Parsifal is the legendary knight who sought the Holy Grail. The Grail was the chalice used by Jesus at the Last Supper, and for Parsifal it symbolized a contact with the holy, with spiritual reality. His quest for the Grail was a quest for the truth about life and immortality.
Now, the secret of the Grail was held by an old king, but this king was suffering from a mysterious illness, and his whole kingdom was cast under this same spell. The palace and its gardens were in decay, the springs of the kingdom were drying up, trees would not bear fruit, and even the animals were no longer bearing young.
Knights from all over the realm arrived every day seeking news of the king's health. Then one day Parsifal arrived – poor and unknown. He paid no attention to courtly custom and politeness, but made straight for the king's chamber, and without greeting or inquiry about the king's health, said: “Where is the Grail?” As if to say, “Where do I find the Holy? . . . Where is the truth about the meaning of life?”
The king said: “It is here.”
In that instant, everything was transformed. The king rose from his bed and was well. Springs brought forth water, vegetation began to grow, animals were with young, and the castle was restored. Parsifal's question regenerated the whole land.
It seems to me that this parable applys today to many institutions. They are perishing because there are few seekers of truth, few adventurers. It is enough, you see, simply to raise the central questions, to pose the problems, to become a seeker, for life to return.
For a congregation (or diocese) to begin to ask questions inevitably leads to seeking answers, which leads to thinking, which leads to vision.
I have long thought that too many church leaders (mostly clergy including bishops) operate with answers, which are theirs, which makes for starting at the wrong place. They do not operate with the knowledge that they are the newcomers. They must listen to the people most of whom have not been invited to speak.
Parsifal is a model which dares us to take the chance of offering hope to the people by listening to them.
Hope is not something we capture. It must always be sought. It will hide or be hidden again and again.
Where is hope? It is there to be discovered. The rest is up to us.