The Holy Grail

For ages Christian people have been interested in the story of the Holy Grail,—the cup used, so the legend goes, by Jesus at the last supper, afterwards given to Joseph of Arimathea and carried into Britain, whence it disappeared, to become the object of the quest of the knights of the Table Round. Its history, in one form or another, has been chronicled by writers from Geoffrey of Monmouth to Lowell. Gradually, as the world advanced spiritually, the legend was changed to conform to newer and truer concepts. We can imagine the early worshipers of Jesus' personality, wrapped in the ecclesiastical darkness of the Middle Ages, dreaming of a material cup which should be to them a precious relic. At that time, with a determination worthy of the ancient Jews who would have had a Messiah on an earthly throne, it was visioned not as a common utensil but as a wondrous thing, carved perhaps of a single emerald, or, as Tennyson has it, a ruby "rose-red with beatings in it." Like other relics associated with religion, when found it would be supposed to possess healing virtue, and the touch of it would work miracles for the devout. Later, perhaps, and marking a slight advance toward understanding, it was believed that only through right living could the cup be seen. People began to hope for the coming of one who, "wearing the white flower of a blameless life," would find and restore it for the healing of the nations.

Tennyson's poem presents a beautiful and symbolic description of the search for the Grail. This story would seem to be of especial interest to Christian Scientists; for the cup, which came to represent healing and the spiritual understanding which is the reward of pure thought and right mental activity,—is it not the truth which we all are striving to see more clearly? We may indeed, then, feel our fellowship with Percivale in his quest, and, like him, we may follow Galahad. The desert of discouragement in which we hear the whisper, "This Quest is not for thee," the apples of mortal wisdom which turn to dust and ashes, the human ties which sought to hold him on the road, the giant greed of gold, the city which represented worldly fame,—all these as temptations we must, like Percivale, overcome, unless like Galahad when he braved Merlin's chair, we are wise enough to cry, "If I lose myself, I save myself."

To the understanding of Galahad, Truth appears, unveiled by material beliefs, and leads surely and happily to the "spiritual city." Others of us, like Percivale, find obstacles before the reward. Sometimes we stop by the way; but how surely, if we do, our material pleasures are swept away by the wind of truth, like the silk pavilion of the faithless Gawain, who was "too blind to have desire to see." Sometimes, too, we may well remember the advice to Lancelot when he faced the lions, "Doubt not, go forward; if thou doubt, the beasts will tear thee piecemeal."

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"He that serveth"
January 11, 1919

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