George Tyrrell.

Hard sayings; a selection of meditations and studies online

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Doubtless this ideal is at best a term of approxi-
mation never to be fully realized except in the
Church triumphant ; but it is ever preached, and to
some degree realized, in the visible and militant
Church, whose constitution is, as St. Paul teaches,
that of a living body, not that of social contract.
The very idea of the Church is a protest against
the false individualism of the Reformation on the
one hand, and against the false socialism of its
reaction on the other. It is interesting to note how
the following piece of otherwise very admirable
criticism is vitiated by a failure to recognize the
fact that if a certain individualism is un-catholic, a
crude collectivism is no less so.

" Palestrina's music," writes H. E. Krehbiel,
" must not be listened to with the notion in mind of
dramatic expression such as we almost instinctively
feel to-day. Palestrina does not seek to proclaim
the varying sentiment which underlies his texts.
That leads to individual interpretation, and is
foreign to the habits of Churchmen in the old con-
ception, when the individual was completely resolved
in the organization. He aimed to exalt the mystery
of the service, not to bring it down to popular
comprehension and make it a personal utterance.
For such a design in music we must wait till after
the Reformation, when the ancient mysticism began
to fall back before the demands of reason, when the
idea of the sole and sufficient mediation of the


Church lost some of its power in the face of
the growing conviction of the intimate personal
relationship between man and his Creator. Now
idealism had to yield some of its dominion to
realism, and a more rugged art grew up in place of
that which had been so wonderfully sublimated by

" It is in Bach, who came in a century after
Palestrina, that we find the most eloquent musical
proclamation of the new regime . . .

" Palestrina's art is Roman ; the spirit of rest-
fulness, of celestial calm, of supernatural revelation
and supernal beauty broods over it. Bach's is
Gothic — rugged, massive, upward-striving, human.
In Palestrina's music, the voice that speaks is the
voice of angels ; in Bach's, it is the voice of men.

" Bach is the publisher of the truest, tenderest,
deepest, and most individual religious feeling. His
music is peculiarly a hymning of the religious
sentiment of modern Germany, where salvation is
to be wrought out with fear and trembling by each
individual through faith and works, rather than
the agency of even a divinely-constituted Church.
... As the Church fell into the background, and
the individual came to the fore, religious music took
on the dramatic character which we find in the
Passion music of Bach."

The critic is acute enough to feel that the idea of
Catholicism and that of Protestantism are in some
sense mutually exclusive ; that the opposition can be
roughly described to be such as exists between
socialism and individualism ; also, that this difference


and opposition permeates everywhere, not only
through doctrine, discipline, and ecclesiastical con-
stitution, but even through liturgy, music, painting,
and literature. But he is wrong in assuming that
because the Reformation cast aside the social and
corporate element of the Catholic conception of
the Church, retaining only the individualist element
by which it was balanced, and which it balanced in
return, therefore the individual was, so to say, dis-
covered by Protestantism, having been " in the old
conception " " completely resolved in the organi-
zation." The Church never for a moment in any
way accepted Plato's notion of the State (civil or
ecclesiastic, matters not) as of a distinct personality
or entity for whose sake the component members
existed collectively and individually. Nay, it was the
Catholic idea which gave slow and difficult birth to
belief in the absolute and ineffaceable value of the
individual, a belief fed and fostered by the appli-
cation of the several sacraments to each several
soul, by the extinction of all artificial inequality,
and the recognition of perfect spiritual equality
among all those, from the Emperor to the lazar,
who feed at God's common board on the Bread of
Angels. It is a curious comment also on the
observation that Protestantism put man for the first
time into " intimate personal relationship with his
Creator," that while Protestants mostly speak of "the
Saviour," and " the Lord," Catholics invariably say,
" our Saviour," and " our Lord," and surely a glance
at the devotions and prayers of Catholics in any
age or country will show at once how absolutely


unfounded is the notion that the Church's mediation
hinders immediate commerce between God and the

Not such indeed is the mediation of the Church ;
she is not a barrier or a blind between the soul and
her Maker. For though the quickening spirit can
touch the parts and members only on condition of
their incorporation with the body, separate from
which they are dead ; yet the body does not stand
between them and the spirit, as though it absorbed
without transmitting the vital flame. And so it is
only through the Church, as making part of the
Church, that the soul can come into direct contact
with God our Father ; it is only through the Mystic
Vine that the sap of sanctifying grace can flow into
our souls. Again, need we say, we speak of the
invisible Church, the Communion of Saints, in which
none is incorporated save by living faith ; since no
one can be so ignorant as to suppose that mere
outward communion with the visible Church is
sufficient for salvation, however necessary it may
be in certain cases.

In fine, we may maintain fearlessly that Gothic
architecture is every bit as Catholic as Roman, and
Bach's style of music as Palestrina's. Both schools
embody and set forth one aspect of the Catholic
conception, each being complementary of the other.
The exigencies and tastes of particular localities
and times may call for an emphasis, now on this
aspect, now on the other. Obviously the public and
collective worship of the Church of its own nature
demands the repression of individualism in liturgical


observance, music, and other vehicles of expression.
There is an impertinence which we instinctively
resent in any attempt on the part of the individual
to obtrude his private interpretations, sentiments,
and emotions upon us by unauthorized vagaries and
emphases of his own. He is but the mouthpiece of
the Universal Church and of the traditions of
centuries ; let him deliver the message entrusted to
him without comments or embellishments of his
own. Originality is well in other spheres, but in
the choir or the sanctuary it is the worst form of

To conclude the present matter, it is in this
conception of the Church as mediating between
God and the soul, as a mystical body in union with
which alone salvation is possible, as the mother in
whose womb we are conceived, on whose breasts
we hang, that we find the reason of the prominence
given to the Church in the mind and on the lips of
Catholic Christians. Much even as we venerate
Mary, the great Mother of God and man, yet even
she is but a type and figure, but a part and member
of this still greater Mother of us all — the Jerusalem
from on high, our Holy Mother the Church.


" The Church of the first-born who are written in the
Heavens." — Hebrews xii. 23.

When we assert that salvation may be said in
some sense to consist in being incorporated with
the Church, we are not speaking of the visible, but

tl 6 the mystical body.

of the invisible Church. With the former we are
incorporated by mere profession of faith and obe-
dience, although we be spiritually dead ; with the
latter we are incorporated only by divine charity.
Let us now consider more closely this distinction
between the invisible and the visible Church, and
determine more accurately the relation of these two
societies one to another.

We not uncommonly speak of them as the
"Body" and the "Soul" of the Church, implying
at least some kind of resemblance between their
mutual relation and that of the components of our
double nature. Of these components the soul is
invisible, immortal, incorruptible, self-sustaining,
principal ; the body is visible, transitory, corruptible,
dependent ; it is the instrument and minister of the
soul, its symbol and sacrament. For this reason
we may apply the word "body" to the visible
Church on earth, which shall end with time, which
retains corrupt members in its communion, as tares
amid the wheat ; which is the outward symbol and
sacrament of the invisible Church whose organ
and instrument it is. And by contrast, this in-
visible Church of saints and angels may be called
the "soul." But every metaphor is imperfect.
Soul and body are at once distinct and in a sense
co-extensive ; whereas the invisible and visible
Church are neither, some members being common
to both, others belonging only to one. The saints
in Heaven and legions of just men on earth do not
belong to the visible Church or come under its
external jurisdiction ; while thousands of those that


do have neither part nor lot with the saints in light.
Again, speaking strictly, each of these societies
has (like every society) a soul and body of its own.
The saints in Heaven and all the just on earth,
Catholic or non-Catholic, Christian or non-Christian,
a/e invisibly bound together by the indwelling of
the same Holy Spirit of Charity " which is the bond
of peace," the cement which seals into one the
stones of the Heavenly Salem — "one body and
one spirit." And on earth the members of the
visible Church are visibly united by the bond of
obedience to that same Spirit viewed as the source
of ecclesiastical authority and sacramental grace —
" one body and one spirit."

However convenient, therefore, it may be to
speak of the invisible and visible Churches as the
soul and body of the Church, it is not without
danger of confusion.

What, then, is the invisible Church ?

It is that communion or society of saints and
angels in Heaven and of just men on earth, of all
nations and of all ages, of which St. Paul says :
" But you have come nigh to Mount Sion and to
the city of the living God, the Heavenly Jerusalem,
and to the company of many thousands of angels,
and to the Church of the first-born w r ho are written
in the heavens, and to God the Judge of all, and
to the spirits of the just made perfect, and to Jesus
the Mediator."

While, therefore, the members of the visible
Church are upon earth, those of the invisible are
both in Heaven and on earth — on earth, a handful ;



in Heaven, as the sands on the sea-shore.
That portion which is in Heaven is formed and
perfected — has passed into its changeless condition;
while the portion on earth is in process of formation,
not yet accepted, shaped, or perfected. Here the
stones of Solomon's temple are hewn and fashioned
with many a rough blow and sharp incision ; there
they are noiselessly laid each in its peculiar and
predestined place in the living structure.

Scalpri salubris ictibus

Et tunsione plurima,

Fabri polita malleo,

Hanc saxa molem construunt,

Aptisque juncta nexibus

Locantnr in fastigio. 1

We must not imagine that the visible Church
is the same as the Church militant, and the in-
visible the same as the Church triumphant. For
all upon earth who are engaged in God's cause
belong to the militant Church, be they inside or
outside the visible Church, while the triumphant
Church comprehends only that portion of the
invisible Church which is in Heaven.

In Heaven the invisible Church consists of the
spirits of the just made perfect in love, purged
seven-fold in the fire of suffering and great tribula-
tion, developed into full correspondence with that

1 By kindly chisel deftly formed,
With showers of battering blows bestormed,
Squared by the hand which Heaven hath skilled
These polished blocks the fabric build
And fastly jointed there unite
To crown the rising summit's height.


Divine plan and pattern thought out and loved by
God from all eternity, and then by Him infused
slowly and laboriously into the often reluctant mind
and conscience, into the heart and affections of each
saint ; a light that haunted the soul when it would
cower in the darkness ; a fire that leaped up after
every futile quenching; a tormenting thought that
would not rest unlistened-to and unloved. And
though there dwells in the saints but one and the
same spirit, yet there is an infinite and most orderly
diversity of gifts and manifestations, even as the
same vital spark displays itself diversely in the
multitudinous members of our body — as sight in
the eye, as hearing in the ear, as motion in the
limbs, as thought in the mind, as love in the heart,
yet "one and the same spirit." In the gathering
together of the saints we have not merely an endless
chain of repetitions of the same idea or type — as it
were so many beads threaded on a string, or a
bundle of innumerable fagots each the exact counter-
part of its fellows ; but rather a mighty and complex
organism, a vast mosaic of souls of every conceivable
pattern and complexion of sanctity, no two indeed
alike, albeit each indispensable for the perfection
of the entire design, each with its own place that
no other can fill, each with its own song of praise
that no other can sing, and yet which blends in a
chord of universal praise that would be thinned
and impoverished by its silence. As all creation
collectively makes one full utterance of the Divine
Goodness of which each several creature is but a
word or syllable, so in the communion of saints


the full idea of sanctity, the flower of human excel-
lence wedded with Divine, is unfolded and expanded
in all its parts to the glory and praise of God, and
gives forth its fragrance in odorem suavitatis. There
first shall we understand what God meant when He
created man ; not this man nor that, but man ;
there shall we see that governing idea which was
forcing itself into reality and fact, through all the
long, weary centuries of our miserable history ; and
seeing it we shall cry out : Justus es, Domine, et
rectum judicium tuum — God was right after all.

There at last Christ shall be unfolded and
made plain in that mystical body which is well
called His pleroma, His fulness or extension. His
Sacred Humanity while on earth, with its brief span
of thirty years, could not within the narrow limits
of a single experience reveal to us more than a
fraction of the latent potentialities of His deified
soul. He was but as the seed whose power and
meaning lies hid till it has germinated, flowered,
fructified, and multiplied from generation to genera-
tion. From Him all sanctity flows as from its
source, whether we trace the stream from Calvary
backward to the beginning or forward to the end
of time. " I live," says the Christian, " yet not I,
but Christ liveth in me," for sanctity is simply the
prevalence in us of a " power that makes for right-
eousness," of a will that is not our own — in us, but
not of us — ever pressing against the will of our
egoism and self-centred love in the interests of a
love which is God-centred and unselfish. It is the
constant action upon us of God, who is, moreover,


an Incarnate God ; it is to our soul what gravitation
is to our body, a force ever drawing us to our true
centre and rest ; so ever-abiding and persistent that
we have come to confound it with the very constitu-
tion of our spiritual being. Yet were the earth
suddenly annihilated from under our feet we should
have no sense of weight ; and were God to with-
draw from us we should have no wish to do good,
no love of the truth, no sense of right or wrong.

The tree is known by its fruits, and Christ is
known by His deeds ; not merely by the deeJs of His
earthly life, but by all that He has done and shall do
in His saints from the beginning to the end. His
spirit, in order to display its full content and signifi-
cance, needs to be applied to every condition of
human life, so that we may see Christ under every
aspect ; in every nationality and language, in every
stage of development, social and individual, in Jew
and Greek, in Barbarian and Scythian, in bond and
free, in wealth and poverty, in prosperity and adver-
sity, in health and sickness, in youth and age,
in simplicity and culture, in weakness and strength ;
that we may see the leaven of the Kingdom of God
in all its workings, in its actions and reactions under
every possible variety of conditions, favourable and
unfavourable, and may enter more fully into the
mind and heart of Him whose life is thus manifested
in His mystical body. " I saw a great multitude,"
says St. John, " which no man could number, of all
nations and tribes and peoples and tongues, standing
before the throne and in the sight of the Lamb ; "
for so it shall be in that day when the number of


the elect shall be filled up, and the last stone of the
mystical temple shall be laid in its predestined place,
and the last piece set to the perfect mosaic ; when
the body of Christ shall have reached its fulness,
and the idea of Christian sanctity shall have attained
its complete expansion ; and the potentialities of the
human soul shall have been revealed to the utmost ;
when the long-sought chord of created and uncreated
praise shall have been struck at last, and time and
the things of time shall be needed no more.


" In every nation he that feareth Him and worketh justice,
is acceptable to Him." — Acts x. 35.

We have now to ask ourselves : Who are the
members on earth of the Invisible Church ? And
the first answer is simple enough, namely : All those
in whose hearts charity is diffused by the Holy
Ghost ; all those who give God and God's cause the
first, if not always the only place in their affections ;
all those who prefer right and truth and duty to
father, mother, spouse, children, brethren, kinsfolk,
home, and lands; all those who accept not only
with their mind, but with their heart and will, that
it profits a man nothing if he gain the whole world
to the hurt of his own soul. They may not yet have
learnt to love nothing else but in connection with
God and in sympathy with the Divine mind and
will ; they have undoubtedly yet to be tried and
perfected through many tribulations, either here or
in Purgatory — for nothing defiled has ever entered


Heaven or reached the beatifying stage of love but
at the cost of purifying pain. Still, as long as God
weighs down all other treasures heaped together in
the balance of their affections, so long do they keep
their vital connection with the Mystical Body un-
severed ; but when singly or collectively creatures
are preferred to Him in that same act they become
as severed limbs; for nothing corrupt can enter into
or remain in the Kingdom of Heaven.

.But "without faith it is impossible to please
God," it is impossible to possess charity, to cling to
truth and goodness above all things and at every
sacrifice. We cannot therefore suppose that the
invisible Church on earth extends beyond the limits
of the visible except so far as faith so extends. Faith
is commonly and rightly explained to be a firm will
or resolution to hold fast to truths taught us by God
without discussing them or questioning them by any
kind of practical doubt. We hold to them with that
firmness which God's word merits ; and we do so in
obedience to God's command ; not because we have
necessarily sat in judgment either on the truths
revealed or on God's claims as a witness; but
simply because we recognize God's right to command
the mind which He has made. Without such faith
we cannot please God ; for even where reason
reaches the simple truths of religion and morality,
its grasp is too feeble and its gaze too unsteady to
prevent our mind being perverted in the hour of
temptation and yielding to the fallacies of self-love,
pride, and sensuality, or listening to the voice of
worldly and carnal wisdom, or ceding to the



influence of universal example. In that hour we
have no strength alone ; Vce soli : we must lean
upon God and hear His voice and not our own;
loyal obedience to Him will stand us in good stead
when we are perhaps blinded by passion to our
truest and highest self-interest. As hope lends us
God's strength in the hour of weakness, so faith
lends us God's light in the hour of darkness when
our own lamp has gone out or flickers to extinction.

It is for this reason that theologians insist on some
kind of divine speaking or revelation as a condition
for faith, thus strictly interpreting, Fides ex auditu —
" Faith comes by hearing." For faith is essentially
trust in another whose wisdom and knowledge supple-
ments what is defective in our own. However clearly
we may learn the same religious truths from reflection
upon the phenomena of conscience or of physical
nature, yet we are so far resting only upon ourselves,
and our own reason and observation — a support that
will prove insufficient in the time of trouble. We
are trusting to the arm of flesh, and not to the arm
of God ; flesh and blood has revealed it to us, but
not our Father who is in Heaven. Faith, hope,
and love alike put God for self, and bind us to Him,
and deliver us from the weakness of isolation.

There is nothing arbitrary in making faith a
condition for salvation or at least of supernatural
salvation. It is altogether natural and even
necessary. Every wise moralist knows that we
cannot lead a good life unless we resolve to stand
firm in the hour of temptation and darkness, by
those truths which we saw clearly in the hour of


calm and light, but which now we do not see
clearly and are disposed to question ; in other
words, unless we are resolved not to rationalize
or doubt, but to hold on blindly to what we do not
now see, substituting a will-certainty for a mind-
certainty. This is faith, not in another, but in our
own better self; yet in principle it is the same. If
indeed we yield to the pressure of temptation and
reopen the question, we only offend against our own
better judgment — a fallible authority at best, though
surely more trustworthy than the j udgment of passion.
In proportion as the spiritual truths by which we
must live are subtle and mysterious, we need still
greater support to supplement our wavering reason,
while for those that are strictly supernatural and out
of reason's ken, God's support is an absolute
necessity. Here, to doubt is to offend not against
fallible authority, but against the authority of God,
and the will-certainty must be measured to that
standard; it must be an unqualified adhesion of
the whole soul to God's word as such.

There can be no faith therefore where God is
not felt to have spoken and to have commanded
our obedient assent to the things that belong to
our peace, to the great fundamental truths that
there is a God, whose we are, and before whom
we continually stand ; who is the Rewarder and the
Reward of them that seek Him, to whom we must
render an account and pay the last farthing of our
debt of reverence and service. There can be no
faith, no pleasing of God, where the idle speculative
questioning of these truths, implicitly admitted in


every act of conscience, is not recognized as
immoral, as sinful, as a trespass not only against
conscience itself, but against the revealed will of
God ; or where, with the full consciousness of being
unduly excited or depressed, or otherwise biassed
and unbalanced, one makes a resolve or chooses an
opinion in accordance with such bias.

Yet if the soul is to listen not to itself but to
God, if it is to cling to His word when its own
word falters, it is needful that God should really
speak to the soul, and should be apprehended
distinctly as so speaking. For speech, in this
stricter sense, it is not enough that the speaker
betray his mind in words or signs, or even by
direct " thought-transference" with the secret design
that the perceiver shall take his meaning, as when
one leaves a book open for another to read without
bidding him read it, or showing any sign of a
will that he should do so. To speak is not only

Online LibraryGeorge TyrrellHard sayings; a selection of meditations and studies → online text (page 28 of 31)