The Ardagh Chalice,
8th Century AD
Irish silver, silver gilt and gilt highlights
© National Museum of Ireland
The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field
Jesus said to the crowds: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field which someone has found; he hides it again, goes off happy, sells everything he owns and buys the field.
‘Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls; when he finds one of great value he goes and sells everything he owns and buys it.’
Reflection on the chalice
Our Gospel reading talks about a man discovering a treasure in a field. Many artefacts in museums have been found this way. Many of the archeological sites are based on this principle where targeted digs try to unearth treasures. Or people can just accidentally come across a treasure.
One such find was the The Ardagh Chalice. The chalice, along with a wide range of other metalwork from the 8th and 9th centuries, was found in a potato field in Ardagh in 1868 by two young local boys named Jim Quinn and Paddy Flanagan. It is considered to be one of the greatest treasures of the early Irish Church. The two men had cleverly grown potatoes inside a ring fort at Reerasta, near Ardagh, in order to avoid the effects of the potato blight of the Great Irish Famine. When they were digging between the roots of a thorn bush, they hit something hard. Thus they found this beautiful cup. They sold the cup to the Bishop of Limerick, Dr. Butler, for 50 Irish pounds. The Bishop later resold the chalice for a fee of 500 Irish pounds to the Royal Irish Academy. It is now kept at the National Museum of Ireland.
The chalice type is called a calyx ministerialis, made to dispense Eucharistic wine to the congregation. Its design, even at the time of its manufacture, was somewhat old fashioned and was based on earlier common Byzantine models.
Jesus says that the kingdom of heaven can be like when someone suddenly finds a treasure in a field. Perhaps Jesus is saying that whereas some people find God after a long search, other people may have a sudden moment of conversion. Both are beautiful ways of finding God. In our parable there is a sense that the treasure found him. The Lord can meet us at any time, out of the blue, completely unexpectedly.
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Readings related to Matthew 13:44-46
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