This is a most favorite piece of writing of mine. Many years ago, we received a quotation from it in a note (which we loved), but it wasn't until recently; as I researched some resources for a bible study on the topic of giving, that I found the entire letter shown here.
With Christmas just days away, gifts are on the minds of many. As Fra. Giovanni says, however, (poorly paraphrased by me) gifts come in many forms---things are not always what they seem---an ugly gift with the covering removed may bring great joy AND a joyful gift when opened may bring greater joy still! All are unique and divinely created.
Contemplate these words and the writings of this Renaissance man, and this Christmas take the time to pause and wonder and see the gifts all around you!
Letter Written by Fra Giovanni, 1513
I am your friend and my love for you goes deep. There is nothing I can give you which you have not got, 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 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 the 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 the 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, 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. Our 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 all 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 the shadows flee away.
This letter was written by Fra Giovanni Giocondo to his friend, Countess Allagia Aldobrandeschi on Christmas Eve, 1513. Born in Venice, Giocondo would become a priest, a scholar, an architect and a teacher. He was indeed a true 'renaissance man.' In 1496 Giocondo was invited to France by the King and made royal architect. If you've ever been to Paris and walked across the beautiful bridges Pont Notre-Dame or the Petit Pont -- both of these were designed by Giocondo.