23 December 2022

Shcho to za Predivo: What a wonder! Glad the news I bring you

Every so often I find a carol or hymn in another language that appears not to have a translation that would enable it to be sung in English.

Among the abundant patrimony of Christmas carols, in which the culture of Ukraine abounds, especially among the Greek Catholics, is this poignantly tender and beautiful beautiful meditation on the news that the Virgin who has given birth to Jesus as Son of God and Son of Man, is also the first to adore him; how Joseph who is identified as an old man helps to bring in the newborn Christ as Saviour. It also hints how the mother who holds Jesus in the swaddling clothes will one day hold him when he is taken down from the Cross, to be wrapped this time in graveclothes. Yet she does not weep for the loss of her own son alone, but loves the Son who has come as the Lord himself, the Saviour of all.

It is not easy to translate from Ukrainian metre into English verse, as the patterns of the languages, and thus who they are sung, are different. But I hope this offering, with a few rhymes within, will work and enable people to sing with the Christians of Ukraine with tenderness and adoration - and indeed faith and hope. A YouTube link to a lovely rendering of it by a student choir in America, to the setting by Vasyl Barvinskiy, is here:

The translation, such as it is, I dedicate to me dear friend and fellow pilgrim in Australia - Sister Marie Farrell rsm.

Hristos rozhdayetsya! Christ is born: Happy Christmas.

Glad the news I bring you:

"Earth to joy restored;

For to you a Saviour,

Christ is born, our Lord."

See the holy Virgin Mary,

She who bore Him, then adore Him:

“Jesu, my dear Son!”


In that cave the old man,

Joseph, see prepare

cloths, to swathe Messiah, 

Jesu, with all care.

Mary mild see in them fold Him,

to her heart more closely hold Him,

Pure Mother of God.


Ukrainian traditional carol for the Nativity of Christ. Translation © Mark Woodruff 23.12.2022

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