By: Chris Zimmer-Columnist, Sophomore
As thousands from around the world make the pilgrimage to León, Spain, to see what historians believe is the true Holy Grail, film directors and producers might not be able to paint the quest for the vessel as they did in “Monty Python” and “Indiana Jones.”
Historians Margarita Torres and José Ortega del Río believe they have discovered the chalice Jesus and his disciples used during the Last Supper. Their recently published book, “Los Reyes del Grial,” provides reasonable evidence the Holy Chalice is contained within the Chalice of Doña Urraca, which sits in the Basilica of Saint Isidoro in Spain.
History and literature professors examined ancient Islamic documents from the church’s destruction during Al-Mansur-bi-llah’s conquest of Spain in 988 A.D. The parchments say Muslims took the Holy Chalice from Christians in Jerusalem to Cairo, Egypt.
It was eventually given to an emir on the coastal city of Denia, Spain, and was offered to King Ferdinand I as a sign of peace from Muslims between 1037 and 1045 A.D. It has remained in León ever since.
Torres told the Irish Times, “The only chalice that could be considered the chalice of Christ is that which made the journey to Cairo, and then from Cairo to León – and that is this chalice.”
Despite not knowing the cup’s history and whether or not Jesus drank from it, they believe this is the cup that was venerated by the early Christians. Antoninus of Piacenza, a sixth century pilgrim who ventured to the Holy Land, said the Church of the Holy Sepulchre venerated the Holy Chalice and presented it to Jesus during his crucifixion.
However, skeptics and critics quickly bashed the historian’s evidence with carbon dating, quotes from Church Doctors and “Hollywood” reasoning.
Scientists suggest the Chalice of Doña Urraca was made between 200 B.C. and 100 A.D., which means the chalice could have been made after the life of Jesus.
Some turn to St. John Chrysostom’s homilies on the gospel of St. Matthew, who said the table at the Last Supper was not made of “silver” and the chalice was not made of “gold,” but everything there was “precious” and “inspiring.” Some even possess the same frame of mind Indiana Jones had prior to his choice of the Holy Grail in the “Last Crusade.”
“We can imagine a wealthy, late-antique Christian being duped into thinking this was the cup of Christ,” said Candida Moss of Daily Beast. “But it seems unbelievable that Jesus, an itinerant carpenter who lacked a steady income, could have come into possession of such a thing. Even if you strip off the precious metals the cup is still too fancy.”
IS IT TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE?
Our Catholic faith and its teachings are being increasingly drawn into the public eye, which gives secular media voices a chance to take a swing at religion.
Despite a possible solution to an ancient religious and historical mystery, and despite thousands of people making the pilgrimage to León to grow spiritually, this story is being slammed by the media.
The Huffington Post placed it in their “Weird News” section, and comment boards are filled with readers criticizing the Church.
“A fool and his money are soon parted,” read one reply to Moss’ article. “Medieval nobles were fools. Many of them shunned education just as many of the religious right does today. So run to Spain and spend your money to see this piece of religious folly.”
All we can say to those who left the faith and for the nonbelievers is this: Even if the Chalice of Doña Urraca isn’t the Holy Chalice, our belief in Christ’ real presence in the chalice and bread during Holy Communion is in the spotlight. There is no need to hide our faith from the lost in this modern world.
The Pew Research Forum calls the changing religious trends in America a “marketplace,” due to a growing diversity of faith and the fact that every major religious tradition in our country is simultaneously gaining and losing adherents.
The research revealed that one-third of American adults who were raised Catholic left the faith, and 31 percent of adults under the age of 30 don’t adhere to any religion. In other words, many Catholics drink from a different chalice now and young people aren’t as interested as they used to be.
As Pope Francis continues to lead Catholics in the modern world, I think we should take the opportunity during Lent to brainstorm how we can do our part.
I believe the first thing is offering the same advice the old guard of the Holy Grail gave to Indiana Jones in the “Last Crusade”:
“You must choose, but choose wisely; for as the true Grail will bring you life, the false Grail will take it from you.”