For Those We Cannot Be With This Christmas

fra.jpgIn 1513, a sixty-eight year old man wrote a letter on Christmas Eve which has spoken for many for centuries.

There is nothing I can give you that 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 it today.

Take Heaven!

No peace lies in the future that 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 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 our Lord’s hand;
He brings it to you!

Everything we call a trial, a sorrow, or a duty:
Believe me, Our Father’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 of purpose,
so full of beauty—beneath its covering—that
you will find that 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,
winding through unknown country, home.

And so, at this Christmas 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 daybreaks and the shadows flee away.

        * attributed to:  FRA GIOVANNI,  “A Letter to the Most Illustrious the Contessina Allagia Dela Aldobrandeschi, Written Christmas Eve Anno Domini 1513”

Fra Giovanni Giocondo (c. 1445–c. 1525) was an Italian architect, antiquary, archaeologist, and classical scholar.
He joined the Dominican Order at the age of eighteen and was one of the many of that order who became pioneers of the Renaissance. Afterwards, however, he entered the Franciscan Order.

The young priest, a learned archaeologist and a superb draughtsman, visited Rome, sketched its ancient buildings, wrote the story of its great monuments, and completed and explained many defaced inscriptions. He stimulated the revival of classical learning by making collections of ancient manuscripts, one of which, completed in 1492, he presented to Lorenzo de’ Medici.

Between 1496 and 1499 Giocondo was invited to France by Louis XII, and made royal architect.

Between 1506 and 1508 he returned to Italy. In 1511 he edited a new edition of “De Architectura” of the classical Roman writer Vitruvius, a book that had a major influence on the development of Renaissance architecture.

The Vatican welcomed him 1514 and on Donato Bramante’s death he superintended (with Raphael and son Gallo) the erection of St. Peter’s Basilica.

 In addition to his classical and mathematical knowledge he was a master of scholastic theology.

* Thanks to my dear wife, Kathleen, for bringing this letter to me.

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