By Katie Ammon
In our Tuesday night classes, we were told to be aware of symbolism as a way of connecting with our inner selves. Many ancient symbols often hold a fascination for many of us seeking to find purpose in our lives. One author wrote that each of us has our own vessel or cup, which we fill with life experiences. When I read about that idea, I wondered if it meant we each have a Holy Grail inside. Subsequently, I wanted to find out a little about the original grail, its history and to explore what we might fill our vessels with during our lifetimes.
The Holy Grail was thought to be a cup or platter used by Jesus at the Last Supper. In that cup or crucible the Christ was said to have symbolically transmuted bread and wine into his body and blood. Later that cup was said to be given to Joseph of Arimathea, who, it was alleged, used it to catch the blood of Jesus when the Roman soldiers lanced his side. Whether the grail or chalice survived is unknown as some of the history of that tumultuous time was lost. Accounts of the Holy Grail began to resurface in medieval times as Christianity spread throughout Europe.
According to Celtic myth and Christian narratives, the grail was said to have miraculous powers that gave unlimited abundance, eternal youth, sustenance and a capacity for magic. It became the subject in Arthurian legend of much speculation and of a celebrated quest. It was thought to be a physical object and has been depicted as everything from a plain ceramic wine glass, an etched metal goblet, a translucent vessel to a gold jeweled inlaid chalice. Since the search went on for many years and the grail was not reported to be found, I thought that what they searched for may not have been a physical object. My question was, “What if they were looking for the cup or the well spring of life each human carries that connects them with the Divine?”
Realizing we are holy vessels which hold life itself, means we can to stop searching outside ourselves for answers. Also, to keep our lives in balance we may want to be mindful of what we are putting into our cup, as it is filled with what we focus on. Unfortunately, many of us live in fear on a daily basis. Some of our fears are rooted in feelings of not being intelligent, capable, strong, wise or lovable enough.
Another fear may be that the structures we have built, like relationships, careers and life styles might breakdown and we will have to change. Many of us learned to be helpless and hopeless early in life. So there are many of us who are sad, angry or anxious. Difficulties and struggles seem to plague many of us humans. Sadly, life is not exactly as we wish it to be. We have become stuck in negative emotions which cannot be banished. The things we carry inside us are projected through us when we interact with others. We may know we need to change or someone may comment on our attitude and spur us on to change. So we look for ways to change our focus to outside activities, like exercise, humor or service to others, which may help for a while, but perhaps the best way for us to transform the darkness is to reach deeply inside for answers. Suddenly, we might get an illumination and understanding that all of life’s difficulties are challenges to be worked through, usually one step at a time. It takes time, practice and patience along with thoughtful planning of how we handle life’s struggles. But eventually, it seems to get easier and we no longer hang on to the difficulties; making wiser choices of what we want to keep in our lives or vessels. Hopefully, this work helps our lives take on more clarity and a smoother flow.
After reading about what the grail was thought to be, how it became an historical symbol and the possibility it is a small microcosm of the larger macrocosm of all of life, it brings us to wonder if, by changing or transmuting all life’s dark things, we are somehow becoming wiser.