Letter Written by Fra Giovanni
I salute you. I am your friend, and my love for you goes deep. There is nothing I can give you which you have not. But there is much, very much, that, while I cannot give it, you can take. No heaven can come to us unless our hearts find rest in it today. Take heaven! No peace lies in the future which is not hidden in this present little instant. Take peace! The gloom of the world is but a shadow. Behind it, yet within our reach, is joy. There is radiance and glory in darkness, could we but see. And to see, we have only to look. I beseech you to look!
Life is so generous a giver. But we, judging its gifts by their covering, cast them away as ugly or heavy or hard. Remove the covering, and you will find beneath it a living splendor, woven of love by wisdom, with power. Welcome it, grasp it, and you touch the angel’s hand that brings it to you. Everything we call a trial, a sorrow or a duty, believe me, that angel’s hand is there. The gift is there and the wonder of an overshadowing presence. Your joys, too, be not content with them as joys. They, too, conceal diviner gifts.
Life is so full of meaning and purpose, so full of beauty beneath its covering, that you will find earth but cloaks your heaven. Courage then to claim it; that is all! But courage you have, and the knowledge that we are pilgrims together, wending through unknown country home.
And so, at this time, I greet you, not quite as the world sends greetings, but with profound esteem and with the prayer that for you, now and forever, the day breaks and shadows flee away.
This is the version of the letter I've been acquainted with for some time. Bartleby has a similar version of the letter with this interesting note.
The British Museum stated in 1970 that it had “proved impossible” to identify Fra Giovanni, the purported author of this letter. This was published, probably in the 1930s, “with Christmas Greetings” from Greville MacDonald, son of novelist George MacDonald, and Mary MacDonald.
You can find an excerpt of this letter in a beautiful print in the form of an illuminated manuscript at Prose and Letters.
I do hope you'll take some time this weekend to check out all the wonderful poetic things being shared and collected by Mary Lee at A Year of Reading. Happy new year to all and happy poetry Friday friends!