Finding the Holy Grail
Development of the Legend of the Holy Grail
During the Middle Ages there developed a legend of gallant knights going on long and dangerous quests in search of the holy grail. The idea was that because of the grail's use by Jesus Christ at the last supper, when He announced the New Covenant and confirmed it with His own body and blood, that the grail was therefore a special vessel that could bring supernatural blessings and transformation to those who came into its presence. This legend was presented in the form of fictional stories possibly based on Celtic myths about quests for mystical cauldrons, but substituting the holy grail in place of the cauldrons.
These stories illustrate a flawed way of thinking that has unfortunately has been all too common over the centuries. The flaw is in thinking materialistically instead of spiritually. This is an error which is only too easy for us humans to fall into, even after accepting Christ as savior and lord.
When asked by the Pharisees when the Kingdom of God would come, Jesus answered, "The kingdom of God does not come with observation: nor will they say, 'See here!' or 'See there!' For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you." Luke 17:20,21 NKJV.
And when Pilate asked Him if He were in fact the King of the Jews, Jesus replied, "My kingdom is not of this world." John 18:36 NKJV.
In fact, Jesus was known for teaching spiritual truth using parables about earthly things. The parables in Matthew 13 are examples, including the parable of the sower of seeds, the parable of the wheat and the tares, and the parables of the mustard seed, the pearl of great price, and the field containing a treasure.
Sir Galahad, a spiritual knight, but still looking for a material object
In his poem “Sir Galahad”, Alfred, Lord Tennyson at least managed to give some measure of spirituality to Sir Galahad by having him be a “just and faithful knight of God”. But the knight was still in quest of a physical prize outside of himself, and not searching for personal sanctification and divine inspiration in order to serve others. The emphasis is also on the knight's own efforts, and the hoped-for blessings from the material object, and not on the redeeming grace of the Savior.
Tennyson's poem ends with these words (those underlined are referred to in this article):
“O just and faithful knight of God!
Ride on! The prize is near.”
So pass I hostel, hall, and grange;
By bridge and ford, by park and pale,
All-arm'd I ride, whate'er betide,
Until I find the holy Grail.
Ephesians 6:10-18 KJV
10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.
11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;
15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;
16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.
17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:
18 Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;
Taking Sir Galahad to a new spiritual level
We may spiritually combine Tennyson's ideal knight with the Apostle Paul's exhortation to “put on the whole armor of God” in Ephesians chapter 6 by substituting the word “become” for the word “find” and understanding “All-arm'd” to be referring to the spiritual armor of God. In this case the armor imagery is not simply metaphor, but is Paul, like Jesus, illustrating spiritual truth with a physical analog that we can understand. This spiritual truth is not simply conceptual, but is transcendentally true in a way that must be understood by faith.
Not that I would ask Tennyson to change his poem. For if there had been no poem or no legend about a quest for a physical holy grail, then this article would not have been written.
Link to Tennyson's "Sir Galahad" (public domain)
- Tennyson's "Sir Galahad"
Full text of the poem
Christ frequently used the physical, which we easily understand, to illustrate the spiritual, which we don't naturally understand. So based on Christ's way of teaching, God would not want anyone to find or even search for the holy grail, a mere physical object, but rather that we would each come to Him as a jar of clay willing to be transformed by His grace into a spiritual holy grail.
After all, the power to bless and transform those in the presence of the holy grail was supposed to be derived from its availability and resultant usage by our Lord. But this is exactly what God asks of us, namely, to be available as vessels willing to be poured out for the purpose of dispensing His grace to those who come within our presence, thus enabling them to obtain the same supernatural blessing and transformation that we receive by grace through faith.
To state it concisely, instead of searching for the holy grail, God wants us to become the holy grail.