Raising the Grail

the-crucifixion-1524.jpg!HD Karlsruhe Gruenewald
Crucifixion by Matthias Gruenewald

All week we have been looking for living images of the Grail in the events of Holy Week. We have looked at the archetype of Christ’s descent into the human condition, his way of moving and working in his final days and offering the gift of his clear reflection back to us of the places where we are clouded, or no longer bear fruit, or have become resigned to the status quo, or even where we are destructive.

 We have looked at how he raised his own cup to give the disciples to eat of bread which becomes his body, and drink of wine that becomes his lifeblood.

Today, on Good Friday, he takes the final step into our condition: that our eternal nature is crucified on the cross of over-identifying ourselves with the mortal body. He offers himself upon the cross and makes a chalice of his body thereupon.

We can observe this in the altar picture by Gruenewald, where he hangs on the cross and with his arms wide open and raised a gesture is created of opening to the heavens above.

His final act of life is to surrender and enter the experience of death. God dies a human death! This sacrifice becomes a vessel for something new and otherwise unattainable which enters through his deed for the advancement of humanity and earth: the raising up of the human being. He does not depart but remains united with the earth and humanity even in death and plants a seed in the human constitution that the human being may be raised above death’s sting.

But it is not enough for this chalice to be placed before us. In order for Christ’s offering to be fulfilled to be fulfilled, this chalice must be taken up. By us. For a gift to be a gift, it must be received. The profoundest aspect of his gift to us is that he leaves us free to unite with him. Which means that his sacrifice might not be sufficiently taken up, and the Grail that he offers us might remain stationary, slumbering.

That Grail is not something object outside of us, but the newly potentialized human spirit within us. In order to grasp this new Grail, we too must go to the cross–and through it. It is the ultimate commitment. The cross is an image of being willing to enter fully and completely into the body, to take hold of it with love that it might be transformed from within into a spirit-bearing body once again!

As the substances of bread and wine are transformed at the altar into his body and blood, three crosses are made over them. The Spirit that overcomes death takes hold and enters in. They become filled with a power of life that never succumbs to death.

Throughout the service, we are invited to each cross ourselves, making three crosses over our bodies at the forehead, the chin, and the heart, taking hold of ourselves anew in thinking, willing and feeling. We take hold, in order to raise ourselves up and make of ourselves a chalice in offering, and in receiving this new power of life.

Good Friday is a day of great suffering, because it is reflected back to us just what confusion and lack of courage we live with most of the time. We do not yet understand our true spiritual nature. But the pain of loss can awaken us to what is slumbering inside us, awaiting our most personal and intimate movement for religious renewal, that we can truly stand in the world and say: Behold, the human being!

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