The Grail According to Anne Catherine Emmerich

German mystic Anne Catherine Emmerich (1774- 1824) is in the spotlight these days for her contributions to Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ and her own impending beatification. Her visions of scriptural events published as The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ (1833) and The Life of Jesus Christ and Biblical Revelations (1858-60) contain unique descriptions of the Holy Grail. The term “Grail,” however, is never used, for she prefers to call it simply the Chalice of the Last Supper.

According to Emmerich, the Chalice was delivered to Noah by three angels while he was at work on the ark. In it was a grain of wheat and a vine branch destined to grow after the Deluge. Noah used the Chalice during worship. It passed to his eldest son, Shem, who carried it to Mesopotamia whence Melchizedek returned it to Abraham. At this point, the Chalice “had cups in the shape of little barrels. These vessels were neither of gold nor silver, but transparent as of brownish precious stones.” At this point, the massive Chalice “looked as if it had been shaped by nature, not formed by art.”

The patriarchs used the Chalice and cups in priestly rites prefiguring the Mass and to convey God’s special blessing via a vaguely described “Holy Thing” to their heirs. Later, Moses placed the vessels and the mysterious Holy Thing that the Chalice contained in the Ark of the Covenant. They were removed before Jeremiah hid the ark prior to Nebuchadnezzar’s destruction of Jerusalem. Essenes preserved the Chalice and returned it to the Second Temple.

An angel conveyed the Holy Thing to St. Joachim just before the conception of Mary, but the temple priesthood sold the now-surplus ancient Chalice to an antiquarian. St. Veronica bought it and provided it for Jesus to use at religious festivals.

By the time of the Last Supper, the Chalice was “pear-shaped, and of a brownish, highly polished metal overlaid with gold.” It was now equipped with handles and a foot of “dark virgin gold, the edge encircled by a serpent,” embellished with jewels and a grape design. The Chalice, which contained a small vase and was covered by a plate, sat on a flat tray that concealed a tablet and was equipped with a spoon, linen covers, and a leather case. ‘Jesus alone knew of what it was made.”

The Chalice remained in the keeping of the early Church and is still preserved somewhere. Emmerich predicts that “it will come to light as it did once before.”

Sandra Miesel

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Sandra Miesel is a medievalist and author. She has written hundreds of articles for the Catholic press, chiefly on history, art, and hagiography, and has spoken at religious and academic conferences, appeared on EWTN, and given numerous radio interviews. She is co-author of The Da Vinci Hoax: Exposing the Errors in The Da Vinci Code with Carl E. Olson and The Pied Piper of Atheism: Philip Pullman and Children's Fantasy with Catholic journalist and canon lawyer Pete Vere. She holds master's degrees in biochemistry and medieval history from the University of Illinois.

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