I would give everything I own just to hold this in my hands for a few minutes.
That’s an odd statement, but a true one, and it has the advantage of being a very safe (if sweeping) statement to make, because this chalice is in the British Museum, secure in a glass case, and there’s no way I’m going to be told “Go on, Luce, help yourself”. But I do mean it emotionally. Emotionally, I really would give everything I have in exchange for a few minutes cradling that wonderful chalice, warming its gold in my hands, tracing the battered rim with my fingertips.
Why? Beats me.
I saw it about 6 years ago, when I took my granddaughters to London, and it made me want to weep. Because I’ve always been fascinated by monstrances I was drawn to this glittering cabinet, and there it was, just one work of art among many. I don’t know how long I stood there. Not long enough.
Is this next photo blurred, out of focus, confusing? That’s what the sight of that chalice did to me. I was drunk with delight.
I don’t know why the chalice overwhelms me with emotion. The blurb on the British Museum website doesn’t offer any clues either: circa 1380, a gift from Juan De Velasco to Christ the Peacemaker, and it has something to do with James I of England (I know, I know, James VI of Scotland, my Scottish friends). The engraving features St Agnes, and there are the emblems of all 4 Gospel writers, but, you know, I don’t care about any of that church stuff. I don’t think it is any more sacred than anything else made with love, any other article in this world, I don’t revere it because it once held Communion wine. Those things don’t matter one jot. I just love this beautiful, beautiful work of art because I love it. I do.
Over 600 years ago some craftsman (probably not a woman) was commissioned to work in gold, to create something fit to give to a king. Not King James, but the King of Kings.
What a commission! What a commission! Imagine the goldsmith hurrying homeward to tell his wife, to tell the apprentices, to start planning and drawing and dreaming… imagine his excitement, his passion and love. I think that’s what I’m responding to.
I know that he was filled with love and awe as he weighed the gold and stoked the furnace and filled the crucible, and filed the mould, to the days when he engraved and painted and burnished, and right through to the last day, and maybe his last loving touch, placing those pearls around the base, precisely, thoughtfully. Nothing too good for our good God.
Isn’t that what every Christian sets out to do, every day of our lives? Make something beautiful for our Love with our love? And all he wants, we know, even as we craft and polish and shape our days for him, all he wants is just that – our love. I think that when God sees that wonderful chalice, he sees only the commitment and longing that made it.
That’s what this chalice is, to me. The proof of one man’s love for Jesus. A craftsman I will never meet in this world. But I know him well. I really do.
‘And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us,
And establish the work of our hands for us;
Yes, establish the work of our hands.’ Psalm 90:17
Times are hard. Many of us are really struggling with mental health issues, our spirits down and battered. These are the times when we should deliberately, intentionally, stubbornly, fill our minds with good things.
If you’re struggling, you are not on your own. Don’t be ashamed of being sad, lonely, afraid. It’s understandable, human, and there are things you can do. Maybe take a few minutes to think about these words, and remember that God loves you.
Look at that chalice and think of all the people who have gone before us, loving and worshipping our God. Join them. Step away from self and look to God.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things. Philippians 4:8
Let joy be your continual feast. Make your life prayer. And in the midst of everything be always giving thanks, for this is God’s perfect plan for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18