Chaplain’s Corner: CXVI

“The Holy Grail”

With the passing of time a great number of legendary stories have become attached to King Arthur who has been dead for 1500 years and whose very existence has been questioned by numerous medieval scholars.  Today there is a veritable industry of Arthurian lore.  Since 1980 at least 5000 new Arthur-themed books, films, articles and memorabilia have hit the market every year.  You can buy Excaliburgers, Barbie and Ken dressed as Arthur and Guinevere.  Camelot wallpaper, and a cutting edge comic book adventures of the knights of the round table.

Then there’s that most iconic of all Arthurian pursuits, the quest for the Holy Grail.

No consensus has ever emerged as to the Grail’s actual identity.  It is usually imagined to be a cup or a serving dish.  One tradition says Arthur and his knights hoped to find the cup from which the Lord Jesus drank at the Last Supper.  Another declares the Grail to be the vessel that Joseph of Arimathea used to catch the blood of Christ at the foot of the cross.  Dan Brown’s best seller “The Da Vinci Code” proposes that The Holy Grail is a person-a physical descendant of Jesus himself.

Where can The Grail be found?  In Europe, perhaps, or somewhere in the Middle East.  Some say it’s hidden in Britain, right where Joseph of Arimathea left it.  What power is it supposed to have?  One tradition suggests that The Grail can heal all wounds and impart the gift of eternal life.

Scientists speak of The Holy Grail of physics-finding a way to unite quantum mechanics with Einsten’s theory of relativity.  The Holy Grail of cancer research will snuff out every malignancy without suffering.

The Arthurian legacy of The Grail is the quest-the search for something worth finding, something worth understanding-a lifelong pursuit that yields surprises and adventures along the way.  If human beings can agree on anything, it is that the meaning of life matters.

Unsurprisingly, the Bible is not silent on the issue.  Here’s a key text from the Old Testament:  “God says, “This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses.  Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him.  For the Lord is your Life.”  (Deuteronomy 30:19-20)

And here’s a key text from the New Testament:  Jesus said, ”I have come that you may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)  The meaning of life, according to the Judeo-Christian scriptures is to know love, and to serve the one true God, so that we may know love and serve one another.

Christ-followers believe that there really is a once and future king.  His name is Jesus.  Having come to his people to die for their sins, he will come once again to set the whole world right.  In the meantime, our quest is to know him and make him known.

That’s the true Holy Grail.



Ron Naylor, Chaplain