Cup on a Headstone

Chalice cup on a headstone
A chalice pictured on a headstone

Cups, chalices, grails, goblets and cauldrons have been associated with life and death since ancient times, so it’s no surprise that they sometimes appear on headstones.

In the Bible, cups have a lot of symbolic meaning in both the Old and New Testaments.

The cup represents life and fate in the Psalms:-

my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever. Psalm 23:5, 6

The LORD is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup: thou maintainest my lot. Psalm 16:5

I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the LORD. Psalm 116:13

Elsewhere in the Old Testament the cup was used as a metaphor for Gods fury and judgement to those who sinned:-

you will be filled with drunkenness and sorrow. A cup of horror and desolation, Ezekiel 23:33

Awake, awake, stand up, O Jerusalem, which hast drunk at the hand of the LORD the cup of his fury; thou hast drunken the dregs of the cup of trembling, and wrung them out. Isaiah 51:17

This is thought to be the symbolic cup that Jesus drank from at the Last Supper, by taking away God’s wrath for sins committed. It is used in the Eucharist to hold the blood of Christ:-

And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. Matt. 26: 27, 28

For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come. 1 Corinthians 11:26

Of course there is also the tradition of attending the wake after the funeral, having a drink and sharing stories about the one who has passed. Could some of these symbols be saying ‘have one for me?’

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