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Parsifal

The Knights, the whole Community of the Grail, are now most seriously concerned on their Keeper's behalf. Pilgrimages are made to all parts in quest of the right cure, of the merciful balm; from the ends of the earth they return: whatever the remedies found, none will heal the wound. Daily it reopens. The agony of the wounded man is unspeakable. Nothing can assuage it. But it is not only the pain of the wound that torments the soul of Anfortas: his suffering lies deeper. He is the Chosen One whose task is to care for the miraculous vessel. He, and he alone, has to work the sacred magic that refreshes, strengthens and directs the whole company of knights, whilst he alone has to suffer dreadful self-reproach at having betrayed his vow. He, most unworthy of all, must daily - to his fearful punishment - touch the sacred vessel: at his prayer, must the Divine contents of the cup flow bright purple, at his intercession must nourishing grace be dispensed to the votive knights.

Chalice

Yes, suffering and beyond recovery, he is daily filled with warmth of new life by the wondrous power of the Grail: seeing death as his only deliverance, he is now, by the grace of the Grail, condemned to eternal life! If, to obtain death, he would go against his vow and forgo the delight of holding the Grail, he is compelled by the yearning of his soul to lose himself anew in blessed contemplation of it, to see once more the golden purple shine bright and let the Divine radiance penetrate again and again, blessing and bruising, into his innermost being. For as the heavenly blood of the Redeemer pours, full of grace into his own heart, ah, how his own wicked blood is forced to flee the touch of the Divine! In timid desperation the sinful blood rushes from his heart, bursting the wound afresh and shedding itself in the world of sin,- and from the same wound as the Redeemer received upon the Cross and through which He poured out His blood in love and compassion for wretched, sinful humanity, he, sinful Keeper of the Divine Balm of Redemption, as an eternal reminder of his wickedness, bleeds hot, sinful blood that cannot be staunched!-

Parsifal Act 1, Bayreuth 1951 Parsifal Act 1 in the 1951 New Bayreuth production by Wieland Wagner. ©Bayreuther Festspiele.

The knights approach, the hour is striking, he must work the magic: they grieve and lament over his wound, seek most eagerly to help him, procuring remedies and balm, not suspecting where it is his wound is bleeding, and where it is he is beyond cure. So, finally, the wretched man prays fervently to the Grail for a sign, asking whether he may hope for deliverance, and who may be called upon to deliver him. The sign shines forth: he reads the enigmatic words: Aware, suffering in compassion, a fool will redeem thee! - Who can it be who suffers only in compassion, and without knowing, is wiser than others? - Oh, that longed-for one! If he lives, let him find the way to this sanctuary: an end to agony, a scar for the wound, peace for the heart; when will you bring them, aware fool suffering in compassion?

His loyal followers do everything to relieve the agony of their beloved Master; in the morning they bear him on a litter down to the holy lake in the forest, there to bathe and drink at the noble spring. There, in the sweet coolness, he seems to revive a little: messengers arrive with new remedies found far away: alas, to no avail.


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