George Tyrrell.

Hard sayings; a selection of meditations and studies online

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Evidently they are ambiguous words; but heaven
and earth are not more distant and opposed than
the two meanings of which they are susceptible.
One is by implication the doctrine of the dualism of
Zoroaster, and of the Gnostics and Manicheans,
which in its open form has ever been regarded as
the most pestilential error, but which, as the
parasitic corruption of a truth, has ever and again
subtly interwoven itself with the ascetic teachings
of saints and doctors, and has sprung up from time
to time to choke the good seed and impede its


fruitfulness and vigour. The other is the Catholic
teaching of reason and revelation, the canon by
which all other teaching must at length stand or
fall. Dualism gives us practically two gods ; a
principle of good and a principle of evil. Spirit, it
tells us, is the work of God ; matter is the work of
the devil. The conflict between these two, ending
in the victory of spirit and the subjugation of matter,
constitutes the drama of creation. This is only the
perversion of a great truth, a perversion slight in itself,
but portentous in its consequences. We too hold that
the subjugation of matter to spirit and of spirit to
God is the consummation towards which all things
move. But matter, no less than spirit, is God's
dear creature ; and as spirit is not destroyed, but
perfected and elevated by its subjection to divinity;
so matter is transfigured, glorified, and exalted by
its impregnation with spirit. God's conflict with
matter and spirit is not that of an enemy, but of a
parent with a wayward child whom he chastens in
love— Quern diligit, castigat. Evil spirits and evil
men play their part in this work of evolution and
purgation, but only under the permission and direc-
tion of God's most wise and loving, though
mysterious, providence. Seeing how large a part
the subjugation of the flesh to the spirit plays in
Christian asceticism, and how the great bulk of
men's more patent sins are due to the insubordina-
tion of the animal passions, it is a natural exaggera-
tion of the truth to suppose that the interests of
the body are wholly and always hostile to those of
the soul ; that spirituality requires the death of the


senses and emotions ; and that because the pre-
eminence of mind over matter is good, therefore it
may be with advantage carried to infinity. This
seems to be Plato's view, who regards the body
simply as the prison-house of the soul, a mere
impediment to its expansion, a hindrance altogether,
a help in no sense ; though it must be confessed
that he credits the pure spirit with an emotional
fervour and passionateness which an acuter analysis
recognizes to be dependent on the senses. How
great an influence Plato had with St. Augustine and
other Christian writers, and St. Augustine, in his
turn, upon the Western Church is notorious. Still
Aristotle, as interpreted by Aquinas, supplies a
salutary antidote to whatever insidious poison may
have been imbibed in regard to this matter. His
doctrine is altogether in sympathy with the mysteries
of Christian revelation touching the origin, office,
redemption, and glorification of the body. It is not
in the extinction of the feelings and passions and
instincts, but in their culture and restraint that
man's spirit reaches its fullest development. As
body and soul are complementary principles of our
substantial nature, so senses and intelligence, imagi-
nation and reason, feeling and volition, are co-
principles of our perfect operation ; the one material,
the other formal ; the one embodying, the other
embodied ; neither perfect, except so far as duly
proportioned to the other. Evil is not matter, or
anything absolute, but a discord, a disproportion ;
and to secure concord and proportion is the aim of
Catholic and Christian asceticism, so far as it is


identified with moral training and perfection. But,
as we have said above, it is easy to misunderstand
and pervert the true principle of mortification so as
to fall into implicit gnosticism. Christianity insists
on chastity, honours celibacy, approves fasting and
bodily penance. Gnosticism does the same, but on
a different assumption, and does much more besides,
dishonouring the body, forbidding marriage and the
use of animal food. And in a sense the erroneous
principle is simpler and more easily apprehended
and embraced than the truth, which is a nice
balance between the two extremes of an exaggerated
spiritualism on the one hand and of gross sensuality
on the other — the latter being the inevitable reaction
and final issue of the former.

For this reason the Church's watchful guidance
is continually needed to keep her children's feet in
the narrow track of truth, deviating neither to right
or left ; or rather, since the deviations are incessant,
it is her office to recall us now from one excess, now
from another. Hence she is credited by her enemies
with the most opposite vices ; at one time she is the
friend of publicans and sinners, eating and drinking,
a glutton and a wine-bibber ; at another, she comes
before the world fasting, and "behold she has a

Besides this natural misunderstanding of the
relation of body to spirit, a kindred source of the
error we are combating is found in the miscon-
ception of the relation of nature to grace. This
error is a perversion, not of a natural truth, but of a
dogma of revelation. No Christian can believe that


the devil created human nature, but many believe
wrongly that he has so perverted and corrupted the
essence of humanity, that God has practically made
him a present of it ; that as a cracked reed can only
give forth a harsh and broken note, so every action
and operation, every thought and desire and impulse
proceeding from our fallen nature jars upon God's
ears, is hateful and discordant to Him, as reminding
Him of the ruin of His fair handiwork. This is
Lutheranism and Jansenism ; and so far as the
writings of St. Augustine or even of St. Paul present
obscurities " which the unwary and unstable wrest
to their own damnation," it happens that at all
times there have been unauthorized Catholic teachers
who have implicitly, by precept or practice, admitted
a similarly false conception of the nature of original
sin ; and who have allowed it to tinge their ascetical
theories so that "natural" and " wicked" have come
to be synonymous in their language. "If we love
from natural motives, such love," they say, " must be
wicked. God has no pleasure in the moral perfection
even of a Socrates, but regards such unbaptized
virtue with disgust."

Here, as the truth is subtler, its perversion
is the more easy. Human nature in its essence
has suffered no deterioration through original sin.
It is still the image and likeness of God, and He,
seeing Himself mirrored therein, pronounces it
"very good; " and since it is He who works in its
every movement, and causes it to think truth and to
love goodness, and to do righteousness, that which
He works in us and through us as free instruments



is also " very good," and " shall in no wise lose its
reward." Yet it does not receive the same reward
as when our soul and its faculties are permeated,
transfigured, and elevated by supernatural light and
grace ; which, without destroying or removing our
natural goodness, shines through it like the sunlight
through stained glass, giving it a glory and radiance
which is in it, but not from it. Grace is not another
soul over and above our natural soul ; but it is a
new radiance given to the soul by a new indwelling
of God. We have not one set of actions which are
natural and another which are supernatural ; but
when the soul is supernaturalized, its faculties and
operations, as it were, its leaves and blossoms, are
characterized like the root from which they spring.
Grace is given us not to destroy but to fulfil, to
perfect nature in its own order and to add to it a
perfection of the Divine order. Supernatural love
presupposes perfect natural love as its subject and
basis. It breathes into it the breath of divinity and
makes it instinct with eternal life. It is not too bold
to say that grace is for nature, and not nature for
grace ; for every subject or substance is the final cause
of its own properties and endowments ; clothes for
the body, and not the body for clothes. Grace is given
to us for the healing and perfection of our nature,
in order that our natural intelligence and our natural
affections may be raised to a perceptible preter-
natural excellence and infused with an imperceptible
supernatural dignity and merit. Natural love is the
raw material which grace works upon or is wrought
upon. Crush natural love, and grace must remain idlet


Here, again, it is evident how fatal a false
dualism must be to ascetical doctrine. And yet the
fallacy as before is an easy one ; for the natural
mind, and will, and heart are perfected by the
gentle restraint of grace, and reach their culmina-
tion through obedience to law and at the cost of
" many tribulations ; " and from this fact we are
prone to conclude hastily that what needs to be
conquered, needs to be slain. Some confusion
moreover is due to the double sense attaching to
the word "natural." Besides the ordinary and
scientific sense there is a specialized use of the
word, in which it signifies, not merely what is not
transfigured by grace, but that which, owing to its
positive deformity and unreasonableness, is incapable
of being so transfigured. " Natural " love in this
sense — or " carnal love," as it is sometimes called —
is really "unnatural" if we use "natural" in the
proper sense of reasonable. It is love which is
selfish, disorderly, unrestrained ; bestowed on some
unfitting object, or on some fitting object in some
unfitting way.

It is plain, then, that we need not be surprised
if many good and holy men have been wanting in
clearness of perception and precision of expression
in regard to this obscure matter, where so much
caution is required to steer straight between the
Scylla and Charybdis. " Love me, love my dog,"
sounds a very straightforward and easy principle,
yet it can mean two very different things. It may
mean that, however much I may naturally and
justifiably detest my friend's pet, I cannot con-


sistently with his friendship ill-treat or abuse it, and
may even be bound to bestow upon it the outward
signs of an affection which I do not feel. This is
mere extrinsic love, whose motive is no excellence I
see in the dog; but only the excellence I see in my
friend. Yet a deeper friendship will make me wish
to go further; to enter into complete sympathy with
my friend's tastes and inclinations ; so that I shall
try to love what he loves with him, seeing in it what
he sees. I may not be able to do so altogether,
and so far my friendship is imperfect (supposing his
taste correct) and my soul is out of harmony or not
in the fullest harmony with his. Similarly, when
we speak of loving others for God's sake, we may
mean one of two utterly different things. We may
mean loving them with a merely extrinsic love
whose sole motive is God's own intrinsic goodness;
or we may mean loving them in sympathy with
God, seeing them as far as we can with His eyes
and loving them for what we see in them. There
can be no doubt whatever as to which is the true
conception, that, namely, which means the most
perfect, and intelligent, and sympathetic love of
God. We can never hope to see in others all that
lovableness which He sees ; or that our heart shall
be drawn towards the little we do see with a force
not infinitely less than that of the Divine Heart ;
but the measure of our approach is the exact
measure of our growth in the love of God.

The more we understand and love God, the
more shall we enter into sympathy with His love of
men ; and the more we get to understand and love


men, the sooner shall we be able to enter into the
mind of God. For all true and spiritual friendship
is founded on and requires community of tastes, the
appreciation and love of the same things. God,
hungering and thirsting for our affection, knows
well how slowly that affection must be won ; how
our taste must be gradually formed and raised until
it can find delight in the Divine beauty, which is
the common object of knowledge and ecstatic love
whereby God and His saints are bound together in
a single life of joy and praise — even as two friends
may, in some common object of loving adoration,
be tied together heart to heart. Were there one
whose capacity we doubted not, and for whose fuller
love we craved, with what care should we not
lead him into completer sympathy with ourselves,
bridging over the distance between us. So it is
that God leads us to Himself through creatures;
step by step purifying and raising our love ; giving
it an ever-increasing breadth, and depth, and height,
till at last we love nothing in creatures but what is
truly lovable and Divine ; and are, therefore, in
proximate readiness to love Divinity itself, not to
the exclusion of others, but indefinitely above them

Then, indeed, what we love in them is Him ;
not His substance, but His image. Nor is our love
of the image a merely relative love whose sole
motive is the excellence of the thing imaged ; as
though the image vvere but an arbitrary sign ; but it
is an intrinsic love founded on the real and inherent
beauty of the image; it is a love distinct from,


though subordinate to, the love of the archetype to
which it leads us.

And what we love in Him is them ; for we
have no proper concept of God, but only a con-
cept built up from creatures, amongst which
man is principal, as the microcosm, the epitome
of creation. All the Divine perfections that
draw our love to God are those that we have
gradually learnt to love first in our fellow-men —
justice, truth, purity, gentleness, mercy, and the
rest. As far as we are blind to these excellences
in our neighbour, as far as we steel our hearts
against their attraction, so far is the Divine beauty
hidden from our eyes and impotent over our
affections ; we may hear and we may assent to the
truth that God is good, and gracious, and holy, and
just, but these words kindle no fire of enthusiasm or
devotion within us ; for our affections are dwarfed
and stunted for want of food and exercise ; we have
no heart to give ; we have crushed our love of man,
and have not found the love of God ; we are unloved
and unlovable ; unloving and unable to love. Nor
can we ever know, or at least realize, God's
passionate love for us if we ourselves have never
felt the hungering affection of the mother for the
child, of friend for friend, or some one of the nobler
forms of suppliant, self-denying love and devotion.
Else what does it avail to tell me that God's love for
me is that of father, mother, friend, and spouse, all
in one and carried to infinity ? Or to tell me that I
should aspire to love Him back as father, mother,
friend, and spouse, if I have never given any one of


these affections play ; never developed and purified
my power of loving? In brief, it is through man
alone that we can know or love God as long as we
see Him only through a glass darkly, and before we
are face to face with Him.

To love our neighbour as Christ loves us, means,
therefore, to love him as far as possible in sympathy
with God ; loving him for what is really best and
divinest in him ; seeking to bring out more fully the
hidden image of God in his soul. It means the
perfecting of our instinctive affections ; recognizing
in them the impulse of the Divine will drawing men
first to one another, and through one another to
Itself, as the Supreme Lover and centre of all
attraction. It means restraint and sacrifice and the
sword of separation, for Sine dolore non vivitur in
amove — "the life of love is a life of sorrow." It is
the love of Abraham for Isaac ; the love of Christ
for His Mother; the love which is ready to stab and
thrust and slay; which shrinks from no present
pain for the sake of after bliss. It is the love of
St. Paul for his children, heedless of present ingra-
titude and misunderstanding; spending itself gladly,
"though the more I love you the less I be loved. "
And it will show itself in ceaseless toil and labour
for the beloved ; in endless endeavour to communi-
cate with him our choicest treasure ; to get him to
see what we see and to love what we love ; to break
down every wall of separation or unsympathy that
stands between soul and soul ; to find ever richer
treasures ourselves that we may have more to share,
more costly and precious fuel to feed love's flame ;



to learn new arts and sciences that we may impart
them to the beloved ; to wean our hearts from all
that is spurious, untrue, lest we hurt so much as a
hair of his head, every one of which is numbered
and dear to us ; to find in God alone that pearl of
great price, that common Friend who is the bond
of all friendship, in whom all other pure and noble
sympathies are united.

This is how Christ has loved us; and His
precept is that we should so love one another, or
rather labour so to love one another ; for it is the
work of our life to educate ourselves out of our
selfishness and sensuality and to learn the lovable-
ness of God's children. If we can study God only
in His works, man is the epitome and summary of
His works; and it is there we must seek Him and
love Him. Omnes in eo, et eum in omnibus — "All
in Him and Him in all." The second great precept
is not different from the first, but only another
expression of it.

Whether we consider our Saviour's human love
of His Blessed Mother, of the Baptist, of His
Apostles, of His own people, of His betrayer, of His
murderers and enemies, we see everywhere the
characteristics we have described above. It was
no mere extrinsic love indifferent to the inherent
lovableness of its immediate object, and therefore
equal towards all. "He loved all equally in the sense
that He loved each, so far as each was beloved by
His Father and made lovable. But God's gifts are
manifold, in no two cases the same. He has no
unjust preferences; but He loved His Mother


immeasurably beyond all ; and His Apostles who
were "with Him in His temptations" beyond His
other disciples; and Peter, and James, and John
more than the other Apostles ; and John of these,
with the peculiar love of special friendship. And
He loved Lazarus and his sisters, but especially
Mary. Plainly His love was not merely extrinsic,
but was motived by what He saw in each ; and
since His estimate was perfectly true and just, and
His affections pure and noble, His human love was
in the most perfect sympathy and accord with His
Divine love. And how very naturally His love
manifested itself is also clear. He wept over the
grave of Lazarus ; He wept over His beloved city
of Jerusalem ; He sought at times to be apart with
His friends; He revealed to them His special
secrets ; He sought their sympathy and their
prayers ; He was grieved by their coldness and
slowness to believe in His love ; by their cowardice
and treachery. Altogether, if His love for them was
Divine and supernatural, it was at the same time
thoroughly natural and human, and therefore Quod
Deus cgnjunxit, homo non separet — " What God hath
united let no man put asunder."

Yet if it was deep and tender " beyond the love
of women," it was not soft or selfish, but austere and
restrained ; a love that could rebuke, and chasten,
and hold aloof with a severity proportioned to its
tenderness. How abrupt with His Blessed Mother
at times ; how seemingly cold and indifferent ; how
ruthless with Peter ; how cruel in the very tender-
ness of His reproaches ! None could sit at His


right hand or lean upon His bosom, who had not
drunk deep of His chalice and been baptized with
His baptism and pierced through and through with
the dividing sword of sorrow.

And if it is the part of love to give itself, to
empty itself out to the last drop of blood ; to
humble itself to the dust, who ever loved as He ?
** Greater love hath no man than this that a man
lay down his life for his friends ; " only a God-Man
can go beyond this and say, " Take and eat : this is
My Body. Drink ye all of this, for this is My
Blood." Yet it is only the same natural longing
carried to a greater extreme, — usque in finem ; it is
the passionate craving of all true love, divinized and
lifted above the clouds. Nay, it is rather God's
Love made flesh and dwelling among us ; Divine,
yet altogether human. And this is His precept,
that as He has loved us so we also should love
one another ; for if a man love not his brother
whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he
hath not seen ?


1 O sacrum convivium in quo Christus sumitur ;
Recolitur memoria passionis ejus ;
Mens impletur gratia ;
Et futurse gloriae nobis pignus datur.'

St. Thomas Aquinas.

In these words the Blessed Eucharist is offered to
our consideration, first, as a sacrificial banquet ;
that is, as being at once a sacrifice and a banquet ;
then, as a memorial or commemorative feast ;
finally, in its effects as a means of grace in the
present, and a pledge of glory in the future.
Let us then first dwell upon it under its sacrificial

God is a spirit, and they that adore Him must
adore Him in spirit and in truth. Man, on the
other hand, is not spirit alone, but spirit and body,
and therefore his adoration, internal and external,
private and public, is an embodied adoration. He
is bound by the necessity of his double nature to
picture God to himself, and to speak of Him after
a human fashion ; to conceive Him in his own
image and likeness. And God who has made man,
and knows whereof he is made and remembers


that he is but dust, not only permits it and
tolerates it, but wills it to be so. Had He wanted
us different, He would have made us different.
And so He wills that we should utter our prayers
and praises with voice and tongue, as though He
heard with mortal ears and could not read the
secrets of the heart ; that we should lift up our eyes
to Him, as though He were seated in the clouds
far above us ; that we should kneel and prostrate
ourselves as at the feet of a mortal monarch ; that
we should hold up our joined hands, as it were
begging release from our fetters — in a word, that we
should embody our inward worship in outward
signs and symbols, and speak of spirit in the
terms of sense, of the infinite in the language
of the finite. Nor is there in these practices,
as some foolishly think, any real ignorance or
superstition, so long as the inadequate and
merely symbolic character of such utterances is
adverted to.

Still more needful are such symbolic manifesta-
tions where men meet together for the public
worship of God, and where their internal concord
in thought and desire can be expressed and secured
only by means of outward expression.

Chief among those rites whereby in all times
and places men have embodied their worship, is
the offering of sacrifice, in which food is brought
and laid as a gift on God's table, as a sign of
praise and adoration, of gratitude for favours
received, of sorrow for sins committed, as the price
of protection and assistance and grace As the


word is now understood, sacrifice is said exclusively
of an offering made to the one supreme God in
attestation of His supremacy and oneness ; so that
it can be offered to no other being, however great,
without the guilt of idolatry and blasphemy. But
if we look back to early times for the derivation of
the rite, we find apparently that food-offerings
were made by way of tribute and homage to the
father or patriarch or monarch,, to symbolize
such a relation between the offerer and receiver
as exists between children and their father, from
whom they derive their life and support and food ;
who spring from one body, eat of one bread,
drink of one cup, dwell in one house, look to one
heritage. We see that it was directed to the
confirmation of the rights of sonship where they
already existed ; or to their renewal, when broken
off by trespass ; or to the creation of an adoptive
sonship, where no such tie had existed before. It

Online LibraryGeorge TyrrellHard sayings; a selection of meditations and studies → online text (page 21 of 31)