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Center for Action and Contemplation
The Quest for the Grail
The Quest for the Grail

A Heroic Journey

Sunday, September 4, 2022

The main character is a hero or heroine who has found or done something beyond the normal range of achievement and experience. A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself. —Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth

In this week’s meditations we turn to Quest for the Grail, based on Father Richard’s earlier work with men and spirituality. The power of myth and legend can help us grow in consciousness and maturity, and the Grail legends contain many such archetypal patterns. All are invited to embark upon a heroic journey:

I am told that European quest legends emerged in various forms around 1180 to 1350 CE. They originated from different levels of society, at precisely the time when the great gospel story was in eclipse and no longer reaching the ears or affecting the souls of Christians. It could be said that Grail stories were lay persons’ ways of charting and describing a necessary and good spiritual path.

The myth expressed the deep wisdom of the Christian collective unconscious in a style that was neither churchy nor clerical. Instead, these stories moved confidently into a world of mystery and metaphor. They could do this because the quest was real and the myths were anchored in reality.

I believe we live in a time when the quest is no longer real. People are unsure of the goal, insecure in their search for meaningful patterns, and even unconvinced of any divine origins. It is a major crisis of meaning for the West; at the deepest level, it is a loss of hope. The anxiety and solutions to this crisis cannot be addressed at a mere surface or problem-solving level. Only sacred psychology or mythology are deep and true enough to address questions of meaning and hope.

What true religion has always done is open the door to this symbolic universe, to the world of the soul that is the primary access point for the spirit world. Healthy religion teaches us how to see, how to see more clearly, and how to see things all the way through.

The quest for the Grail is a homespun story of a man named Parsifal growing up and learning the right questions through trial and temptation as he pushes on toward God. During the quest, God speaks and leads through family, failure, violence, visitors, betrayal, sexuality, nature, shadow, and vision. Every person and every event the man encounters is a necessary and grace-filled occasion. There are no dead ends, though there seem to be many. There is no wasted time, no useless characters, no random happenings. All has meaning. It is a wholly enchanted universe; God is in all things waiting to speak and even to bless.

The Grail story can be told and retold, but finally it is a quest that must be walked. It is always a descent, always a terror, and for those who know the bigger story, always participation in a miracle.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Quest for the Grail (New York: Crossroad Publishing, 1994), 9–13, 27.

Explore Further:

Image credit: Katrina Lillian Sorrentino, Entelechy 1, 2 & 3 (details), 2022, photographs, Spain, used with permission. Jenna Keiper & Leslye Colvin, 2022, triptych art, United States. Click here to enlarge image.

This week’s images by Katrina Lillian Sorrentino appear in a form inspired by early Christian/Catholic triptych art: a threefold form that tells a unified story. 

Image inspiration: Entelechy: the seeded, coded essence that contains both patterns and possibilities for your life. Ever since I left my Christian marriage, I wanted to do the Camino, a pilgrimage that people from all over the world make to St. James’ tomb in Santiago de Compostela, Spain. In May, I walked it as a ritual in order to shed a previous version of Self and embody a truer one. I walked a total of 333 miles in order to capture entelechy through the photograph. This series is a relic of a ritual that carried me further into being. —Katrina Lillian Sorrentino

Story from Our Community:

I grew up in an authoritative, spiritually abusive household. I spent my childhood terrified of God. I had low self-esteem and was completely disconnected from my emotions and ability to think critically. By reading the daily meditations and listening to podcasts, the CAC has brought Christianity back into my life. I saw the humanity of Jesus for the first time and the deep understanding that I’m not separate or alone. I can truly rest in knowing that God’s Love is vast and unending. Thank you for reclaiming the Christian tradition for Love! —Kecia M.

Share your own story with us.

Prayer for our community:

God, Lord of all creation, lover of life and of everything, please help us to love in our very small way what You love infinitely and everywhere. We thank You that we can offer just this one prayer and that will be more than enough,  because in reality every thing and every one is connected, and nothing stands alone. To pray for one part is really to pray for the whole, and so we do. Help us each day to stand for love, for healing, for the good, for the diverse unity of the Body of Christ and all creation, because we know this is what You desire: as Jesus prayed, that all may be one. We offer our prayer together with all the holy names of God, we offer our prayer together with Christ, our Lord, Amen.

Listen to the prayer.


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