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There For The Taking

A letter from the 16th Century

Pontassieve,
Christmas Eve
Anno Domini 1513

To the most illustrious
The Contessina Allagia dela Aldobrandeschi
On the Via de’ Martelli, Firenze

Most Noble Contessina,

I salute you. Believe me your most devoted servant. The rascal, who carries this letter, if he devours them not on the way, will crave your acceptance of some fruits of our garden. Would that the peace of Heaven might reach you through such things of earth!

Contessina, forgive an old man’s babble. But 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, 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 the present little instant. Take peace!

The gloom of this 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 it; and to see it, we only have to look. Contessina 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 splendour, woven with love, by wisdom with power.

Welcome it, grasp it, and you touch an 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 divine 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, wending through unknown country, home.

And so 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 day breaks and the shadows flee away.

I have the honour to be your servant, though the least of them.

Fra Giovanni

(Contributed by Sarah Brown, from the Easter 2014 newsletter)

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Image:  Pontassieve by Sailko, used under Creative Commons Licence

 

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