Shot Through With Flashes of Heaven

Like the cauldron, it was forged for ritual, bit it makes a happier statement about sacrifice, for the God to whom it is dedicated no longer demands that we nourish him and thus become one with his godhead. The transaction has been reversed: he offers himself to us as heavenly nourishment. In this new “economy,” we drink the Blood of God, and all become one by partaking of the one cup, the one destiny. The silver Cauldron was made in thanksgiving for some great favor: it was not meant to be seen by human eyes but was made for the sole delight of the swamp god. The silver Chalice, on the other hand, was meant to delight and refresh the humans who drained its mystical contents. Its elegant balance, its delicate gold filigree interlacings, its blue and ruby enamels beckoned from afar. As the communicant approached the Chalice, he could admire more fully its subtle workmanship; and as he lifted it to his lips, he would be startled to see, debossed in a band beneath the handles, the almost invisible names of the Twelve Apostles. As he drank the wine – at the very moment of communion – he could briefly upturn the base toward heaven and there would flash skyward the Chalice’s most thrilling aspect: the intricate underside of its base, meant to be seen by God alone. This secret pleasure connects the Chalice to the Cauldron and to all the pagan ancestors of the Irish. But the pagan act of pleasuring the god is now absorbed completely into the New Imagination and to all that will follow. The smith is still a “man of art,” a poet or druid, but he is no longer one of those whose evil craft and power Patrick had to protect himself against:

“Against craft of idolatry,

Against spells of witches and smiths and wizards,

Against every knowledge that corrupts man’s body and soul.”

For God’s pleasure and man’s are reunited, and earth is shot through with flashes of heaven, and the Chalice has become the druidic Christian smith’s thanksgiving, his deo gratias.

And that is how the Irish became Christians.

Cahill, How the Irish Saved Civilization, pp. 143-144

Photo by Wikimedia Commons

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