The Granadilla

O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise

Psalm 51:15 (NIV)

During my teenage years, while living in South Africa, one of my favourite snacks was the granadilla. Granadilla is Spanish for “small pomegranate” because the purple orange flesh is composed of seedy transparent sacs that somewhat resemble the seeds of the pomegranate. Personally I think it’s delectable, the caviar of fruit, tasting like a combination of pineapple and guava, with an aroma that makes one’s synapses pop and the texture of a pomegranate gone wild!

One of the reasons why I maybe came to so enjoy the granadilla was because it was freely available. It grew on vines woven through the steel mesh fences surrounding our home in Johannesburg, and whenever I had the taste for one, I’d simply walk the fence line searching for the fruit that had ripened. Before the granadilla was ripe it resembled a smooth hard green ball, but when it was ready to be picked and eaten, it looked like a partly deflated purple and black rubber ball that had been left in the rain and dried.

It wasn’t just the granadilla fruit I enjoyed. The flower, from which it came, was a beautiful fragrant white bloom with purplish pink petals. Years later, I discovered that Spanish missionaries to the New World used the flower, which is indigenous to the tropical Americas, as an object lesson to explain the Christian faith. The flower, named la flor de las cinco llagas (the flower of five wounds) by the Spanish priests, was seen to represent various aspects of Christ’s crucifixion. When telling the story of Christ’s Passion a priest would invite his listeners to gather around him to look at the flower in his hand. Once he had their attention he would point to the 72 radial filaments that resembled the crown of thorns, speak about how the three stigmas represented the nails used in the crucifixion, explain how the five anthers were a reminder of the five wounds of Christ, and tell them how the style was a miniature version of the sponge that was dipped in vinegar and used to moisten Christ’s lips. He would also explain, to what had now become a captive audience, that if they were to smell the flower it would help them recall the aroma of the spices that were used to embalm Christ’s body. Then he’d pull some granadillas out of a bag, and pressing his fingers through the outer flesh, split them open and share them with his listeners. While they ate he’d tell them that the granadilla was a symbol of the world and that the seeds inside it were a symbol of the lost people of the world for whom, through His suffering, Christ came to seek and to save.

The granadilla … a fruit unlike any other fruit … maybe you’ve eaten it … maybe I should have mentioned that in many countries its more popular name is passion fruit!

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