George Tyrrell.

Hard sayings; a selection of meditations and studies online

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was, therefore, the sign or seal or outward formality
of a solemn contract, or covenant, whereby the
rights and duties of fatherhood on one side, and of
sonship on the other, were created, renewed, or
ratified. And accordingly, when men needed to
enter into relation with God, the universal Father,
to be received as His adopted sons, to be allowed
to sit at His household table and eat of His meat,
it was in keeping with our necessity of conceiving
Divine things humanwise, that we should bring
food-offerings to Him, and solemnize our covenant
with Him, according to the rites and conventions of
similar human contracts.


That the offerer should partake of the victim
after it has been accepted is the natural, though
not necessary sequel of sacrifice. It is a com-
plementary act to which the act of sacrifice is
in some sort directed. To accept the offering,
is to admit the offerer to the rights of sonship,
whereof the sign and evidence is a seat at the
household table, a share in the household meal.
Thus, when the prodigal is restored to the forfeited
rights of sonship, a banquet is prepared for him by
his father, as we read in the parable. The food
which one offers as a supplicant and servant or
slave, he receives back as a child from the hand
of his father.

That this is the earliest notion of sacrifice and
communion, seems fairly evident from a careful
study of the sacrifices of the Gentiles and of the
pre-Levitical sacrifices, recorded in Holy Scripture.
Those of the Mosaic law are too complicated with
prophetic symbolism to permit the root-idea to
stand out in all its clearness and definition. We find
God rebuking the Israelites for offering food liba-
tions to false gods instead of to Him ; and St. Paul
sums up the whole matter briefly, where he says :
"I speak as to the initiated; judge ye what I say:
The Cup of Blessing which we bless, is it not the
communion of the Blood of Christ ? the Bread
which we break, is it not the communion of the Body
of Christ ? Look at Israel after the flesh. Are not
they that eat of the sacrifice partakers of the altar ?
I would not have you to be partakers with devils.
You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup


of devils ; you cannot share the table of the Lord
and the table of devils." 1

Whether, then, we speak of Gentile sacrifice, or
Jewish sacrifice, or Christian sacrifice ; of the altar
of devils, or of Jehovah ; the notion of sacrifice, of
food-offering and libation, is one and the same —
it is a solemn covenant-feast, an expression of
absolute subjection and submission on the one side,
and a pledge of protection and fatherhood on the
other. The former is symbolized by the offering,
the latter by the communion which follows accept-
ance, — " They shall be My people and I will be
their God." Thus our Saviour says, expressing the
fruit of His own sacrifice : " I ascend to My Father
and to your Father ; to My God and to your God."

But like every outward expression or symbol, a
sacrifice may be true or false according as the
inward homage it signifies is present or absent.
Self-oblation and subjection is the soul and quick-
ening principle, without which the sacrifice which
symbolizes and embodies it, is worthless or worse
than worthless before God — for we insult Him with
a spotted and blemished victim instead of honouring
Him with an odour of sweetness. Of such lying
sacrifices God says: "Shall I eat the flesh of bulls
or drink the blood of goats ? " and : " Obedience is

1 " Ut prudentibus loquor. vos ipsi judicate quod dico. Calix
benedictionis cui benedicimus nonne communicatio sanguinis
Christi est ? et panem quern frangimus nonne participatio corporis
Domini est ? . . . Videte Israel secundum carnem ! nonne qui edunt
hostias participes sunt altaris ? . . . Nolo autem vos socios fieri
dsemoniorum ; non potestis mensse Domini participes esse et mensae
daemoniorum." (i Cor. x. 15, seq.)


better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat
of rams;" and David: "If Thou hadst desired
sacrifice I would have given it Thee, but Thou
delightest not in burnt offerings." Not that God
here rejects the form of worship which He Himself
had approved and enjoined ; but He reminds us
that the form is not the reality, the sign is not the
thing signified, the body of sacrifice is not the spirit
of sacrifice.

Thus, gathering up our results so far, we see
that sacrifice is an offering of food made to Almighty
God to testify our submission and subjection to
Him as to the Author and Giver of all ; to express
our desire to be received or retained among the
number of His children, to sit at His table, and to
share His meat. It expresses our love and reverence
for His glory and majesty, our thankfulness for all
His goodness towards us, our consequent sorrow if
we have offended one so good in Himself and
praiseworthy, one so good to us and thankworthy.
It is an earnest of our desire to repair the wrong
we have done singly and collectively — for as an act
of public and social worship, it is an offering for the
sins of the people, for the sins of the world. We
implore by it all those helps and graces needful for
ourselves singly and collectively, for the spread of
His Kingdom, for the extension of His glory. And
God in accepting it, and in inviting us to partake if
we will, thereby signs and ratifies the covenant
between us, and engages to be to us a Father, if we
will be to Him true children.

And all that is contained in this notion of


sacrifice we find verified in a higher, more excellent,
and truer way, in the great sacrifice of the Christian
Church, which is the full and adequate expression
of that worship which the sacrifices of Jew and
pagan strove vainly to utter in lisping, stammering
accents, Lex habens umbram futurorum bonorum —
" the law being but the shadow of good things to
come : " the substance being Christ. For the
praise and gratitude and contrition of every soul
that ever lived, the perfect self-oblation of the whole
race, could never satisfy what is due to God in the
way of love and worship ; much less could such
internal dispositions embody themselves in an
offering adequate to their expression. Therefore,,
that the human race might be able to offer Him an
acceptable and adequate sacrifice, God gave His
only Son to be the second Adam, that all who
received Him and were incorporated with Him,
might through and with Him offer a supreme and
sufficient worship in spirit and in truth. He alone,
who in virtue of His Divinity was eternally in the
bosom of the Father, could comprehend the infinite
lovableness of God ; could measure the depth and
height and length and breadth of His mercies
towards the children of men ; could fathom the
abyss of the malice of sin, knowing each several sin
of every son of Adam ; could sorrow for it, as if
it were His own by imputation ; and could make
amends for it so ample as to blot it out of the
Divine memory, as some faint discord is drowned
in a great burst of harmony ; He alone could
intercede with infallible wisdom and efficacy for the



glory of God, for His Kingdom and His will
upon earth ; for the needs of mankind — spiritual
and temporal ; for the averting of Divine anger ;
for help in temptation and deliverance from evil.
And being the Son of God by nature, and also the
Son of man, He alone was the fitting Mediator of
that New and Eternal Covenant between God and
man, whereby the human race under Him as their
Head was adopted as the son of God and entitled
to a place at the banquet of Eternal Life — a
Covenant sealed with the sacrifice of His Body and
the libation of His Blood — His Blood of the New
and Eternal Testament. Moreover, if the inner
submission and self-oblation of all men and angels
together could never equal the infinite adoration
due to God, or atone for the indignity offered to
Him by a single wilful insult or rebellion ; not so
the self-submission of one who in point of personal
dignity was equal to the Father and of the same
nature — His beloved Son in whom He was well
pleased. Nor was the sacrificial offering, wherein
that worship was embodied, something of mere
conventional worth, an inadequate symbol of
the supersensible reality, but, Priest and Victim
in one, He offered that same priceless self, the Body
and the Blood of the Incarnate Son of God as a
true food-offering, on Calvary and on the altar.
As a true food-offering, for He is the very Bread
of Life, not such manna as Israel ate in the
desert, but the true Bread from Heaven ; the
bread of grace, of the spiritual life, nay, of the
Divine life.


Now, plainly, God, who is the Giver and Pre-
server of that Divine vitality, stands as little in
need of this spiritual and heavenly food as He does
of bodily food. " If I were hungry," He seems to
say, " I would not tell thee ; for mine are the cattle
on a thousand hills ; " for " the earth is the Lord's
and the fulness thereof." Yet though He was rich,
for our sakes God has become poor and needy and
dependent. He knows well that love is starved
where it finds no indigence, nothing to bear, or to
give, or to suffer ; that it seeks rather to minister
than to be ministered to ; to give than to receive.
And so He has framed Himself round, as it were,
with a halo of created glory in the creatures which
He has made and loved ; and His love makes their
interests and needs His own, so that in the order
of nature no less than in that of grace He seems to
say : " Inasmuch as ye did it to the least of these
My brethren ye did it unto Me." And therefore
He who needed nothing in Himself, in the person of
poor fallen humanity hungered and fainted for the
Bread of Life. " God so loved the world " that its
miseries were His own ; " so loved the world that
He gave His only-begotten Son " for it. Far be it
from us to picture an angry God reluctantly dis-
suaded from vengeance through the intervention of
a more placable Son. There is but one nature and
love and will in the two. " I and My Father are
one ; " " He that hath seen Me hath seen the
Father ; " " The Father Himself loveth you." Let
us rather enter into the eternal council of mercy
and hear the Father's compassionate demand,


" Whence shall we buy bread in the desert that
these may eat ? " and the answer of the Son of His
Love, Ecce ego, mitte me — " Lo, here am I ; send
Me," the true Manna, the Bread that giveth life to
the world. Sacrifice and offering Thou wouldst not,
then said I : Lo, I come to do Thy will, O God ; to
be obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross.
And now what was this " will " that He came to
do ; of which He says : " My meat is to do the will
of Him that sent Me, and to perfect His work " ?
What was this work that was perfected when He
bowed His head and said : Consummatum est — " It is
perfected " ? What was the commandment of the
Father which He came to obey and fulfil ? Even
that commandment whereof He was the great
teacher and example; of which He says, "A new
commandment give I unto you ; even that which
you had from the beginning." "This is My precept
that you love one another in the same manner as I
have loved you." And in what manner? Even
unto death. Christ was made for us obedient to
the new and eternal precept of fraternal love, " unto
death, even to the death of the Cross." The Good
Shepherd layeth down His life for His sheep. It
was, then, in obedience to that precept that having
loved His own who were in the world He loved
them to the uttermost, and took bread and brake
and blessed and gave to them, saying : Take ye and
eat, this is My Body which is given for you ; and
the cup, saying: Drink, this is My Blood of the
New and Eternal Covenant of Love ; love between
man and God, love between man and man. And


just as when for God's sake one gives alms to the
poor one gives it to God ; so in the same act
whereby Christ offers Himself to us for food in
obedience to the Father's precept of love, He first
offers Himself to the Father, and in so doing offers
an infinite sacrifice of praise, thanks, expiation, and

And of this act of sovereign worship we are
made sharers and fellow-offerers as often as we
gather round the altar to hear Mass and, as it were,
to lay our hands upon the head of the victim and to
make His offering our own. For as the act of the
lips or the heart is not the act of those organs alone,
but of the whole body to which they belong ; so the
praise and worship of Christ our Head ; the words
of His lips, the love of His Heart are not His alone,
but ours also, as often as by hearing Mass we make
ourselves one body with the priest, His vicar and
representative. Little as our self-oblation is worth
apart from His, yet if in union with it we offer
ourselves up at Mass a living sacrifice to obey, if
need be, the precept of love even to death, our offer-
ing is merged into one with His, and His with ours.
And though our knowledge of sin be childish and
our grief for God's dishonour feeble, and our efforts
at reparation ineffectual, yet if we heap them
together with this infinite sacrifice of expiation and
satisfaction, they will not be rejected or despised.
For it is only in harmony with His praise and
thanksgiving that ours have any meaning or value
in the ears of God. In His Heart is gathered up
all the love and joy of creation, of angels and of


men, and thence welling upwards to His lips, finds
utterance in one burst of Eucharistic praise, of
which the Church sings: " It is truly meet and
right, that we should always and everywhere render
thanks to Thee, Holy Lord, Almighty Father,
Everlasting God." And how ? " Through Christ
our Lord," " through whom the angels praise Thy
majesty, Dominations adore, and Powers tremble ;
. . . with whose voices we supplicate that ours may
be mingled in one song : Holy Holy, Holy," and
again: "Through Him and with Him and in Him
is to Thee, O God the Father, in union with the
Holy Ghost, all honour and glory for ever and for
ever. Amen."


M O sacrum convivium in quo Christus sumitur."

We have already dwelt on the Blessed Eucharist
regarded as a sacrifice. We have roughly traced
the notion of sacrifice from its first beginnings to
its full development and realization in the perfect
sacrifice of the Christian Church. We have seen that
a food-offering made by way of homage and tribute
was a symbol and expression of dependence and
subjection such as exists between the children and
the father of the household to whom they owe their
existence and preservation, to whom they look for
their heritage ; and that this offering was directed
to the strengthening of the family tie where it
already existed ; to the renewal of it where it had
been sundered by sin ; to the creation of it where it


had not existed before. We have seen that when
offered to God, the Father and Creator of all, it was
a confession of our absolute dependence on Him as
the Author and Preserver, not only of our natural,
but of our supernatural life, the life of grace,
" eternal life " — as the Scriptures call it ; that it was
a creation, or else a renewal, or else a confirmation
of our claim to be called the sons of God by
adoption, and to take our seat at His table with His
sons and with the Eternal Son of His love ; to eat
the bread of angels. Finally, we have seen that as
no man could offer any sacrifice adequate to the
majesty of God, the Eternal Son, first-born of every
creature, came down as Manna from Heaven, the
living Bread of the soul, the Food of Immortality —
and in obedience to the Father's eternal precept of
love, loved us even unto death, and gave Himself to
be our food, saying : " Take and eat, This is My Body,"
and that in that same act whereby in obedience to
the Father He offers Himself to us for food day by
day on a thousand altars, He first offers Himself a
true food-offering and sacrifice to the Father. And
of this great sacrifice of praise and thanks and
prayer and expiation, we are fellow-offerers and
sharers as often as, by assisting at Mass, we make
one body under Christ our head. For the action of
the head is not of the head alone, but of the whole
body in subjection to it.

Let us now dwell on the Holy Eucharist viewed
more strictly as a sacramental communion, as a
convivium in quo Christus sumitur. For though sacri-
fice and communion are closely connected — the latter


being the complement and, in some sense, the end
of the former — yet they are separable and often
separated ; as we see, for example, in many of the
Levitical sacrifices, which were not partaken of by
the offerers, for symbolic and prophetic reasons.
It is only so far as the sacrifice is accepted, that the
offerer has a claim to partake of it ; and the right
thus purchased need not be exercised here and now.
Those who sit down as convivce, or guests, at the
sacrificial banquet are fed as children at the hands
of the same father, who, as he has given them their
life, so also fosters and increases it. They derive
their life and nourishment from a common source ;
they spring from one body, they eat of one bread,
they drink of one cup, they dwell in one house, they
look forward to share one inheritance. And so of
the Eucharistic feast. The chalice which we bless
is it not the communion or sharing of the Blood of
Christ ? the Bread which we break is it not the
sharing of the Body of Christ? For we, being
many, are one bread and one body, as many as are
partakers of that Bread. We being many, distinct
and separate units, are one bread, for even as the
grains of corn are ground up into flour and welded
together in the dough and hardened together in the
oven ; so in this mystery of love and charity all that
separates man from man, tends to be obliterated,
all the dividing lines are erased under the amal-
gamating force of love, which seeks to give all and to
receive all ; to absorb and to be absorbed, staying
only at the limit of personal distinctness.

" We being many in one bread, as many as are


partakers of that bread." We are one bread,
because we live by one bread, deriving our life from
the same principle. What bread is this ? "I am
the Bread of Life." It is not because He gives
Himself under the semblance of bread that He calls
Himself the Bread of Life ; but conversely, because
He is the True, the Spiritual, the Heavenly Bread,
the stay of eternal life, therefore He gives Himself
under that defective semblance to signify that truth.
Yet how imperfect is the symbolism ! Of those
who live from one loaf or who drink from one cup,
no two receive the same identical part, but similar
parts, once united, now divided. Nor are they
transformed into the nature of the bread they
receive, but rather it is transformed into their
nature. And so of the sacramental symbols or
outward appearances, no two receive the same part
from the hand of Christ ; and it is " one bread "
only so far as it is one in kind and received from
the same hand. But the underlying reality, the
True Bread of Eternal Life, Christ who is received,
is not multiplied or divided, but remaining in
Himself one and the same, yesterday, to-day, and
for ever ; removed from all limiting conditions
of time and place, is communicated to all ; nay,
rather, draws all to Himself, as to a common centre;
changes all into Himself — all, that is, all who receive
Him worthily at any place or in any time. For our
convivce, or fellow-guests, are not only those who
kneel beside us to receive Him here and now; but
all those who in any difference of place or time
have received Him or shall receive Him. This


Sacred Banquet, though set forth on innumerable
altars and prolonged age after age to the end of the
world, is morally one single feast in which we
''communicate with, as well as commemorate" the
Glorious and Ever Blessed Virgin Mary, the Blessed
Apostles and Martyrs, and all the Saints. In Christ
time and place are gathered up as into their cause —
the centre from which they radiate ; at the creative
words of blessing,

Earth breaks up ; Time drops away
In flows Heaven with its new day
Of endless life.

The substance of His Sacred Body being present
after the manner of a spirit, is present to each
receiver, as our soul is present to each part of our
body; not part to part, but wholly to each part;
not multiplied with the parts, but one and the same
in all. For the substance of the bread in each host
is not transformed into a different Christ, as though
His Sacred Body were multiplied in place and time.
He is not changed into it ; but it is changed into
Him. The appearance is multiplied and divided ;
but the reality is one and the self-same. Nor is
that Eternal Bread changed into us, but we are
changed into Him ; united with Him ; and thereby
changed into and united to one another ; being all
merged into the same reality. We are all "one
bread and one body."

Of this mysterious union we can speak only in
the figures and images of revelation itself. " As the
living Father hath sent Me and as I live by the


Father, so he that eateth Me the same also shall live
by Me." It is from the Father that the Eternal Son
originates and, in some sense, derives His Divine
being, and nature, and life. One and the same
identical life is possessed by both, but with an order
of dependence such that one is called Father and
Begetter, the other Son and Begotten, and while
we may say that the Son lives by the Father, we
may not say that the Father lives by the Son. The
Son is the Image and Likeness of the Father,
but the Father is not the Image and Likeness of
the Son. The creatures which proceed from God,
need to be preserved and watched over by His
providence, to be fed by His fatherly bounty and
care ; but that Eternal Life, communicated to the
Son is unfailing, unchanging, needing no conserva-
tion or feeding. So that one and the same eternal
act is both generation, and conservation, and
sustenance in a simple and ineffable sense. The
Father is at once the Giver and the Bread of that
life which is communicated to the Son. " As the
Living Father," the Father who is Eternal, " hath
sent Me," hath uttered Me His Eternal Word, hath
sent Me forth proceeding from Him ; " and as I live
by the Father," who is the Giver and Sustainer and
Bread of My uncreated life ; " so he that eateth Me
the same shall live by Me." " So," i.e. t plainly, not
in the same way, but in some analogous way of
which the mystery of the Trinity is the archetype.
Christ lives in us and we live by Him so far as He
communicates His nature to us, and assimilates us
to Himself, conforming our mind more and more to


the pattern of His ; bringing all our sympathies and
affections into accordance with those of His own
Divine Heart. For this is the way in which spiritual
union manifests itself; eliminating all distance and
diversity and opposition of thought and sentiment.
As the Eternal Father and Son have but one
identical nature, operation, thought, and love ; so
Christ and the sanctified soul have, not indeed
identical, but altogether similar thoughts and

This is the manner in which our sacramental
union with Christ manifests itself; though what it is
in itself is veiled in mystery. We can only say that
a new life-principle is infused into us ; and that as
the life of sense differs from that of mere growth,
and the life of reason from that of sense, so
Eternal Life — which is a participation of Divine
Life, differs from that of reason. We can also
assert that, unlike the life of reason, though it is in
us it is not of us ; even as the warmth we receive
from the fire differs from that which is generated
within us and by us. Hence it is ascribed to a
principle which is in us yet distinct from us ; which
is said to dwell in us ; which, like a guest, can come
and go without prejudice to our natural faculties
and attributes. Christ, the Bread of Life, is the
Fire which warms us and illuminates us with the
life of grace ; and is so far said to dwell in us, and
to make His abode with us. "He that eateth My
Flesh dwelleth in Me and I in him." " I in them
[Father] and Thou in Me, that they may be made

Online LibraryGeorge TyrrellHard sayings; a selection of meditations and studies → online text (page 22 of 31)