Electronic edition compiled by Benjamin Hazard
Funded by School of History, University College, Cork and
1. First draft
Extent of text: 1875 words
Distributed by CELT online at University College, Cork, Ireland.
Text ID Number: E890000-019
Available with prior consent of the CELT programme for purposes of academic research and teaching only.
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Created: By Patrick Augustine Sheehan (18521913) (1899)
Beatrix Färber (ed.)
Benjamin Hazard (ed.)
Benjamin Hazard (file capture)
I know Thee, Alpha and Omega! the beginning and the end! I know Thee, the answer to every riddle, the key to every mystery, the term of all human knowledge, the beacon of all human hope, the fulfilling of all human desire. Thou that speakest, and all men should hear, art yet heard only in the silences and the midnight, when Thy whispers break on the bruised heart; and the thunders of Thy voice, ruling the rebellious spheres, break down into faint ripples of sound that wash on the sandy shores of deserted and desolate souls. Thou art the term of all philosophy, for Thou art the Wisdom and the Word; Thou art the end of charity, for from Thee is the spirit of love breathed; nor is there any vindication of the daring flights of faith, except that Thou art everywhere, and wherever the reason shoots its inquisitive rays, or the imagination poises its wings, they must needs touch Thee the Immense the Infinite! The finger of science is guided by Thy hand; and it is Thy hand that glides over the glowing canvas, and touches the ivory keys. It is 'Thou who makest eloquent the dumb of speech, and makest fertile the barren of mind, weaving out of the stammering of sucklings praises that rival the melodies of Thy thrones, and out of the babbling of human speech, adoration that makes envious the courts of Thy heaven. No mind can contemplate heaven without Thee, for Thou art heaven; and earth without Thy presence were a valley of desolation, a pit and slough of despair. The sun shines wherever Thou art; where Thou art not, are clouds and darkness, and the violence of tempests. And the magic of Thy name, and the burning of Thy words, and the strength of Thy example did not die with Thee on Calvary (though Thy Calvary too, to human eyes, spoke dismal failure), but down along the hoary centuries
p.157have extended the sweet influences of light and healing and inspiration, that have made the young leap to Thy arms, and the old crouch at Thy feet. All the sweetness and light, all the mercy and charity, the straightening of bruised reeds, and the healing of broken hearts, flow from Thy hands, which so often distilled the miracles of Thy compassion in the days of Thy pilgrimage; and as the sea lifts up its bands to the sun, and the voices of many waters beat out their lamentations to the midnight skies, so are the hands of all Thy little ones and Thy afflicted lifted up to Thee, O Christus Consolator! and the cries of humanity surge around Thee to be echoed back from the recesses of Thy adorable heart in accents of a charity that is boundless, and a mercy that is omnipotent. Thou art the secret of all things the loadstone of human hearts the centre of all creation, with out limit or circumference. Thou, the apex, where centre all the circles of the just, as the circles of Hell narrow down from abyss to abyss of wretchedness and despair, until they terminate in the slime and squalor of the dread Apollyon. The pens of philosophers have written Thee; the brushes of artists have limned Thee; the voices of virgins praised Thee; the thunder of organs hymned. Thee; the fancies of poets dreamed Thee; the lips of orators explained Thee; and then, all have said in despair, that Thy majesty and beauty have escaped them. Thou alone canst understand Thyself; we best adore Thee when we are silent before Thee. Not that Thy wondrous attributes are fugitive and elusive, even as some vain men imagined that Thou wert honoured, when declared to be unknown. We know Thee, yet bow down our eyes before Thee, for we seek to measure none other of Thy attributes but Thy love, and that Love, immeasurable as it is, filleth to over flowing the broken and leaky cisterns of our hearts, for it is a ceaseless stream flowing from the smitten rock of Thy most holy heart. And now, Lord, I know Thee, but I have not seen Thee as yet. Thou hast veiled Thy face from me, whilst Thy hands did smite me. Thou hast conquered, O Christ! Every time I thought to soar into the high empyrean of thought, I felt the shadow of Thy wings hovering high above me, veiling the light, that I might see Thee, the true Light; and threatening to bear me wounded and bleeding to earth. And to earth I fell-for the vain systems of my philosophy were but the wings of Icarus, that melted away under the fierce sunlight of Thy love. Bit by bit,
p.158the armour which I wore in my conflict with Thee, was hewn away by the sharp sword of thy power, and naked and subdued I stand before Thee to receive at Thy hands the final stroke that means eternal ruin, or the accolade, that will enlist me amongst Thy knights, sworn to do battle with Thee, But I must see Thee. In the majesty of Thy power, in the strength of perennial manhood, in the lustiness of Thy great prowess and vigour, Thine eyes-flames of fire; Thy feet, shod with brass; Thy mouth, breathing the two-edged sword; Thy breast cintured with beaten gold even so, Lord, as Thy, saint saw Thee in Patmos, do I desire to see Thee, even if mine eyes withered at the sight, for no man could see thus and live. But I must see Thee. Thou hast followed me through life, chasing me with persistence, as if Thy love were hatred; Thy name has flashed across me in unexpected places, blinding me with excess of light. I have shut the windows of my soul against Thee; but Thou has pierced them with the lightning of Thine eyes. I have hidden in dark places, and Thou hast found me. I have closed my ears against the soft breathing of Thy inspirations, only to hear the thunders of Thy threats. And now, run down, beaten, subdued, the rags of my nakedness not hiding my grievous sores, I stand before Thee, humbled and ashamed, confessing myself the least victim of Thy unwearying, Thy pitiless love. Yet let me see Thee, my Conqueror, my Master; and leave me the small meed of an all too stubborn fight to know that I am conquered by the Prince of Ages, the Christ of the Transfiguration and the Apocalypse! Christ with the heart of a mother and the strength of God.
O Thou persistent Lover! Thou tireless Seeker after souls! Thou, Eagle of the Skies, who didst drop me from Thy grasp, and let me fall plumb into the abysses, and then caughtest me up as my feet were touching the burning marl; and thus didst compel me to acknowledge Thy wisdom, Thy clemency, and Thy power Behold, I see Thee now in the light of setting suns, and hear Thee in the whispers of the wind; and in the pealing of Thy organs, and the rhythmic thunders of Thy psalms. Thy voice comes to me. But most of all do I feel Thee in the sacred silence of Thy Tabernacles, and unutterable things breathe round about my soul from behind the mystic veils of Thy Sacramental Presence! Let the wearied and the broken-hearted creep to Thy feet, dear Lord!