12 January 2023

Praying through poems and
with USPG: 12 January 2023

The East Window in Saint Mary’s Church, Tipperary, designed by AJ Davies (1877-1953), shows the Adoration by the Magi of the Christ Child, presenting their gifts (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 back in Heathrow from Helsinki late last night after a week visiting Hungary and Finland with the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) and the Diocese in Europe, looking at how the church and church agencies there are working with refugees from Ukraine.

After these Epiphany-tide journeys across Europe, my choice of a seasonal poem this morning is ‘Epiphany,’ a sonnet by the priest poet Malcolm Guite.

The Revd Malcolm Guite has been a Bye-Fellow and chaplain of Girton College, Cambridge, and associate chaplain of Saint Edward King and Martyr in Cambridge. On several occasions, he has taught as visiting faculty at several colleges and universities in England and North America.

Malcolm Guite is the author of five books of poetry, including two chapbooks and three full-length collections, as well as several books on Christian faith and theology. He has a decisively simple, formalist style in poems, many of which are sonnets. He says his aim is to ‘be profound without ceasing to be beautiful.’ He also performs as a singer and guitarist fronting the Cambridgeshire-based blues, rhythm and blues, and rock band ‘Mystery Train.’

This sonnet is the first in a sequence of Epiphany Sonnets, drawn from his book Sounding the Seasons, which is available from Amazon or by ordering from local bookshops.

The Adoration of the Shepherds and the Magi depicted in a stained-glass window in the chapel of Oriel College, Oxford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Epiphany, by Malcolm Guite:

It might have been just someone else’s story,
Some chosen people get a special king.
We leave them to their own peculiar glory,
We don’t belong, it doesn’t mean a thing.
But when these three arrive they bring us with them,
Gentiles like us, their wisdom might be ours;
A steady step that finds an inner rhythm,
A pilgrim’s eye that sees beyond the stars.
They did not know his name but still they sought him,
They came from otherwhere but still they found;
In temples they found those who sold and bought him,
But in the filthy stable, hallowed ground.
Their courage gives our questing hearts a voice
To seek, to find, to worship, to rejoice.

The Visit of the Magi by Giotto in the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

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 the work of the Church amongst the marginalised. May we join our brothers and sisters in Liberia in seeking to include those who feel abandoned.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

The Magi visit the crib … a stained glass window in Saint Nicholas Church, Adare, Co Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

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