DAILY CATHOLIC MONDAY August 9, 1999 vol. 10, no. 148
NEWS & VIEWS
TRUTH AND SYMBOLISM OF HOLY GRAIL
Revelations Surrounding Valencia's Sacred Chalice
MADRID, AUG 5 (ZENIT).- Salvador Antuņano Alea, professor of Ethics and Sacred Scripture at the Francisco de Vitoria University Center in Madrid, has just published a book on the relic believed to be the chalice used by Jesus Christ during the Last Supper, and at present kept in the Valencia Cathedral. The title of the book is, "The Mystery of the Holy Grail: Tradition and Legend of the Sacred Chalice."
"If Indiana Jones had visited Valencia, he would have paid no attention to old medieval legends, and he would have saved himself all the dangers of 'The Last Crusade,' " Antuņano humorously affirms in the book's opening line. Over the length of 220 pages, the author reviews the tradition that envelops the Sacred Chalice, including archaeological research on its use in the Last Supper, its use by the first Popes of Christianity, it relocation to Spain, medieval legends, its stay in the Monastery of St. John of la Peņa, and its first entry into documented history at the end of the 14th century.
The author finally brings together the negative publicity and damages it has been subjected to since then, as well as its use by John Paul II during a Mass celebrated in Valencia in November, 1992.
According to tradition, the Grail was the chalice from which Jesus and his disciples drank during the Last Supper. It is a proper cup, to which a gold structure with two handles has been added. The piece is 17 centimeters high. The cup is semispherical, about 3.5 inches in diameter and made of dark red agate. Archaeological studies reveal the work was done in a Palestinian or Egyptian workshop between the 4th century B.C. and the 1st century A.D.
At the Dawn of Christianity
This cup, connected with the first Eucharist, could not have been forgotten after the Redeemer's death, all the more so since the disciples met several times afterwards in the Cenacle. This is the explanation for the Sacred Chalice's appearance in Rome. According to tradition, it was brought from Jerusalem by St. Peter. Two and a half centuries passed, with clear indications that the chalice was used by the early Pontiffs to celebrate Mass. According to Antuņano, "What most impresses the researcher is the Roman liturgical canon of the first Popes. At the moment of consecration, they literally said: 'take this glorious chalice,' referring strictly to 'this' [one]." (Here Antuņano is referring to the official Latin text, "hunc praeclarum calicem." The current U.S. English translation is simply, "the cup.")
History records that during the persecution of Emperor Valerian, shortly before his death at the hands of the Romans, Pope Sixtus II gave relics, treasures and money to his deacon Lawrence, a native of Huesca, Spain, who was also martyred, but not before sending the Eucharistic Chalice to his native city, accompanied by a letter. This was in the year 258 or, according to some authors, 261.
The cup remained in Huesca until the Moslem invasion. Bishop Audeberto of Huesca left his city with the Sacred Chalice in 713, and took refuge in the Mount Pano caves, where the hermit John of Atares lived. Later, the monastery of St. John of la Peņa was founded and developed here. It was from here that a nucleus of determined men left to undertake the re-conquest of Spain from the Moslems. This struggle had epic proportions, which were not ignored by literary creativity. According to historians of literature, this was the origin or source of the famous poems of Chretien de Troyes and Wolfram von Eschenbach, about the hero Percival (Parzival). Eschenbach's epic later inspired Wagner's opera, "Parsifal." In all these poems there is a marvelous Cup, which is called "Graal" or "Grail" and whose link with the Sacred Chalice is easy to understand.
The presence of the Sacred Chalice in St. John of la Peņa is attested by a document dated December 14, 1134. On September 26, 1399, the Chalice went to Zaragoza for safekeeping, at the request of the King of Aragon, Martin the Human. In the text of offer, which is kept in Barcelona, there is evidence that the Sacred Chalice was sent from Rome with a letter of St. Lawrence. During the reign of Alfonso the Magnanimous, the relic was moved to Valencia. Since March 18, 1437, it has been kept in the Cathedral of that city, according to a document which refers to it as "the Chalice in which Jesus Christ consecrated the blood on the Thursday of the Supper."
The Most Dramatic and Sublime Story of Humanity
"The Sacred Chalice is not known sufficiently either within or outside of Spain," Antuņano, a Mexican living in Spain, states; he believes its "value is not in scientific rigor fully attested, even if archaeology itself has no objections to its authenticity, but in the symbolism of the Lord's Supper. It is valuable because it is a sign and figure of the institution of the Eucharist, and this is much greater than any historical vestige."
The author states that when "the mystery of the Grail is revealed, one realizes it is in no way an esoteric enigma; what it encloses is the most dramatic, romantic and sublime story humanity has ever known: the story of the Word made Man and Eucharist."
The book, edited by EDICEP and published in Spanish, has a prologue by
Archbishop Agustin Garcia Gasco of Valencia, who highly recommends the
reading of the book because "it highlights the value and meaning of the
Holy Grail, which acquires its relevance in the Eucharist."
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NEWS & VIEWS