natural,
the universal and most absolute of all partnerships,
by which two become one. All other bonds and
ties shadow some aspect of this, more or less



224 A GREAT MYSTERY.

imperfectly. The husband and wife are constant
companions, life-long friends. They have not one
or two common interests only, but a thousand ;
and there is hardly a single virtue which is not
needed, which must not be practised and strength-
ened, if they are to fulfil their duty by one another
— patience, meekness, justice, prudence, fortitude,
self-restraint, generosity, in a word, all manner of
unselfishness.

Nor is it only as the closest and most intimate of
his companions and friends of his heart that the
wife helps towards the husband's spiritual develop-
ment ; but as being in some sense his moral com-
plement, even as she is his physical complement —
the two dividing the one perfect human character
between them, one abounding where the other is
deficient ; one strong where the other is weak ;
each soul fitting into the other, supplying its defects,
filling its emptinesses, making with it one perfect
image and likeness of the ideal humanity as conceived
in the mind of God. Only in the one perfect
Exemplar, only in the soul of Christ were all
virtues, graces, and perfections, fully developed,
perfectly balanced and adjusted, justice and mercy,
strength and gentleness, truth and caution, courage
and discretion, energy and patience, generosity and
prudence, liberty and restraint. He alone was
"beautiful above the children of men," for all
beauty lies in justness of proportion and delicacy
of temper.

But other men, if they are strong, they are often
rough ; if they are just, they are harsh ; if they are



A GREAT MYSTERY. 225



courageous, they are rash ; if energetic, impatient ,

if generous, extravagant. Women, on the other

hand, if they are gentle, merciful, prudent, patient,

if they abound in tact, delicacy, spiritual-minded-

ness ; they fail more easily in the rougher, sterner,

and more primitive virtues. It is only in man and

woman, taken together, that we have the fulness

and perfection of human graces and virtues ; not

merely the diamond in the rough, but set and cut

and polished till all its brightness gleams out to

perfection. We all recognize this when we speak

disapprovingly of a man as womanish or effeminate,

not because he possesses the special virtues of

womanhood — chastity, gentleness, patience, tact,

unselfishness, which would be to his greater honour

and not to his discredit, but because he lacks the

special virtues of manhood. And so a virago or

masculine woman is not a mulier fortis, a brave, just,

courageous, truth-loving woman, but one who fails

in the graces that are the peculiar ornament of

womanhood.

Again, as mother of his children, she helps man,
not only in conceiving, bearing, nursing, and tending
their bodies ; but in perfecting the image of God in
their souls, which is as much part of their natural
perfection as the growth and maturing of their
bodies. Her child is not fully born until it begins
to be born to God, to learn from her lips to love
and worship its Maker ; nor is it weaned till it has
learned in some way to walk alone and without her
assistance in the way of God's commandments.
And for this end God has made woman more
p



226 A GREAT MYSTERY.

spiritual-minded, more apt in the things of God,
that she might be as naturally adapted for the
nursing, rearing, and formation of the young soul
as she is for that of the body.

A.nd so we see that it is precisely because woman
has a soul to save, that she is a help fit and worthy
of man ; a help in the great work of saving the soul
first of her husband and then of his children ; and
that marriage, as God intended it, is not merely a
carnal union, but principally a joining of souls;
that its end is not to replenish and overpopulate
the earth with animals more canino, 1 but to fill
Heaven with saints ; to multiply bodies for the
sake of souls. And so far we have not been
speaking of marriage as a sacrament instituted by
Christ ; but as ordained by God in the beginning,
when he created man and sought out "a help meet
for him " in the great work which he had to do, to
praise, reverence, and serve God, and so to save his
soul.



II.

11 This is a great sacrament : I speak as to Christ and the
Church." — Ephes. v.

" Every good and perfect gift," says St. James,
" is from above and comes down from the Father of
Lights ; " that is to say, whatever there is good and
perfect in God's works, whether in the kingdom of
nature or in the kingdom of grace is a shadow, a
type, an imperfect semblance, of that infinite good-

1 St. Augustine, De bon. viduit.



A GREAT MYSTERY. 227

ness and perfection, which is God Himself. " From
Him," says St. Paul, " all fatherhood in Heaven and
earth is named and derived." The Eternal Father-
hood, the Eternal Sonship, the Eternal Generation
is the only good and perfect Fatherhood, and
Sonship, and Generation ; of which the natural
and human are but distant, finite, immeasurably
feeble and faulty imitations and figures ; like all
other creatures — frail steps by which our earthly
mind can raise itself up some little way towards the
infinite and everlasting archetypes. Similarly, if we
wish to contemplate the heavenly type, the per-
fection, the ideal of marriage, we must raise up
our hearts and gaze upon the great mystery of
Christ and the Church.

A sacrament, as we learn, is made up of the
outward sign and the inward grace signified and
conveyed. If the grace were signified, but not
conveyed, we should have no true and efficacious
sacrament of the Gospel ; no real, though mystical,
application of one of the manifold fruits of the
Precious Blood to our souls. In the beginning,
matrimony, as ordained by God, was a sign, as it
is now, of the union between Christ and His Church ;
of that which was to be the ideal of the relation
subsisting between man and wife ; but until it was
made a sacrament of the Church, the marriage
contract was not a means but only a sign of grace ;
it did not convey power to the man and wife to
realize and carry out that ideal, to imitate in their
conduct towards one another the intercourse between
Christ and His Spouse the Church. For as the



228 A GREAT MYSTERY.

Holy Eucharist helps us to mature and perfect,
detail after detail, the image of Christ which the
Holy Ghost prints on our soul in Baptism, by which
Christ is born in us ; as it helps us to grow up to
the stature of the perfect man in Christ, so the
Sacrament of Holy Matrimony produces in the soul
of the husband a special likeness to Christ as Head
and Husband of the Church; and in the soul of the
wife a special likeness to the Church, as the Bride
of the Lamb ; and effects between both a mystical
and supernatural union in the order of grace, over
and above the moral and physical union of mere
natural, non-Christian marriage — a union whose
type is given us in the fiat " they shall be two in
one flesh," whose archetype is the sameness, the
oneness of Christ and His Mystical Body. And
therefore, with St. Paul for our guide, let us look to
Christ and the Church, that we may know better
what the Christian husband and wife ought to be
one to another ; what the Sacrament of Matrimony
alone can make them — and that, on the condition
of its being well and worthily received, and co-
operated with, and followed up.

" Let women be subject to their husbands as to
the Lord ; for the husband is the head of the wife,
as Christ is the Head of the Church ; for He is the
Saviour of the body. But the Church is subjected
to Christ ; and women likewise to their husbands in
everything. And let husbands love their wives,
even as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself
up for her, that He might sanctify her, having
purified her with the washing of water in the word,



A GREAT MYSTERY. 229

that He Himself might present her to Himself a
glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any
such thing ; but that she might be holy and blame-
less. So ought men to love their own wives even
as their own bodies; for he that loveth his wife
loveth himself. No man ever yet hated his own
flesh, but nourishes it and cares for it, even as
Christ does the Church ; for we are members of
His body. For this cause shall a man leave his
father and mother and shall cleave to his wife, and
they shall be two in one flesh. This is a great
sacrament (but I speak as to Christ and the
Church). But let every one of you in particular
love each his own wife even as himself; and the
wife, in such sort that she fear her husband."

First of all, then, Christ is the Head of the
Church, which is His Body; and we ourselves are
the various parts and members and organs, of which
that Mystical Body is made up ; And although the
body is subject to the head, and serves the head,
and is ruled by the head, yet the head and body
are not two distinct beings, but parts of one and
the same being — each part necessary for the other ;
both necessary for the whole being. So Christ is
greater than the Church, which ministers to Him,
which is ruled by Him, which is His instrument
and servant ; yet He and His Church are not two
distinct beings, but parts of one mystical whole,
which we sometimes find spoken of indistinctly as
Christ and sometimes as the Church. As the head
needs the body, and the heart, and the limbs, and
as it works and acts through their instrumentality;



230



A GREAT MYSTERY.



so Christ needs the members of His Body, the
Church, and works and acts through them. And
again, as the body severed from the head is lifeless,
sightless, motionless, and quickly falls to pieces by
decay ; so the Church severed from Christ would
perish at once ; the light of her infallible teaching
wou]d be extinguished ; her sacraments would be
empty outward signs, without life-giving power, her
discipline and organization would fall to pieces,
and her members would be severed and dis-
persed like dust before the wind. The head does
not regard the body as distinct from itself, but as
making with itself one personality. It does not rule
the body selfishly, as though the two had diverse
interests which might come into conflict, but as
having only one common interest ; and, for a like
reason, the body does not obey the head grudgingly
or of necessity, but gladly and willingly. So with
Christ and the Church there is but one nature, one
end, one desire, one operation.

Once more, it is one and the same spirit or
soul which quickens the head and the body; it
is the same vital spark which warms them both ;
the same blood which flows continually backward
and forward from the one to the other ; and
likewise it is one and the same Holy Ghost,
who dwells in His fulness in the God-Man and
who was poured out by Him upon the Church at
Pentecost flowing down from the Head to the
furthest members of the body. It is the same
Blood which courses through the veins and Sacred
Heart of our Saviour, and which fills the chalices of



A GREAT MYSTERY. 231

the Church's daily Sacrifice, and which washes
away the stains of sin in the Sacraments of Baptism
and Penance. It is the fire of one and the same
Divine charity which burns, with its all-but-infinite
intensity and ardour, in Christ our Head, and
feebly but truly in us His members; for it is kindled
and fanned by the inspiration of one single Spirit.

" No man ever yet hated his own body," says our
teacher, St. Paul, "but nourishes it and cherishes
it, even as Christ does the Church." How tenderly
Christ cares for this Body of His ; how marvellously
He nourishes it with the food of His own Sacred
Flesh ; how He refreshes its thirst and washes its
soil with His own most Precious Blood. Surely we
are bone of His bone and flesh of His flesh ; taken
out of His sacred side, when He slept the deep
sleep on the Cross of Calvary, and built up, into a
"help meet for Him;" surely, as far as was possible,
He has left His Eternal Father, He has left His
home in Heaven, He has left His Blessed Mother
in tears for our sake, " for us men and for our
salvation," that He might cleave to His Church, to
His Spouse ; for He was enamoured of us poor
sinners, and His delight was to be with the sons of
men.

It was the custom in the East, as we see in the
story of Esther and Assuerus, that the monarch's
bride, before she was presented to him for marriage,
should undergo a long and tedious course of
ceremonial preparation and purification, involving
various ritual anointings and washings. It is to
this St. Paul makes allusion when he tells us how



232 A GREAT MYSTERY.

nobly and unselfishly Christ loved the Church, as
though some great and glorious prince, enamoured
of a poor, humble village maid, were to disguise
himself meanly and to serve her, and to labour and
suffer and bleed for her, that he might thus win hei
love and raise her up to share his throne, his honour,
and his kingdom. So Christ loved the Church.
He did not send for her imperiously, but came to
her meek and lowly, came veiled in her own human
guise, came to seek and to save that which was lost.
He "gave Himself up for her," as the Shepherd who
gives His life for the perishing sheep, "that He
might sanctify her" with His sanctifying Spirit.
Nor does He leave it to His ministering angels to
prepare and purify her for His embrace ; but He
Himself (avrbs eavrS), the King of Glory, must wash
and purify her with the water and blood that gushed
from His love-pierced Heart. And this labour of
love is going on day by day, as we, the members of
His Body the Church, are being purified and sanc-
tified and prepared for the marriage of the Lamb,
when He Himself and no other will present to
Himself the Bride whom He has sought and
purchased, cleansed and purified, and made into
a glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle or
other sign of her natural mortality and corruption;
but altogether " holy and blameless."

Was there ever a love-myth or romance that
would not read cold and colourless beside this
revelation of God's own passionate love and devo-
tion towards His chosen Spouse, a cloud-wrapped
love shrouded in types and figures, which shoots



A GREAT MYSTERY.



233



out a chance ray from the folds of its dark
mantle — a hint and no more of the dazzling
glory behind.

M Behold thou art fair, O My love I 1
Behold thou art fair !
Thine eyes are the eyes of a dove ;
As a lily among thorns,
So is My beloved among the daughters.
Arise ! Make haste, My love, My fair one,

and come.
Thou art all fair, O My love,
And there is no spot in thee.
Thou hast wounded My heart, My sister, My

spouse,
With one glance of thine eyes.
One is My love ; My faultless is but one.
Who is she that cometh forth as the rising

morn,
Fair as the moon, bright as the sun, terrible

as an army set in array ?
Who is this that cometh up from the desert,
Flowing with delights and leaning on her

Beloved.
Put Me as a seal upon thy heart,
As a seal upon thy arm ;
For love is strong as death.
Many waters cannot quench it,
Neither can the floods drown it ;
If a man should give all the substance of his

house for love,
He shall despise it as nothing."

1 Canticles, passim.



234 A GREAT MYSTERY.

And the Bride of the Lamb, the Church, His blessed
Spouse, makes answer :

" I am dark but comely, O ye daughters of

Jerusalem,
As the tents of Kedar,
As the hangings of Solomon.
Do not consider that I am brown
Or that the sun hath altered my colour ;
For it is because the sons of my mother

have fought against me,
And have made me keeper in the vineyard.
Show me, O Thou whom my soul loveth,
Where thou feedest Thy flock, where Thou

liest in the mid-day,
Lest I begin to wander after the flocks of

Thy companions.
As the apple-tree among the trees of the

wood,
So is my Beloved among the sons.
I sat down under His shadow whom I

desired,
And His fruit was sweet to my palate.
Stay me with flowers, compass me about

with apples,
For I languish with love.
His left hand is under my head and His

right hand shall embrace me.
My Beloved is mine, and I am His
Who feedeth His flocks among the anemones,
Till the day break and the shadows flee

away.'*



A GREAT MYSTERY.



235



It is, therefore, according to St. Paul, as an
adumbration and prefiguring of the oneness of
Christ and His Church that marriage was first
instituted as a great sacrament or sign ; a " mystery,"
or inarticulate hint, as the word means.

But as the sacrifice of the Old Law fell short of
that of the New; so does the marriage of the Old
Law fall short of the sacramental marriage of
Christians. The Mosaic sacrifices looked forward
to Calvary, the Eucharist looks back upon it ; they
obscurely, as to an unknown future ; It distinctly, as
to a well-defined past. They proclaimed the need
of a victim ; It supplies it. They signified ; It fulfils
and effects. So of Christian Matrimony; it figures
the espousals of Christ and the Church, not as
a thing that has yet to be, but as a thing which
is already virtually accomplished ; not as a thing
altogether hidden and conjecturable ; but as a
thing to some extent revealed and more clearly
delineated. It not merely points to Christ and the
Church as to the heavenly archetype and ideal of
the matrimonial relationship, but effectually confers
grace whereby the earthly is conformed to the
heavenly, and becomes its created expression and
utterance.

Or, to illustrate the same idea again, God in the
beginning gave man corn and grape, bread and
wine. And from the beginning bread was a ''great
sacrament," a sign of God who is the life and
support of man's soul and heart ; a sign of the yet
undreamt-of mysterious Bread which came down
from Heaven to give life to the world, and was laid



236 A GREAT MYSTERY.

in the manger, in the House of Bread ; a sign of the
gathering together of the corn of God's elect from
the four quarters of the earth into one bread and
one body ; a sign of the Christian antitype, the
Eucharistic Bread of Life, which was given us by
the Bread of Life— Himself by Himself,—" He gave
Himself with His own hands." Yet who could have
read this great mystery, this sacramental meaning
in God's good gift ; who but God Himself or His
prophets, to whom His secrets were in part revealed?
But to us it was revealed in its fulness when Christ
took the bread of our natural life and changed it
into the Bread of supernatural life, and said, "Take,
eat, this is My Body." Similarly he took the
marriage of nature and changed it into the marriage
of grace ; and to the contract, which was already
an outward sign, He attached the inward grace
which it signified ; and to the manifold natural
bonds he added a supernatural bond higher and
holier and more insoluble, saying, "Whom God
hath joined together, let no man put asunder "
It is God who ties soul to soul by this mysterious
communication of supernatural grace, of which
neither alone is the complete recipient, but both
together, each having need of the other, each having
power over the other ; and even if ever the law of
nations could permit the breach of the moral and
physical bond, tied by the parties themselves, it can
never give a right or power to sever the bond of
grace, which they have tied, not in their own
person, but only as ministers of the sacrament, as
mere instruments in the hands of God, the principal



A GREAT MYSTERY. 237

author. Divorce from this perfected marriage bond
is as the sin of schism — a rending asunder of the
Mystical Body of Christ.

Christian sacramental marriage, therefore, confers
grace on man and wife to set forth more and more
perfectly in their conduct with one another the
wedded life of Christ and the Church. The two
together are to be one body and one spirit ; not one
body only, but one spirit, one life ; and man's life is
not mere animation, but intelligence. Still more,
he has a supernatural life of grace ; and in this the
two are to be one, as in what is highest and best in
both. Short of this we have a merely human,
natural, unsacramental union ; short of this again,
there is a less than human and purely animal
marriage, which is not even an empty sign of grace.
For if the natural man has a two-fold nature and
work, animal and spiritual, the baptized has a third
and supernatural life and function, the life of grace,
to be developed and perfected and exercised in the
practice of supernatural virtues. And it is in this
third and highest work that he is to seek a help
meet for him in the Christian wife, in the mother of
Christian children.

As one being, man and wife have one and the
same supernatural and spiritual interest. The head
does not use and rule the body as distinct from
itself; nor is the supremacy and authority of the
husband over the wife to be compared to that of
parents over their offspring, who are subjected to
them as totally distinct personalities. He must not
sacrifice or postpone his wife's bodily welfare to his



238 A GREAT MYSTERY.

own. The head is well when the body is well ; and
when the head suffers, the body suffers with it. The
head must think for the body and the body must
labour for the head, each living for the other as for
itself. Husband and wife each must live for the
other as for themselves ; for the spirit first, and then
for the body ; as Christ's first care is for the
Church's sanctification, and then for her temporal
peace. Still there is a true, natural, and willing
subjection of the body to the head ; and the Church
sits ever at the feet of Christ, to learn His will and
to hear His words ; and so too the wife's oneness
with her husband does not free her from a willing
submission to him — a yoke which is for her liberty



Online LibraryGeorge TyrrellHard sayings; a selection of meditations and studies → online text (page 16 of 31)