To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory (Colossians 1:26-27).
These are strange and difficult days. Our society, our church and our world are simultaneously searching for answers, looking for how best to cope with all the frightening uncertainty increasingly emerging each day. This is not the first time our world has been confront by a crisis. It will not be the last. In previous times, difficult days yielding creative coping, along with storytelling that offered vision, imagination and hope.
We’ve all heard about the “Quest for the Holy Grail.” The original idea for the grail and the quest to find it began with a man named Chretien de Troyes and his work, The Story of the Grail, also known as Perceval.Written sometime between 1180 and 1190 and told also in the midst of difficulties, this medieval story weaves a romantic saga of Perceval’s quest to become both a knight and a disciple of Jesus.
For Cretien, these concepts were inseparable. To become a knight in those days necessitated a genuine and humble faith. One had to be constantly moving in the direction of discipleship, humility, kindness, and compassion. The twists and turns of Perceval’s journey echo the foibles, inconsistencies, foolishness, misunderstandings, and gradual wisdom that ought to be part of each of our lives. The grail plays only a metaphorical role and serves as simply a way to convey a parallel in the human experience.Perceval starts out knowing nothing about knights and their weapons, God and spirituality, or how to interpret what he sees and hears in relation to what is sacred. The story chronicles his quest for deeper faith and selfless, knightly devotion. His growth results from authentic humility and admirable inquisitiveness.
In Chretien’s story, Perceval finally becomes a highly respected member of King Arthur’s court and a true follower of Christ. He ultimately learns the essentials to loving God and neighbor, the basic tenants of the Christian life. And the grail, this container in the story, serves as a metaphorical vessel, a symbol for our own bodies, our own call to be the containers of Christ’s spirit. We are the vessels of God’s blessing, not to be held for our own benefit but to pass on what God has so generously given. This was Chretien’s message.
This is also Paul’s message in Colossians: “The mystery that has been hidden throughout the ages … the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:26-27).
The quest for the Holy Grail is now complete, the mystery solved. You are the container of God’s great gift. The ancient hope for a Messiah is fulfilled, but not only in the coming of Jesus. The word Messiah is a Hebrew word which simply means “God’s anointed.” The word Christ is a Greek word that means the same thing. So, when the Bible talks about the resurrected Jesus being alive in you and me, and of Christ being “in you, the hope of glory,” this is a proclamation of radical importance. Before Jesus, the idea was for the anointed of God to do away with poverty, exclusion, war, famine and disease. Our COVID-19 crisis simply seems to underline the looming question. Jesus has come, yet clearly all of these things continue at varying levels and with various intensity. Why?
Our Lord calls us to ask a better question: “What can I do to help?”
The Real Lesson:
The early church came to realize this important insight. Jesus’ earthly life spoke, taught and lived the necessity of a community of faithful to carry out the preaching, teaching, healing, loving and welcoming that he began.
His resurrection underlined the imperative and transferred responsibility to us. The mission of “healing the world”—as our Jewish brothers and sisters call it—is to be done as “little Christs” (the literal meaning of “Christian”). It is Christ’s ongoing ministry of compassion and transformation in us andthrough usthat has, does, and will offer ongoing, positive, and sacred change to the world.
Today, there is a job that needs to be done. And you are called to do it. Christ is in you.
May you live today in full knowledge that you are not on your own. There is something in you fully sufficient and more than you need. You are the holy vessel of Christ. Live, then, with reverence. Especially during this Holy Week, be humble and compassionate. And even if we can’t physically be together, figure out a way to pass on the blessing.
PRAYER FOR THE DAY:
Let us, in true reverence, claim this awesome gift, O God: that your presence is alive and well in us in the spirit of Christ. This is sufficient for all that we need and all that we can ever hope. Many of us are frightened. Our current crisis leaves us feeling alone and often overwhelmed. Allow us to relax in the great truth that you are with us in all things and in every way. Let us claim deep in our souls that all is well and all shall be well, for Christ is in us this day and every day.
That is enough. Amen.
“The true miracle is that I want to love others the way I am loved. Christ is contagious.”
Professor Monica Brzezinski Potkay, The College of William and Mary, in her lecture series The Eternal Chalice: The Grail in Literature and Legend.