Primary Sources: Le Morte D’Arthur, Book XVII Chapter 20
Like I said, as soon as Pellam and his son are out of the room, in comes Joseph of Arimathea. Bors and the other knights can tell it’s him, because he has I AM JOSEPH OF ARIMATHEA (THE GRAIL GUY) tattooed on his forehead, no lie. He comes in on a litter, like Evelake did, but while Evelake’s was borne by four pretty ladies, Joseph’s bearers are straight-up angels.
Bors points out that Joseph died more than three hundred years prior, and Joseph goes, “eh. O knights marvel not, for I was sometime an earthly man.”
“That doesn’t actually address my point, though,” says Bors. “You were a human being three hundred years ago, so how is you’re here and alive now?”
Rather than address Bors’s concerns, Joseph summons more angels! They march in like a brass band, with candles. One of them has a magic spear that drips blood (marvellously says Malory, in case we thought this was a conventional blood-dripping spear). Another has a towel, which you might think would be to catch the blood dripping from the magic blood-dripping spear, but no, the one with the spear has a little tray it’s catching the blood in, in its other hand.
Joseph makes like he’s going to say Mass, and all the knights crowd around. Instead of the usual Mass wherein the miracle of transubstantiation is not accompanied by a light show and the Holy Grail is not used as a Communion vessel, when Joseph performs the rite the bit of bread he’s holding is transformed into a fleshy man when a little baby Jesus comes out of heaven and climbs into the host.
As a lapsed Catholic I find this faintly blasphemous.
Afterwards, rather than actually distribute the Eucharist, Joseph puts it away and hands the Grail off to a flunky.
“Galahad, you’re the best,” says Joseph, and kisses him full on the lips. “Okay, I’ve warmed up the crowd enough. Be sure to try the lamb! It’s sweet meats that never knights tasted!” Then he vanishes! Joseph of Arimathea out!
“Whoa,” says Bors.
But Bors’s socks are going to be knocked off again, because then Jesus climbs out of the Grail! Apparently when Joseph performed the blessing of the eucharist, Jesus actually literally came down from heaven and inhabited the bread (in keeping with Catholic doctrine) but then since nobody ate the bread (in symbolic reenactment of the Last Supper, read Stranger in a Strange Land people) Jesus got tired of being in the Grail so He came out for a look-see.
“Hi, fellows,” says Jesus. “Relax, relax. My knights and My servants and My true children, which be come out of deadly life into spiritual life, I will now no longer hide Me from you, but ye shall see now a part of my secrets and of my hidden things: now hold and receive the high meat which ye have so much desired.”
First up, Galahad. Jesus gives Galahad the Eucharist (which is just straight-up weird) and then the other eleven knights. The communion wafers that Christ passes out are the tastiest communion wafers you could imagine, Malory says.
Afterwards, he explains to Galahad that the Holy Grail is, in fact, the Holy Grail, the vessel He used at the Last Supper. Galahad nods as though this is news to him, I guess because you really want to be polite to Jesus Christ if He’s right there, clearly going out of His way to be nice to you.
“I need you to move it to the city of Sarras. It’s time for the Grail to end its stay in Castle Corbin.”
“Why?” asks someone. Bors, probably. “King Pellam seems like a decent enough chap.”
“Enh, he’s all right, but the rest of the people of Corbin mostly suck. He is not served nor worshipped to his right by them of this land, for they be turned to evil living; therefore I shall disherit them of the honor which I have done them. So I want you… you three, Galahad and his assistants Percivale and Bors…”
There’s a collective groan/sigh of relief from the other nine knights.
“…You three take the Grail, and the Sword of Strange Girdles. Oh, and before you go you’ll want to anoint Evelake with the blood from this spear. Board your magic ship and it’ll take you to Sarras.”
“Why can’t these Irish, French, and Danish knights come with?” asks someone. Again, probably Bors.
“Because I’m Jesus and I say so,” says Jesus. “I’m drawing a parallel to Pentecost. And also two of the three of you are going to die, so it’s not like it’s a stain on these other knights that they can’t come.”
Then He gave them His blessing and vanished away. Jesus out!
DISCUSSION QUESTION: Is it negligent of me to so cavalierly tell people to read Stranger in a Strange Land? It’s no Citizen of the Galaxy but heck, it’s not like I’m sending them to Friday or I Will Fear No Evil.
Just because you didn’t tell them doesn’t mean they shouldn’t read Friday and I Will Fear No Evil. Time Enough For Love and Podkayne, even.
Hey, I liked Friday, don’t get me wrong. I just wouldn’t recommend it to random strangers on the internet without a few qualifications.