The High Feast of Pentecost

“The king stablished all his knights, and gave them that were of lands not rich, he gave them lands, and charged them never to do outrageousity nor murder, and always to flee treason; also, by no mean to be cruel, but to give mercy unto him that asketh mercy, upon pain of forfeiture of their worship and lordship of King Arthur for evermore; and always to do ladies, damosels, and gentlewomen succor upon pain of death. Also, that no man take no battles in a wrongful quarrel for no law, ne for no world’s goods. Unto this were all the knights sworn of the Table Round, both old and young. And every year were they sworn at the high feast of Pentecost.”

-Sir Thomas Malory
When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

-Acts of the Apostles
Then anon they heard cracking and crying of thunder, that them thought the place should all to drive. In the midst of this blast entered a sunbeam more clearer by seven times than ever they saw day, and all they were alighted of the grace of the Holy Ghost. Then began every knight to behold other, and either saw other, by their seeming, fairer than ever they saw afore.... Then there entered into the hall the Holy Greal covered with white samite, but there was none might see it, nor who bare it.... And then the king yielded thankings to God, of His good grace that he had sent them. Certes, said the king, we ought to thank our Lord Jesu greatly for that he hath shewed us this day, at the reverence of this high feast of Pentecost.

-Sir Thomas Malory
It was on Pentecost that the Holy Grail went about in the world, leading the knights out from Camelot to their destruction in quest of God's truth. It was on Pentecost that the apostles, likewise keeping together in safety and company, were set afire to go out into the world to quest.

Of the knights who went on that quest few returned again to Camelot. For a long time I thought that was a warning against seeking too much after a perfection that was not meant for human kind.

But of the apostles, almost all were martyred: all but John.


Russ said...

Remember that the apostles were sent out to carry out the command of Jesus to spread the good news. I am not sure that the analogy holds.

Grim said...

I think Malory meant for it to hold, though you can interpret freely whether or not you think he constructed an analogous situation. To seek the Grail is to seek to live the virtues of the divine in the fallen world. Those who fail because they are too sinful are punished by the divine; but those who fail because they adhere to the divine are destroyed by the world.

Clearly Malory wanted Galahad to serve as an example of what humankind would be like if we could live up to the divine ideal. Galahad succeeds, but wants only to die at the end of the quest. Percival and his sister are similarly close to the divine ideal, and are likewise destroyed (as Jesus was) by living out that ideal in the fallen world. Percival's sister in particular is like Jesus in that she dies in service to the sinful, giving up her life so that the sinful woman can live (though, not being Jesus, she is only able to give additional mortal life).

I think Malory treated these questions, as literature, better than anyone else has done. That's not an insult: literature is the first way in which we imagine what it might really be like to try to live up to the legacy. I wonder if anyone today could even do so well as he did in imagining what the costs might be.

Anonymous said...
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DL Sly said...

Remove the link, but leave the spam, I beg you. It's one of the most creative non-sequiter sentences I've seen.

Nicholas Darkwater said...

We all die. What matters is how we lived.

Christ's reply to the penitent malefactor was not that he would be spared from death, but that he would be with Christ in paradise.

Ultimately, what other goal could we have?

Tom said...

Well, loans for bad credit could be an analogy of Christ's atonement for our sin, I suppose ...

Grim said...

Sorry, Sly. I can only delete comments, not edit them. The line you liked was: "It's fantastic that you are getting ideas from this post as well as from our argument made here."

Eric Blair said...

To be martyred is a sort of perfection, I suspect. YMMV.

Russ said...

Just for the record, I do read the responses. There are times when I just cannot come up with anything worth saying as a followup.