A powerful spiritual experience challenges us, like Parsifal in his quest for the grail, to find a way of holding the paradox of living in the everyday world while knowing there is something beyond it. Richard explains:
Once the Grail experience is over for Parsifal, he finds himself back in the forest, back in the world as he knows it. He has been touched by God in such a way that only God will do for him from now on. He has experienced the Absolute, and the relative will never again totally satisfy him. He aches for God, and the aching now becomes the seeking.
After our own Grail experience, our lives are characterized by some measure of perpetual dissatisfaction. Nothing lives up to our standards: not the church, not ourselves, not our country. There is a radical, aching longing: Ordinary life will never again be good enough, yet it is not meaningless either.
After the Grail experience, the ordinary forever becomes extraordinary. God is both perfectly hidden and perfectly revealed in everything. Once a paper cup becomes a Grail, even if it looks like a paper cup to everyone else, we know it’s also a golden cup. What frustrates us is that we can’t tell anybody. They all think it’s just paper!
A peak experience can be disconcerting. Sometimes we might even be ungrateful for it. We don’t fit in anymore. We live the rest of our lives at a tilt, wandering like Parsifal. We might feel a bit off-center. We can’t get excited about things most people get excited about. We just don’t believe they’re important anymore.
Life’s not about being perfect. It’s about getting involved in this great wrestling match. We get wounded in the hip, like Jacob (Genesis 32:26), and we limp the rest of our lives, but we’re not worried about the wound. We’re utterly confused, but we’re not confused by our confusion. We can live with our confusion now because, behind it all, we know.
Does that sound like double-talk? When one gets into Grail language, it’s all paradox. Everyone wants to pull us back to the first language of logic, law, and ego-tower building. But we can’t go anywhere with that. We have jumped off the ego tower. Once Parsifal has seen the Grail—even though he returns to the world—he is radically different ever after.
Once we have experienced the Grail—our soul, our True Self, God-in-us—we still fall short. We betray others and ourselves. We fail to live our own truth. We act contrary to our values and beliefs. We are hypocritical, lazy, lustful, and all the rest. But we are also trapped in the truth. As Jeremiah says, it burns within us (20:9). We know it’s the truth, even though we can never live up to it. Henceforward the only sin would be to deny that it is the truth. Trying to live up to it is the rest of the Grail journey.
Now the quest is real because the Grail is real. God is real.
Adapted from Richard Rohr, Quest for the Grail (New York: Crossroad Publishing, 1994), 114–115, 116.
- Read Mirabai Starr on spiritual longing and John of the Cross.
- Learn more about this year’s theme Nothing Stands Alone.
- Meet the team behind the Daily Meditations.
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:
The CAC’s teaching on transformation through tragedy struck home for me because of my experience living with my son’s mental illness. He, my wife and I have been through many difficult times but we have come through them with deeper understanding. I’m reminded of that journey often because my granddaughter and I share a love of astronomy, which is a joy for me. In one of the Daily Meditations, I remember reading that the sun lights the way during the day, but the night reveals the stars and galaxies. —Ernest C.
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.