There are few stories that endure retelling quite as much as those of Arthurian legend and few even within that realm that have been told in countless forms anew for each generation. There is one though that returns again and again. It might not be the one which springs to mind immediately for the feast of Christ the King.
It involves not a fearless hero nor a great warrior. Neither is it particularly a story of unrequited love or a thrilling suspense. It is a tale of the quest for an unobtainable treasure – one which has gone on for centuries. It is about a man called Perry who has lost everything, seen his wife killed in his arms who is so wounded and mentally scarred that life itself has stopped. And it is about Jack whose radio show inadvertently prompted the man who killed perry’s wife to go out that night with a shotgun. The two are drawn together after a scuffle with some thugs who Perry scares off largely by singing at them. They end up lying in Central Park in New York as Perry tells Jack the story of the wounded king, the Fisher King.
The Fisher King was charged by God with guarding the Holy Grail, but incurred an incapacitating wound for his sin of pride. A simple-minded Fool asks the King why he suffers, and when the King says he is thirsty, the Fool gives him a cup of water to drink.
Perry too is thirsty – thirsty for the ability to let go of his old life. He’s come so far with Jack, but still cannot let go. So Jack sets out to find the unthinkable and returns with a trophy cup, symbolic to Perry, of course it is not the grail, but at the same time it is the grail for him. It unlocks his mind to begin again. Such is the quest for the grail, the unobtainable treasure and it turns out that the treasure is always closer to home. A simple tale of humility, of a king not battle scarred or feared among nations, but a humble king, wounded and in need of someone to offer him a drink to quench his thirst. And so look at Jesus, yes look at Jesus. A king who denied himself the place of honour, humbled himself, emptied himself of all pride and took upon himself the place of the lowest. Friends with ordinary folk and with rich men alike. The friend of tax collectors and sinners whose followers were not elite nor learned who humbled himself in a quest to offer the truth of life. And it is found closer to home than we often think, for this king is found amongst the hungry, and the thirsty the one who we can offer back a simple gift which can be the gift of life.
And so The Fisher King realises the cup the fool gives him is the Grail and is baffled that the boy found it: “How did you find what my brightest and bravest could not?” The Fool laughed and said “I don’t know. I only knew that you were thirsty.”