10 January 2023

Praying through poems and
with USPG: 10 January 2023

The Congregation of All Angels in an icon by a nun from the Monastery of Saint Irene near Rethymnon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Christmas is not a season of 12 days, despite the popular Christmas song. Christmas is a 40-day season that lasts from Christmas Day (25 December) to Candlemas or the Feast of the Presentation (2 February).

Throughout the 40 days of this Christmas Season, I am reflecting in these ways:

1, Reflecting on a seasonal or appropriate poem;

2, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary, ‘Pray with the World Church.’

We arrived in Helsinki late yesterday, and are visiting the Revd Tuomas Mäkipää and Saint Nicholas’ Anglican Church with the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) and the Diocese in . This is an opportunity to see how the church and church agencies in Finland are working with refugees from Ukraine.

My choice of a seasonal poem this morning is ‘Folk Scene’ by the Ukrainian poet Ivan Malkovych.

Ivan Malkovych was born in 1961 in Nyzhniy Bereziv (Ivano-Frankivsk oblast). He graduated from Kiev University in 1985, and started working as a literary editor for children’s publishers. He founded his own children’s publishing house in 1992, and lives and works in Kiev.

Ivan Malkovych is the author of four poetic collections. His poems are immersed in the world of a child’s imagination, and reinterpret traditional Ukrainian metaphors and lyrics. Recurring images in his poetry includes guardian angels, Ukrainian Christmas and a young Jesus Christ.

Singing angels in a window in Saint Lachtain’s Church, Freshford, Co Kilkenny (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Folk Scene by Ivan Malkovych (translation, Bohdan Boychuk and Myrosia Stefaniuk):

On a heap amidst thistles,
on coal, soggy from rains,
two angels dwell:

they wax each other’s wings,
they kiss each other’s eyes,
awaiting Christmas.

Near them – a lovely infant,
and no one can guess
who’s guarding whom?

Is the infant guarding angels, or
do white-winged ones watch the child,
leaping, aiming for heaven?

What can white angels do
on this black soil? crush coal
or weep into blue skies?

Each angel would carry the baby
into heaven’s garden any moment,
God does not will it …

On a heap of discarded Christmas trees,
and dirty orange peels,
on the frozen grass –

two angels and an infant
clutching a Christmas carol in its fist,
Christmas has gone.

John Hutton’s ‘Screen of Saints and Angels’ at the entrance to Coventry Cathedral, reflecting the ruins of the old, bombed cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

USPG Prayer Diary:

The theme in the USPG Prayer Diary this week is an ‘Epiphany Reflection,’ introduced on Sunday morning by the Revd Michael Sei from the Episcopal Church of Liberia.

The USPG Prayer Diary invites us to pray today in these words:

Let us pray for our brothers and sisters in the Episcopal Church of Liberia. May we join with them in focussing on intentional listening, witnessing and discipleship.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

An angel in a window in the Round Church on Bridge Street, Cambridge (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

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