The Griffin Trust was founded in April 2000 by Chairman Scott Griffin, along with Trustees Margaret Atwood, Robert Hass, Michael Ondaatje, Robin Robertson, and David Young.
The annual Griffin Poetry Prize awards two literary prizes of $65,000 each and an additional $10,000 to each shortlisted poet who reads at the annual Griffin Poetry Prize Shortlist Readings in Toronto. A Canadian prize is given to a living poet resident in Canada; an international prize is given to a living poet from any country in the world.
– From The Griffin Trust Official Page
In perfect timing to coincide with April as National Poetry Month, the Griffin Trust announced the 2014 Griffin Trust Poetry Prize seven finalists on the shortlist today:
If you’ve read the first two books in the Oryx and Crake trilogy, you were most likely at one of the largest literary events at Indigo, Bay and Bloor, this past Sunday. I was. And so were a number of other Margaret Atwood devotees and fans of her latest novel, MaddAddam, which hit the bookshelves three weeks ago and made its way to the Indigo Bestseller list even before its publication based on pre-order numbers alone.
What’s all this buzz about, you ask? Well, aside from the messages we could potentially send or receive from bees in speaking with them, should we have that particular gift as the Eves do in the books, The Year of the Flood, and MaddAddam, the bees have spoken loud and clear—we, as readers would not be rejected, nor stung, but instead receive a bona fide appearance of our very own, Canadian, and much beloved, prolific writer, Ms. Margaret Atwood at the Manulife Centre in Toronto.
Okay, and yes, the book itself is quite good, too.
Which is why, for a simple purchase of a copy at any Indigo, Chapters, or Coles location, you could get the privilege of not only listening in on an interview with Margaret Atwood by Mark Medley of the National Post (who, by the way, if you’re following him on Twitter, you’ll know that he just had a haircut in perfect time to interview Margaret. Coincidence? Perhaps not.), but also get multiple copies of MaddAddam signed, as well as one to two back copies of Atwood’s books, with one title personally inscribed to you or whomever you choose.
That’s the thing. Out of a full, personal library of her work at home, how can you choose? Which is why my husband and I made the trek early to Toronto to secure a relatively good spot in line. I was expecting or (perhaps hoping for) long lineups, mania, large Atwood billboards, an activist sit-in in support of the fictional, environmental theology of the God’s Gardeners, covert spies of our modern-day CorpSeCorps equivalent, or blue-skinned Craker-inspired costumes minus the large, wagging penises (okay,…I’ll admit I wouldn’t mind seeing a replica of blue wagging penises—it would certainly be a sight).
But, because we were wise and patient enough to come early in the day, we were lodged in a group of the lucky few. We were close enough to the beginning of the line to actually see its event poster, and when it came down to being seated in the first-come-first-serve sitting area where the interview was to be held, my husband and I were quaintly seated in the third row from the front. Waiting time? A devoted two hours. We earned it.
And since I’m not necessarily shy, plus I was jittery with excitement in attending my first Indigo book signing event in Toronto to also meet the-one-and-only-Margaret-Atwood-who-I’ve-bought-and-read-almost-every-book-that-she’s-ever-written-and-published—well, yes, I thought it important to make a few bookish friends to pass the time.
Christa, a fellow book blogger was there and was productive enough to work on a book review while waiting; Jessica, a publishing intern was keen to share upcoming author events around town; two women who I’ve irresponsibly forgotten to ask their names while chatting, buzzed about their plans to attend the book festival, Word on the Street, in Toronto, next week. Yes, I was definitely amongst my favourite kind of people, the faithful (and fanatic) fans of the written word. I thought, “Finally. People who understand me.”
We were kind enough to play line tag, taking turns saving spots for one another while one went to take a pee break, grab a Starbucks coffee, peruse the Hot and New Fiction tables, or pound a few keys on the piano on the second floor. Otherwise, we shared our common love for books and not-so-secret-fandom of the author we were so anxiously waiting to see. We even posed for photographs. Time went faster this way and thankfully so.
Much like crazed fans of famous musicians in concert, we book nerds have our own form of mania—as quiet and introverted as it is, it does exist, and passionately so. Okay, yes, we didn’t push and shove fellow patrons in the lineup. We were respectful enough to follow Indigo’s black rope guideline and signing policy. We whispered in giddy gossip of the literary stars we’ve met in the past. We sipped our coffees like we would our red wine at wine & cheese parties that host elusive poetry readings.
We even refrained from screaming at the sight of Ms. Atwood when she glided into the room behind Mark Hedley onto the Indigo stage. And yes, we even refrained from bombarding her with embarrassing tears of adoration. And, no, I absolutely promised myself, I would above all things, not faint. If any book nerd will confess, it is of a passionate, yet restrained decorum in showing authors we love, some well-deserved respect and grace.
Besides, Margaret Atwood is the type of individual, I think, who would have none of that silliness. Who can really know Atwood as Atwood herself, other than “Atwood-the-Writer,” of whom we wish her to portray, and of whom she’s admitted to impersonating—no, let me correct that—perhaps, showcasing. There is and always will be the private self and the persona. And the one readers are privileged to see in the context of promoting her work is the persona of “Atwood-the-Writer.”
Don’t get me wrong, that doesn’t mean she was less genuine nor less interesting. I simply mean, that in seeing her in person, hearing her interviews, reading her books, and even writing this blog post article, by in no way means that I know her anymore than anyone else can know her in a true and intimate way—that privilege is reserved for her close friends and family. (Lucky bunch, those guys.)
But, it does mean, I, along with others present at the Indigo event, were able to “bask in the limelight” of her literary stardom. If not bask, at least actively participate in its peripheral—there—and within the black rope seating area reserved for those devoted enough to come early.
In addition to our privileged seating, those who lined up early enough to snag a spot within the roped-off area were also privileged to choose a MaddAddam button, courtesy of Margaret Atwood (and I suspect, the wonderful marketing group at Random House of Canada). My husband and I chose a button each though I was extremely tempted to grab the entire bucket and make a run for it—thanks Ainsley, I only took one button for myself—(I am a hoarder of anything remotely bookish including swag and particularly of books written by Margaret Atwood, which are definitely high on my nabbing list!).
My partner, in his repulsion and refusal to eat pork, as well as his great sense of irony or perhaps subtle activism, chose the bright, pigoon button. Smart man, my husband, and potentially a donor to the future pigoon-gene-spliced-phenomena. I dug for the simple and sacred God’s Gardeners button as I secretly aspire to become an Eve, should our potential dystopian future demand it.
And while Ms. Atwood said so herself, “…everyone loves a good secret,” my husband and I, both refrained from choosing the Secret Burgers button in a clear stand against unknown dietary substances, which Atwood emphasized are indeed unknown as compared to lab meats, which are not unknown, and written about in her novel.
And as ancestors of the potential Craker blue-breeds, we also didn’t want to presume to be as innocent, nor gifted as those originally hatched in the “Egg,” of Crake’s original vision and creation, so we passed over the MaddAddam egg button.
And in my excitement and the availability of free Wi-Fi on site, I was able to tweet my real-time whereabouts and feelings within 140 characters, including, but not restricted to a clever hashtag and/or (in)direct contact with Margaret Atwood online! (For those of you yet to follow her, she can be found in the Twitterverse as @MargaretAtwood. Go ahead. Follow her now. All 427,079 of us who already do, will wait for you. And I’m sure by the time you finish reading this blog post, that number will have already risen. Betcha five bucks.)
I was ecstatic to discover that my tweet had somehow warranted a connection, however minute, with the humorous Atwood herself (which, by the way, I will enlarge, print, and frame for wistful dinner party conversation—the tweet, not Atwood):
I’m here @ Indigo Bay & Bloor in line waiting to meet, greet, and get my books signed by @MargaretAtwood! Got here early! Holy pigoon!
And that promise was dutifully kept. The Margaret Atwood we were all waiting to see, did arrive in a black ensemble with a red, butterfly printed scarf. (If it was indeed her secret clone or body double, it was surely difficult to tell. It certainly looked like her and sounded like her.) Her red eyeglasses were missing (I’ve seen her wear those before, but they’re most likely reserved for her lectures and readings)—but not her intelligent, articulate, and sometimes cryptic answers that lashed out a sharp wit by an even sharper tongue.
You have to remember, Ms. Atwood is good at this. She’s been around long enough in the public eye providing a number of interviews in support of the work she’s created (all 59 books of them, as quoted by Mark Medley in the interview, though she made it clear that she didn’t count books that she’s published on her own without the help of a publishing house as part of that tally), as well as in support of the thoughts and opinions she has on society, and the clarifications and rebuttals she’s had to make in an act to ensure that she’s not misunderstood. It’s a big bill.
When asked if she thinks the future is a “hopeful” one in light of MaddAddam’s story being hopeful since characters and nature are able to survive the epidemic of the “waterless flood,”—bear in mind, I’m paraphrasing here; it’s not as if I actually took notes since I was too busy being starry-eyed while snapping photographs—Margaret Atwood agreed that like the percentage survival of the Black Death epidemic in the 1930’s, survival of the human race can be hopeful, as shown in the natural environment’s response in thriving as it must, and as it had in her novel, MaddAddam, should the human race cease to exist or not.
When asked what she thought made readers resonate with Zeb’s character in the book (a topic that spun off the tidbit that the German title of the book was changed to “The Story of Zeb,” since its original title didn’t translate well in the German language), Atwood’s reasoning was depicted in an honest example of why children like and are fascinated by large, toy dinosaurs. (My nine-year-old son would have applauded her right then and there!)
While Atwood also chided that she’s busy “working on her own immortality” as we all are or would like to do, Mark Medley denied his own need to do so, and she blatantly refuted him, teasing him about being a “kid.” That kid is 32.
But, I have to agree with her. We, young pups, in the protection and sometimes naivety of our youth, often feel the bravado of facing the idea of our own deaths, since, in our minds, it’s still so deceptively far away.
I’m 38-years-old, but in a recent response to a serious Supraventricular Tachycardia (SVT) episode where my heart rate sped away at 200 beats per minute and I was forced to face the thin precipice between life and death with the possibility of no return—I wasn’t brave at all. I pleaded with the doctor as well as with God as who I understand God to be, to prolong whatever time I could get away with. Immortality? Yes, please.
When asked if she thought the character, Crake, was right (and for those of you who have not read the trilogy, well, now, you’ll have to, to guess), Ms. Atwood didn’t feel she could be presumptuous enough to know the psychology of her readers and would leave it up to us to decide. (In my opinion, Crake was right and wrong. And there’s no fence in sight. I may write an essay on it, should I feel so inspired.)
And when positioned with the same power of Crake and asked what she would do in his place, well, she teased again, refusing to share that with Mark Medley by answering back, “Well, I’m not telling you,” while smiling mischieviously back at him and the audience—because remember, she has choices. It’s her interview and she has no qualms about making them. If anyone is familiar with Ms. Atwood’s public personality, they’ll know that she’ll sometimes dodge any question that doesn’t interest her and will only speak to those that do. Good for her. (I’ll have to ask her to teach me how to do that the next time I meet her.)
There was also talk of the Intestinal Parasites app, a game created to mimic the game that Zeb, the character in MaddAddam plays in the novel, available for purchase through iTunes. And for you enthusiastic MaddAddamites, you’ll be excited to discover that the app is designed for both iPad and iPhone, and for a limited time, has a special launch price of only $0.99! For less than a buck, you’ll be charged with a mission as a MaddAddamite operative that could result in the agonizing death of millions of people. And no, I don’t believe you have to be a bio-geek to play. (Apparently, Margaret Atwood has reached Level 4—I recall reading this on her Twitter feed—but seems adamant in mastering the game. And like I said, I aspire to be an Eve, not a Zeb, so I don’t think I’d get very far.)
She also discussed the “battle” she had in fighting for a less “flowery” cover design of her book to not only better represent the story and context in which it was written, but to also appease the male readers who have also enjoyed the Oryx and Crake trilogy, of whom may be disgruntled by a more feminine, flowery cover design. How does she know this aside from being crowned our “literary prophet?” Well, she told us that she receives mail. A lot of it. From disgruntled readers and that she would most likely receive mail complaints from men who potentially wouldn’t like flowers on the MaddAddam book cover. When Mark Medley stated that she made a good “choice,” she refuted that, insisting that, no, she didn’t have a choice, but that it was a “battle.” We certainly have to pick and choose the ones we fight. And in this case, it’s clear Margaret Atwood, won.
After the interview, the floor was opened to audience questions:
When asked what advice she could give to aspiring writers, Ms. Atwood ‘s recommendation was to, rather than wait and think about writing, one should write and write often since the work of the writer is to do just that, “write letters on the page.” The person who asked the question was interested in writing commercial fiction and so, Margaret Atwood directed him to the website, Terrible Minds, a blog by Chuck Wendig, and warned him of the profanity used on the site.
Students of Victoria College, where Ms. Atwood is prestigious alumni, asked her when she would return to attend plenary, an existing weekly session where guest professors, visiting artists, writers, and ambassadors come to discuss points of interest with students and then offer their time afterwards in allowing students to speak with them informally and personally over coffee. Now, I see why these students were trying to hook Ms. Atwood into it. I’d like to have coffee with her, too! Instead, Ms. Atwood joked about “not being invited,” but also mentioned that should the students ask her publicist, she would most likely say no in consideration of her already busy schedule. Sorry, guys. *Feel free to insert, sad face here. *
When asked which book of hers and/or which character(s) in those books, does she favour the most, Margaret Atwood’s humor and ingenuity shined through her unwillingness to answer the question in order to protect the feelings of those in her books by saying she wouldn’t be able to tell us since her “books would overhear [her],” but that she could only say as most people do, “that [she] loves them each differently.” Ah, the personification of her books meant, too, that as their Creator, she was also unwilling to play favourites. No wonder she’s been so successful. Her books are healthy, and happy, and don’t bicker about who’s the best like most siblings do. (I would have chosen Zenia, from The Robber’s Bride because I found her to be equally sensual as she is frightening.)
But, don’t make any presumptions or judgements about Ms. Atwood when reading her books like one person did in stating that she was “negative about bio-geeks” and presumably about bio-engineering in light of the topic found in her book, MaddAddam. Ms. Atwood was keen to answer back quite sharply, “I’m not negative,” almost as if scolding a child who unfortunately misbehaved.
In posing his question, Ms. Atwood clearly spoke against her readers’ potential misjudgment and presumptions about her in the writing of her work and clarified by giving examples of bio-genetic work that she would welcome. One example she gave was some form of internal “insect repellant.” I forget the other example, but wholeheartedly agree with her on supporting the success of that particular project, should it exist or come into existence. How to mask our carbon dioxide output or imprint, which is how mosquitoes identify its prey through smell, would be a spectacular feat indeed. I know, since I went camping at the end of July this summer.
Thankfully, I braved a question myself by raising my hand and was privileged enough to be chosen from the audience to speak. I asked Margaret if she were a God’s Gardener and an Eve, what would be her particular speciality aside from speaking to bees? I had forgotten to expand on that by asking her what kind of message would she like to send or receive when speaking to bees, should she share that gift with her characters, Pilar and Toby?Or should she fail at completing her task of attaining her own immortality, what kind of tree would she like planted in her honour? See what happens when you get nervous? O, Mo-Hair, Liobam, and Firkin-Pigoon! I wasn’t as “swift” as Swift Fox in bedding her blue Craker-friends in sheer form of heightened libido and heightened curiosity. Bloody Painballer!
But, even more thankfully, when Margaret Atwood did attempt to answer my question, she not only gave it thoughtful consideration, I wasn’t bludgeoned for asking what I thought might come across as a silly question. (Phew.) And yes, I made eye contact with one of my favourite authors and spoke to her directly in a public event that gave me the privilege to do so! She told me that in that particular context, she would most likely be an Eve who specializes “in survival,” and joked about already having experienced enough with “mushrooms.” If you’ve read The Year of the Flood or MaddAddam, you’ll understand these references. If you haven’t, well, by all means, go out there and buy the books already!
We could be nearing a dystopia any day now. If I were to survive, I might just have to ask Margaret Atwood the secret to writing 59 books in a lifetime with a career that doesn’t look like it’s near any end any time soon. That, and how the heck can I make a great tasting coffee from dandelion root? Or befriend a blue Craker without becoming a mother or prophetess to the birth of an entirely new species? Also, how to kill a Painballer, as well as find out the best recipes for mushrooms that don’t necessarily mean I die or hallucinate into a dream-like Fallow State for more than 48 hours? Or—I could just ask her to sign my book… *Zara smiles sheepishly.*
After the interview and question period with the audience was over, we were treated to a personal book signing. It was enough to want to bodycheck your peers as hockey players do in order to gain advantage on the ice. Security detail was watchful and available, but I was surprised Ms. Atwood didn’t have a personal entourage to accompany her.
While Indigo staff volunteers took photographs, her publicist intelligently played quality crowd control by wedging herself between you and the author for signing. She took your books from you and passed them onto Margaret as a way of quickening the pace, as well as protecting our beloved writer from unexpected and possibly embarrassing forms of adoration and invasion of space.
Simply said, if her publicist wasn’t there, we would have mowed her down with stifling hugs and unwanted gushing, idiotic small talk, and a slew of paparazzi photographs. Okay, correction. There was a slew of paparazzi photographs. It’s not easy being a literary star. (I’d say, “Canadian literary icon,” but I hear Ms. Atwood doesn’t like that.)
Margaret Atwood’s poise and patience is all part of her experience as a writer who has gained worldwide recognition. And we were so pleased to be able to meet her in person, as well as take home our tokens: personally signed books by the Canadian author we love.
To read my book review of MaddAddam, you can visit here.
Also a special thanks to the event coordinators at Indigo, Random House of Canada, and the kind and patient patrons in line who made my wait an entertaining one, and to Margaret Atwood for giving us the privilege of meeting her in person.
You know when it happens. The rarity of something. And you’ve probably either heard of the term, “once in a blue moon,” or have even used it before. Yes, its origins are folklore. And no, it doesn’t literally describe a blue moon. (The only blue moon I’ve seen is the one shown in the Smurfs movie—and yes, it was extremely blue. This is not the type of moon referred to now.)
Aside from its rarity reference and the song, “Blue Moon,” which tends to play in people’s heads when mentioned, the definition of a blue moon itself is not entirely agreed upon. (Of course, it had to be more confusing!)
But, generally speaking, the year is divided up into four seasons (winter, spring, summer, and fall), with three full moons per season; or, alternatively, twelve months, with one full moon per month.
Of course, nature has a way of periodically resisting the imposed-manmade calendar set against it, and well, rightly throws our timekeeping abilities into a funk.
A fine example of this is when one of the seasons will sneak in four full moons instead of three, which will give us 13 full moons in a year instead of the usual 12. And it’s the third full moon in a season with four that is referred to as a “blue moon.”
How rare is it, really? It’s not. Not really. It happens on average, about once every 2.7 years. But, I’m not a stickler for exact numbers. Three years is a good enough average for me—while all this time growing up, I thought the reference to a blue moon meant maybe once in every 100 years! (I didn’t have access to Google in my day, okay?)
And really as a sentimentalist, I’ve always wished that the blue moon was indeed the colour blue.
Regardless of my disappointment, I sat on my patio tonight and participated in the “rarity” of this blue moon’s moment. Because really, where might I be in 2.7 years time? To acknowledge it is the least I can do. To witness it and enjoy it is even better.
I’m a moon-lover anyway and full moons are my favourite. No, I don’t “howl” or “cast a spell” when I see one (that’s an entirely different blog post altogether)—but, I do enjoy the view.
If something happens only “once in a blue moon,” and you’ve professed some kind of rarity in your life—today’s your lucky day because it might just happen.
What can you think of that you’ve said only happens to you “once in a blue moon?”
Did you go out tonight and witness the blue moon? What did you think?
I’ve always had a close relationship with my father and I’ll be the first to admit when I was young I happily took on the role of Daddy’s Little Girl. There was no choice, really. I was the first-born, the eldest—a gregarious and precocious daughter, not a son.
And while my sister clung to my mother’s legs like a koala to a tree trunk, I was a rambunctious little girl who spoke her mind, openly, loudly, and most often times, without self-edit—much like my father.
To celebrate and commemorate my father’s birthday today, here are some of my favourite memories I have of me and my Dad:
My Dad strumming his guitar while sitting on the floor and encouraging me to sing along with him, the song, Yesterday,by The Beatles, when I was four-years-old.
My Dad sitting me at the dinner table and teaching me how to write the alphabet in both uppercase and lowercase letters, of which I now owe my penmanship.
My Dad holding the back of my bike seat while I was learning how to ride a bike for the very first time.
My Dad holding my hand in the operating room when I was a child and I had to get stitches on my forehead and he said, “Just squeeze my hand when it hurts, okay.”
My Dad punching a guy out at a party because he said that I was ugly!
My Dad buying me and my sister a Strawberry Shortcake record player from Consumers Distributing. My mother argued that we couldn’t afford it, but my Dad argued back that we still deserved to get something because “it’s for us and [we’re] still kids.”
My Dad being firm with the man from a collector’s agency who was harassing me for payment on a credit card when I was teenager.
Whenever my Dad dances.
When my Dad sings Hotel California on karaoke–and sounds better than any guy who’s in the room.
My Dad holding my hand on the way to a pew on Sunday morning at St. Catherine of Siena Church when I was little.
My Dad telling my husband to go to me while I was in labour with my first child—when my husband fell asleep !
When my Dad told us, “If you don’t stop fighting, I’m going to throw that [toy] racoon out!”—and then did, (out the car window while driving on the highway) because we refused to listen. (We never questioned him after that!)
My Dad singing Dream, Dream, Dream by The Everly Brothers with me in harmony, by the campfire, the summer we went to Bonnie Lake.
Every time my Dad tells a raunchy joke!
When my Dad took me to my very first Toronto Maple Leaf game at The Maple Leaf Gardens—when he could have taken anyone else.
When my husband told my Dad’s co-worker, “I’m married to ____________’s daughter,” and his co-worker answered, “And he let you?!?”
When we were all on our knees working on our front yard landscape and my Dad said, “This is called a peanut, see? Because it’s shaped like a peanut.” (In reference to a mound we were building to plant some bushes.)
The fact that my Dad taught me how to truly and effectively shovel the driveway in winter.
That my Dad called in a favour so a salon would close so that me and my bridal party could get our nails done the night before my wedding.
The fact that my Dad and I share the same taste in mugs, plates, and cutlery.
When I hugged my Dad before leaving for the hospital and he said, “Just go. Don’t worry. God is with you.”
Happy birthday, Dad!
Hope you have an amazing day filled with the things you love to do!
And a year of good health, freedom from stress and anxiety, and a lot of happiness and prosperity!
I love you!
What great memories do you have with your Dad?
Do you have any special birthday traditions that you celebrate?
While my family and I recognize Easter as the center of our Christian faith, it didn’t stop us from coming together as a family to eat, celebrate and treat the children to a fun, traditional Spring Easter egg hunt!
The plans were made quite last-minute, but it turned out to be a fun, festive celebration. While we rejoiced in our hearts of our Lord, Jesus Christ’s resurrection, we also rejoiced in the company of each other, and the fun our children had.
Here are a few pictures to commemorate our Easter celebration:
My “Chickadee Cupcakes.” I glued googly-eyes and small, orange foam triangles onto yellow popsicle sticks. For an added touch, you can use white icing for the cupcakes for the “hatched egg.” I opted not to use icing since I knew the day would already be filled with sweet goodies.
Colourful eggs filled with stickers, chocolates, jelly beans, gum, and messages of Jesus’ resurrection.
Since I knew that the kids wouldn’t get the same number of eggs on their egg hunt, I created individual “Bunny Bags” filled with treats for each one of them. The “Bunny Bags” were filled with wholesome snacks, candies, chocolates, and stickers.
Because my nephew, Elias, is the youngest and can’t eat chocolate or candies yet, I got him his own special treat—his favourite type of toy in the world—a school bus!
The buffet: Chicken fennel, BBQ chicken, pasta salad, macaroni salad, veggie lasagne, shrimp endives, banana bread, cupcakes. Yummy!
One of my favourite flowers: the Easter lily.
Michael, excited about his “Bunny Bag!” My eldest was an expert egg-hunter!
Mercedes absolutely thrilled about her bunny bag! Yay!
Gavin, so happy, he can’t keep his eyes open! Woo-hoo!
My nephew, Elias, enjoying his new school bus (the boy is OBSESSED with school buses!).
The kids’ Easter egg hunt cheerleaders!
The Egg Hunters.
My cousin, Myra, the taste-tester.
Elias and Uncle Rick.
My sister, Riza, really UPSET that I took this picture WHILE she was eating. (I had to do it!)
Secret Easter Bunnies (me and my husband, my favourite sidekick!).
The Easter Gang.
Hope you and yours had a special Easter celebration!
What did your Easter celebration look like?
Did you attend a special Christian service in celebration of today?
Did your children enjoy an Easter egg hunt?
In light of Jesus’ resurrection, what are you most grateful for today?
If you don’t celebrate Easter, what are you most looking forward to this spring?
While the worldly tradition has commercialized Easter to represent confectionary in the shape of a bunny and the fun, children’s activity of hunting for pastel-coloured eggs during nothing more than a long weekend — Good Friday commemorates what is at the center of the Christian faith: Jesus Christ’s crucifixion on the cross.
It is the act in which the Son of God, Himself, is first judged and then mocked by the very people who He wishes to save:
Jesus Is Mocked
27Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole Roman cohort around Him. 28They stripped Him and put a scarlet robe on Him. 29And after twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on His head, and a reed in His right hand; and they knelt down before Him and mocked Him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 30They spat on Him, and took the reed and began to beat Him on the head. 31After they had mocked Him, they took the scarlet robe off Him and put His own garments back on Him, and led Him away to crucify Him. – Matthew 27: 27-31 (The Holy Bible, NASB).
And then the Holy Son of God, Jesus Christ, is crucified.
When in fact, as God, Himself, He could have at any time resisted and saved Himself from such mortal suffering and death. Instead, in His perfect obedience to God, the Father, He humbled Himself and accepted His Father’s will for His life to be used as a sacrifice and offering in answer to God’s wrath on the sins of all humankind:
33And when they came to a place called Golgotha, which means Place of a Skull, 34they gave Him wine to drink mixed with gall; and after tasting it, He was unwilling to drink. 35And when they had crucified Him, they divided up His garments among themselves by casting lots. 36And sitting down, they began to keep watch over Him there. 37And above His head they put up the charge against Him which read, “This is Jesus the King of the Jews.”
38At that time two robbers were crucified with Him, one on the right and one on the left. 39 And those passing by were hurling abuse at Him, wagging their heads 40and saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save Yourself! If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” 41In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes and elders, were mocking Him and saying,
42“He saved others; He cannot save Himself. He is the King of Israel; let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe in Him. 43“He trusts in God; Let God rescue Him now, if He delights in Him; for He said, ‘I am the Son of God.’”
44The robbers who had been crucified with Him were also insulting Him with the same words.
45Now from the sixth hour darkness fell upon all the land until the ninth hour. 46About the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “ELI, ELI, LAMA SABACHTHANI?” that is, “MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME?” 47And some of those who were standing there, when they heard it, began saying, “This man is calling for Elijah.” 48Immediately one of them ran, and taking a sponge, he filled it with sour wine and put it on a reed, and gave Him a drink. 49But the rest of them said, “Let us see whether Elijah will come to save Him.” 50And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. 51And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth shook and the rocks were split. 52The tombs were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; 53and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection they entered the holy city and appeared to many. 54Now the centurion, and those who were with him keeping guard over Jesus, when they saw the earthquake and the things that were happening, became very frightened and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!” – Matthew 27:33-54 (The Holy Bible, NASB).
It is with unfortunate, recent events that I was unexpectedly sent to hospital in emergency due to severe, undiagnosed migraines, persistent nausea and vomiting, which led to three emergency hospital visits in five days, a CT scan, a spinal tap, and two spinal blood patches — surgical procedures in which one failed due to the inability to find veins that would support enough of my blood output required for the surgery’s success. So, not only did I have to endure one stressful surgery, I had to repeat the very same one under duress.
During one of the surgeries, I was poked by needles in my arms, my hands, my wrists, and my feet in a desperate act to find enough of my own blood to support the spinal blood patch that was occurring on me simultaneously. At the same time, I was fully awake, aware of the procedure, the doctors’ stressful panic, the sight of my own blood, the urgency in which my blood was needed, and also asked to keep absolutely still because one move or error on my part or the doctors’, could have caused nerve damage and a number of other complications in my spine and in my back.
My thoughts at the time in seeing all of my blood drip down my arms, my wrists, my hands, and my feet, while battling migraines, nausea, stress, physical pain in my back and other body parts as I was poked with needles, and trying to actively and consciously keep absolutely still in fear of having another failed surgery was:
This IS suffering.Was this how Jesus suffered? Please God…please God…save me!
And in my suffering—in that absolute dark and desperate, unyielding moment of pain and fear—who was it that I was left to turn to?
My husband couldn’t save me. He was in the waiting room, anxiously waiting for the unknown outcome.
The doctors couldn’t give me a guarantee on the health and safety of my spine or my back.
My children were with my parents while I was in hospital, oblivious to my suffering.
And no amount of money or worldly power could buy away my pain.
It was God who comforted me in my fear, pain, and isolation.
In my mind, Jesus had suffered so much more on my behalf when He was crucified on the cross. And while I did not willingly endure suffering, but instead begged for help and ease, Jesus willingly gave Himself up to worldly authorities and the very people He meant to save to those who would mock Him, torture Him, and eventually crucify Him—because of His love not only for us as a flawed people, but because of His perfect love and obedience to God, the Father.
That is sacrifice.
And it’s this very sacrifice that Christians commemorate today on Good Friday.
And it’s Jesus Christ, whom we honour as our Saviour because of this very act.
I have nothing against bunnies, nor chocolate. I’m even for fun treasure hunts. But, as a Christian, Good Friday and Easter is much more than that. It is the commemoration of the act of complete humility, obedience, and sacrifice by God on our behalf. This is at the center of our Christian faith: the cross. It is more than a trinket to wear around our necks or hang across our car mirrors or dashboards. It is the symbol in which Jesus Christ was made to suffer and die in His holy perfection, for our sins so that we may be forgiven and have eternal life.
Good Friday is good indeed, for it is on this day that we remember and honour Jesus for His selfless love towards us and His ultimate sacrifice on our behalf.
If a Christian, let us remember this gift in an all we do today (and forever); and in reverent prayer and in thanksgiving—and let us not forget the holiness of our Lord and the depth and passion in which He loves us.
And then three days later, on Easter morning, we can, together, rejoice in honouring Jesus Christ and remembering His holy resurrection!
It’s surely a gift worth being grateful for. (Grateful enough to also be able to enjoy the pleasure of confectionary bunnies and children’s egg hunts.)
May your Easter be a blessed one!
If a Christian, where are you now in your walk and relationship with the Lord, Jesus Christ?
Why not spend some quiet time in prayer and thankfulness today for the gift we have received through Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on the cross?
I was born and raised by two devout Roman Catholic parents from the Philippines and so it was natural for me to witness the decorative altars in our home as I was growing up.
My mother and father, both had personal rosaries from which to pray with, and one each for every car we owned as a talisman to the Catholic faith.
My first memory of my experience in the Catholic church was climbing the marble steps of St. Catherine of Siena Churchto reach the main sanctuary, holding my father’s hand as we walked quietly to a middle-row pew.
I was, as always when we went to church on a Sunday, well-dressed, obedient, and watchful—mindful of how to follow my parents’ lead in the sign of the cross, when to kneel, shake hands, and learn the church’s holy prayers: the Our Father,Hail Mary, and the Apostle’s Creed.
Unsure of myself, but willing and ready to learn, I had devoted my skill in remembering the order of the liturgy, in awe at the beauty of the priest’s vestments, the pristine glow of the chalice, and my favourite part of the mass: the prayers spoken before the Eucharist is raised to the sound of chimes signifying not only the Body of Christ, but for me, His death and resurrection.
I loved the solemnity of the weekly service, the ability to know, follow, and participate in the acts of its prayers and communion and to feel absolved after communion and mass.
I come from a devout Catholic family who’s always been interested in spirituality. My father as a young man had considered becoming a priest. And I, in his footsteps, had seriously considered entering a nunnery after my religious studies at Holy Name of Mary and my relationship and peer ministry with the Felician Sisters.
And though I would later leave the Catholic institutional church later on in my life, having converted to evangelical Christianity, it was with great pride that I was able to witness the election of a new Pope this past Wednesday, March 13, 2013.
While my theological views have somewhat altered and my religious practices differ from my religious upbringing, I have and do hold the Roman Catholic church up in respect and tenderness because of that very history and of course, their reverence to our Lord, Jesus Christ.
Religion is not an event, nor a labelling discourse of theological beliefs, but a spiritual outlet in which to express and experience one’s faith in community.
And so, it is with great joy I was able to celebrate with my brothers and sisters in Christ for the naming of the new Pope on Wednesday on behalf of the Catholic community.
While I don’t revere the man himself, as his role as pontiff does not replace nor rise above God’s own and true authority, I do hope and pray for his spiritual wisdom, obedience, and servitude to Christ and Christ’s teachings.
I did not witness the white smoke which traditionally announces the conclave’s conclusion in its decision in naming a new pontiff, but I was made aware of it the moment it happened, believe it or not, on Twitter!
Which led me to turn on the television and search for live coverage of this historical event. The amount of people not only gathered around the Vatican at St. Peter’s Squarethat day, but also the multitude of people listening in on radio and watching the news all at the same time in anticipation of this news, made the camaraderie and unity of Christian faith even more intense and prevalent.
I watched nuns in prayer, clutching rosaries, their eyes closed in hopeful reverence. I watched men waving their countries’ flags in excitement. I saw young children on the shoulders of their fathers, waiting for their Catholic blessing from the new pope. I listened to the crowd of patrons chanting in unison, “Viva il Papa!” which means, “Long live the Pope!” in Italian.
The fervour of the crowd was infectious. The anticipation of this historical change, obvious. And then the drapes on the Vatican balcony stirred.
The announcement of the new Pope was made! And out came this simply dressed man in white with a humility and thoughtfulness that addressed the world:
Pope Jorge Mario Begoglio Francis I
Pope Francis I’shumility precedes him in his choices to live a simple, unadorned life. As an Archbishop, he was known to take the bus rather than taxi and would walk among the people. He even turned down the opportunity to live in the palatial Archbishop’s residence, but chose to live in a small apartment instead.
This seems right, indicative, and reflective of Jesus’ teaching in the Bible:
“Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” – Matthew 19:23-25 (NIV)
His humility and acts of servitude is also evident in his visit to a hospice of patients afflicted with HIV/AIDS in 2001 when he washed and kissed its patients’ feet.
This is reminiscent of Jesus’ teaching and own act of humility and servitude in washing His disciples’ feet even though He himself is God.
The pope, too, has been known to literally take the “back seat” when gathering with cardinals, often opting to sit at the back during conferences.
This, too, is reflective of the attitude in which Jesus advises the invited guests to a gathering of the Pharisees:
“But when you are invited, go and recline at the last place, so that when the one who has invited you comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher’; then you will have honor in the sight of all who are at the table with you. For everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled, and he who humbles himself shall be exalted.” – Luke 14:10-11 (NASB)
What is also inspiring about Pope Francis I is his outspoken stand for righteousness rather than legalism in his decision to baptize children born out-of-wedlock and his admonition to those that would deny children this sacrament.
It reminds me of Jesus’ teaching and welcome of little children when He said,
“People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.’ And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.” – Mark 10:13-16 (NIV)
While he’s been criticized in North America for his conservatism: matters in which he is against birth control, abortion, and same-sex marriage; he stands as one would in representing and following deeply embedded Catholic beliefs and doctrine.
And he is well-versed as he is well-educated. Before becoming an Archbishop, he taught literature, philosophy, theology, psychology and holds a master’s degree in chemistry. He also knows a number of languages: Spanish, Italian, and German.
But, it is his humility that is most striking; his spirit of servitude that is most impressive; and his theology alive in action as well as his sensitivity to the poor.
You’d also be surprised to know that under his pontiff hat, he’s also got quite a wonderful sense of humour! It was reported by The Toronto Star that during the dinner after the Pope’s election, the cardinals made a toast to him in which he responded, “May God forgive you.” (As shared by Cardinal Dolan.)
Christians will easily understand the humour in this as what is implied by it: It is considered a “sin” to practice drunkenness as it removes form of reason and clear thinking as it is a sin to commit acts of idolatry since Christians are called to love God with his or her entire being as commanded in the Holy Bible:
“One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, ‘Of all the commandments, which is the most important?’” “’The most important one,’ answered Jesus, ‘is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’” – Mark 12:28-30 (NIV)
—which I believe (and hope and pray) is something Pope Francis I will continually obey in an act of service to God, God’s glory, and His Church.
The Associated Press quotes the Pope Francis I as saying,
“Jesus teaches us another way: Go out. Go out and share your testimony. Go out and interact with your brothers. Go out and share. Go out and ask. Become the Word in body as well as spirit.”
This is the call of every Christian — Catholic, Evangelical, or not. And a hopeful message to share with the world: A hopeful message because it comes from the Catholic’s new spiritual leader—and a hopeful message because it is true.
And in this, as in all things, may God be glorified.
Did you withness the announcement of the new pontiff this past March?
What do you think of Pope Francis I?
What do you hope for the Catholic Church after the election of its new spiritual leader?
What are one of Jesus’ teachings do you find wonderful and something you aim to subscribe to in your own life?
If a Christian, what ways do you actively try to live out your faith?
What is your favourite verse in the Holy Bible?
Books and nooks. Writing and reading between the pages.