Key to the Sacred Pattern

05 April 2007

Thoughts on the Grail at the Last Supper

With Easter coming up, I thought it might be beneficial to look into the most persistent of all theories of the Holy Grail. The most common theory is that the Grail is the cup Jesus used at the Last Supper. Given that Biblical accounts of the Last Supper describe historical events, Jesus did use some sort of vessel to drink from. Therefore, this cup or cups did at one time exist.

The implication here is something that is not talked about in modern day Grail studies. Today the Grail means something different to different people. The Cup of Jesus, Jesus’ blood line, the Ark of the Covenant, a Druidic Artifact, and The Philosopher’s Stone top the list. Differing interpretations of the Grail’s nature have existed since the time of the first Grail romances. The trouble is that groups would attach their own meaning to what the Grail was and muddy the waters for the modern day Seeker. Because of the antiquity of Grail legends, there could be some validity to each theory.

For example, in the early 1600’s the Rosicrucians have a stone they believe to be the Philosopher’s Stone. They attach the moniker of Holy Grail to it, and base an esoteric system around the Stone being the Grail. The metaphors the Rosicrucians use for the Grail are the same Grail Romance metaphors used by the Priory of Sion to describe the Grail as the blood line of Jesus. Both views are that of the Holy Grail, but of two different Grails. Looking at Grail studies in this light now aren’t popular because everyone wants to have a definitive answer as to what and where the Grail is. You can’t sell books telling your theory or show up on a History Channel special if you view Grail studies with this type of diversity.

In order to limit the scope of the discussion, I have stuck to a Socratic method of looking at a primarily Christian tradition. Please don’t e-mail me and shout that my views are limited and I’m not being opened minded. The attempt here is to look at one facet of this Grail theory. This article is also part of my “diversification” of Grail mysteries. There might be more that one cup used at the Last Supper, which explains why there are a host of Grail Cups out there. With that out of the way, let’s begin.

Would anyone have thought to venerate that particular cup?

According the Matthew, Jesus did predict his crucifixion (Matthew 26:2) and say that he would drink with them from that cup until the “Kingdom of God will come”(Luke 22:17-18). That’s a point in the Apostle’s favor in viewing the cup as a potentially sacred object worth holding on to. However, the Apostles weren’t always so attentive to Jesus’ teachings. The Apostles fell asleep when Jesus told them not to, they didn’t understand parables, and they tried to casting out demons when Jesus told them not to. The Apostle’s list of follies goes on and on. So, would one of them have the presence of mind to preserve the cup? At the time of the Crucifixion, I’m not so sure.

Two days later when your Rabbi is said to have risen from the dead, that’s a different story. I would like to think that I would be saving items that were linked to someone that had just walked out of his tomb. Given a tradition of Holy Jewish objects, it’s plausible that at least one of the Apostles would have thought the cup used at the Last Supper would have had been at very least a sacred object.

Could there be multiple Grail Cups?

The Haggadah (translated from Hebrew as “telling”) is a text that describes Passover ceremony and etiquette that has been around since at least 200 AD. Some scholars believe the traditions and some of the Haggadah texts go back to the time of the Second Temple Period (560 BC to 70 AD). The text describes using four different cups to perform the Passover ritual. Each of the cups is used to symbolically express the redemption and exodus from Egypt and Israel’s birth as a nation. (Exodus 6:6-7) Were all Passover rituals done the same in the first century? No, just as not all Passover ritual is exactly the same today. They vary from family to family and Jewish Sect to Jewish Sect.

The Gospels refer to “the cup” in Matthew 26:27. This is the Greek word , and according to Strong’s Concordance it is a singular noun. Then again, this refers to the cup that Jesus used to establish the New Covenant. In that sense there was only the one cup that was used for that activity.

Why would the Cup used at the Last Supper have miraculous powers?

Mark 6:56 tells of the sick and infirm being laid on the roadside just for the chance to touch Jesus’ garment to be healed. The text goes on to say that those who did touch Jesus were healed. Given your views on the divinity of Jesus, there are a couple of routes to go on this point.

    1. The cup used for the first sacrament transubstantiated the wine in the cup to Jesus’ blood. Thus imbuing the cup with Jesus’ powers.
    2. If that cup was used at the Crucifixion to catch Jesus’ blood by Joseph of Arimathea, then the same holds true as above
    3. The Cup has no powers what so ever and by faith alone its miraculous powers are seen
    4. The Cup has no powers and it’s all a fairy tale.

Could the cup have survived to present day?

Sure why not? If I can go on E-Bay and find a cup that dates from 2500 BC that was found in the Indus River valley, then it is very possible. Besides that, for whoever was the steward of that cup, it was a sacred relic. Holy objects generally aren’t put in a chest and forgotten about. Unless of course the person that put that item in the chest never tells anyone what the significance of that cup. Thinking they will pass the cup on to someone on their death bed, fate snatches them before the secret can be told.

Could the Grail, as a cup, have a longer history than the Last Supper?

There is a tradition in the Languedoc region of France, that states the Grail cup has a much longer history that the Last Supper. This tradition states that Adam was the craftsman of a wooden Grail. Supposedly the wooden cup was the only legacy Adam left his descendants. Adam’s cup was passed down the Davidic line and eventually inherited by Jesus. What better cup to use at the Last Supper than one crafted by the first man? This legend has the added bonus of sounding like the Nanteos Cup.

So if the Grail is the Cup Jesus used at the Last Supper, what happened to it?
This is the fun part. If there were multiple cups used tat the Last Supper, then might this explain the multiple Grail Cups that can be found today? A number of these contenders for the title of “Holy Grail” all have very similar characteristics. The Valencia Chalice, The Marian (or Hawkstone Park) Cup, Chalice of the Abbot Suger of Saint-Denis, The Sacro Catino, and Rocco Zingaro's Cup have laid claim to be the Grail and have some physical similarities. Maybe all, some, or none of these cups were present at the Last Supper and their legends grew from simply being there.

What’s the Point?

The point to all of this is not to pin-point what the Grail is or if the Grail is the cup used at the Last Supper. I hope I’ve demonstrated that there is a general fallacy in the way most of us think about the Grail being one particular object or idea. For most of us who look for the Grail through research, I think it’s a lesson well learned. One can spend copious amounts of time going down blind alleys if one tries to mismatch their research with their personal vision of the Grail.


1 comment:

flashbna said...

Well said.