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The Grail Code: Quest for the Real Presence Paperback – May 1, 2006

5 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The Nazis wanted it; Indiana Jones risked his life for it; and it plays a substantial role in the legendary stories of King Arthur. What is so intriguing about the Holy Grail, the cup that, according to Christian Gospel accounts, Jesus used at the Last Supper? Aquilina (v-p of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology) and writer Bailey attempt to answer this question. From medieval Christian piety to contemporary popular culture, the authors provide an intriguing historical study of the lore that arose around the Grail. Aquilina and Bailey believe that what draws people to search for the Grail has little to do with a cup, but rather the cup "[s]till represents that unfulfilled longing for the divine that all of us feel." They present a traditionalist perspective, which at times comes across as judgmental and even outright rude, using phrases like "coarse and ignorant louts," "hack writers" and "the wacky fringe" for ad hominem attacks on people they do not appreciate. The work would be stronger if Aquilina and Bailey had avoided such tactics and stuck to their historical pursuits. Still, readers looking for a conservative historical treatment of the Holy Grail will find much to appreciate. (May 15)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Book Description

The Holy Grail stories possess a mysterious power that has seized human imagination for centuries. They tell of a great secret finally revealed, of surprising answers to the most profound questions,
of a hidden mystery that satisfies our deepest longings. Writers, poets, artists, composers, and filmmakers have pursued the Grail for 1700 years. This great quest drives the legends of King Arthur, propels Indiana Jones’ greatest adventure, and keeps us turning the pages of The Da Vinci Code.
All this makes the Holy Grail stories themselves something of a mystery. Why have these tales captivated humankind so thoroughly and for so long? They enthrall us, say the authors of The Grail Code, because these stories really do touch the deepest parts of our hearts. They are profound meditations on the human condition, showing humans at their most heroic and most vile—pointing us toward God’s remedy for what ails us. The Grail Code is a literary and theological detective story that ends where the Grail legends began—in the room where Jesus gathered his closest friends for the last time, spoke blessed words, broke bread, and shared a sacred cup.


Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Loyola Press (May 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0829421599
  • ISBN-13: 978-0829421590
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,291,252 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Mike Aquilina is author or editor of more than thirty books, including The Fathers of the Church, The Mass of the Early Christians, and A Year with the Church Fathers. He has co-hosted eight series that air on the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN). He has co-authored books with Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C., and theologian Scott Hahn. He is past editor of New Covenant magazine and The Pittsburgh Catholic newspaper. He appears weekly on Sirius Radio's "Sonrise Morning Show." Mike and his wife, Terri, have six children, who are the subject of his book Love in the Little Things.

In 2011 Mike was a featured presenter of the U.S. Bishops' Diocesan Educational/Catechetical Leadership Institute. He also wrote the USCCB's theological reflection for Catechetical Sunday in 2011.

His reviews, essays and journalism have appeared in many journals, including First Things, Touchstone, Crisis, Our Sunday Visitor, National Catholic Register, and Catholic Heritage. He contributed work on early Christianity to the Encyclopedia of Catholic Social Thought.

Mike is a also poet whose works have appeared in U.S. literary journals and have been translated into Polish and Spanish. He shared songwriting credits with Grammy Award-winner Dion DiMucci on the forthcoming album "Tank Full of Blues."

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
The subject seems daunting. Who really wants to read an entire book about the Holy Grail? Not me. How about a book looking for King Arthur? Hmmm, that's a bit more interesting but still no sale. At least, that is, until I was shown that we really are not merely talking about the grail or King Arthur but a much bigger story, something divine really. To quote the book:

"If there was a real Holy Grail -- a cup venerated by the early Christians as the cup used at the Last Supper -- then it would eventually have become so encrusted with jewels and precious metals from the far corners of the earth that the original object would be hard to recognize. The cup would have been unchanged in essence but surrounded by a superstructure of ornamentation designed to draw attention to the beauty of its holiness.

All this is simply speculation. In spite of the strong claims about some relics in various parts of Europe, we really have no idea what became of the cup that Jesus used. Whether or not the object still exists, the veneration and ornamentation that might have happened to the Holy Grail is exactly what did happen to the story of the Holy Grail. One generation after another added jewels from all kinds of unlikely sources until the thing seemed to have a completely different shape. But the essence -- the original meaning of the Eucharist -- was unchanged. The added layers of ornament only expressed centuries of veneration for the truth of the Eucharist..."

Interesting concept isn't it? Certainly it is one that never occurred to me but is fascinating in the implications. Just to make sure I don't lose the trail, the authors then go onto King Arthur and work the same magic ... making connections I didn't know existed.
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Although the introduction, chapter 1, and the afterword deal with modern focus on the Holy Grail, The Grail Code is much more vibrant in the chapters that deal with how the legend of the Holy Grail came to flourish and grow, than in those brief passages.

Starting with the history and legends surrounding Joseph of Arimathea and King Arthur, and detailing the bardic traditions of idealizing romantic and courtly love, Aquilina spells out, step by step, how what basically started as a 'pop fiction romance' grew to be the obsession we experience today.

What Aquilina considers to be the true meaning of the obsession with the Grail--the need to experience the Real Presence of Christ, Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, in the Eucharist as celebrated in the Catholic Church--is also emphasized. Non-Catholics will probably not agree with his theology, but don't let that stop you from experiencing this amazing literary history.

Warning: The Grail Code may turn out to be just the beginning of your quest--you'll need access to a well-stocked library to read all the interesting books (including translations of all the various 'original' versions of the Grail and Arthur legends) mentioned in the selected bibliography--and after finishing The Grail Code, you'll want to read them.
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Format: Paperback
One of my favorite books this year, Grail Code is the thoughtful answer to a question that has been on my mind for years, well before Dan Brown unleashed the merchandising behemoth that The Da Vinci Code became: namely, what is the core of the Arthur/Grail stories, and how do we understand the relationship of these stories to Christian culture? Mike Aquilina and Chris Bailey have done a bang-up job with this book. It's fun, with mock arthurian stylings in its chapter heads and allusions to such popular treatments as the 1981 John Boorman film Excalibur and 1989's Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

Aquilina and Bailey highlight the changing contours of the legends in the hands of men like Chretien de Troyes, Walter Map, Sir Thomas Malory, and Alfred Lord Tennyson. They've turned the history of these romances into an engaging intellectual romance; they pull the reader in to a world that is much larger than he could ever have imagined. Aquilina and Bailey capture the sense of yearning that is the strong undercurrent of these stories. They liken the tale to a jewel-encrusted relic, a tale that grew in reverent retelling. Christian theology, British history, romance and adultery, this is a wide-ranging, romping read.
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Format: Paperback
It is unfortunate that The Grail Code will be seen by some merely as a work refuting The DaVinci Code. Such a misunderstanding might lead readers grown tired of the Dan Brown controversy to overlook it. In truth, the Grail Code is far more than another refutation of the dreadful novel. It is a superb account of the history and meaning of the Holy Grail. A must-read for those interested in the history of medieval literature.
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Having taken a course in Grail legends in college (so many years ago that the professor quite possibly knew Arthur), I was curious to see what the author's take would be on this vast subject. Mr. Aquilina calmly surpassed my expectations.

This book is a concise and lilting journey through the various stages of the growth of the Arthurian legends. I was happy to see the author include aspects of the myriad authors that were left out of the college course I took. Mr. Aquilina uncovered the yearning for the meaning of life and ultimate destiny in the legends that was missing from my class. Perhaps because my professor came was a self-proclaimed Anglophile (although he didn't take milk and cream with his Earl Grey), he missed the piercing Catholic underpinnings of the legends that were the foundation of the quest.

Mr. Aquilina was able, in relatively few pages to weave the nuances and intracacies of humanity's search for reason and belief in and out of the various Grail legends throughout history. I was pleased to be re-introduced to so many storytellers who I spent long nights with (usually right before exams) and to see them from a refreshingly new angle. It was like meeting an old friend whose memory has been distorted by the years. You see them as new creatures, filling in the details with new colors and textures. For me, The Grail Code completed the image in my mind of the legends, the history and the characters that mottle our literary landscape even today.

This book came to be a gem for me. I look forward to reading it again soon.

Thank you, Mr. Aquilina. It's been a pleasure.
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