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Take Joy! Fra Giovanni’s Christmas Prayer December 25, 2008

Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
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In 1513, Fra Giovanni wrote a letter—what we’d now consider a Christmas card—to a friend and patron, containing a Christmas prayer. Our friend Ben and Silence Dogood first encountered it in a wonderful book about Tasha Tudor, Forever Christmas, because Tasha loved this letter and read it aloud to her loved ones every Christmas. The wisdom, the joy, and the attitude towards life that it expressed shaped her life.

Prayers contain power, and we agree that this prayer has the power to change lives. We cannot think of a better Christmas gift for our families, for our friends, for all of you. So on this blessed Christmas day, those of us here at Poor Richard’s Almanac, our friend Ben, Silence Dogood, and Richard Saunders, would like to share this gift with you. Bright blessings to you all, today and all through the year!

          Fra Giovanni’s Christmas Prayer

I salute you! There is nothing I can give you which you have not; but there is much that, while I cannot give, 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 moment. Take Peace.

The gloom of the world is but a shadow; behind it, yet within our reach is joy. Take Joy!

And so, at this Christmas time, I greet you, with the prayer that for you, now and forever, the day breaks and the shadows flee away.



1. Curmudgeon - December 25, 2008

What a wonderful gift. Thank you. Warmest wishes to you and yours.

And to you, Wing Nut, and Diva Dog!

2. Gail - December 25, 2008

Happiest Christmas to you~~ Thank you for the prayer, his words are empowering! Gail

Thank you, Gail! And a joyous Christmas to you and yours!

3. lzyjo - December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas and warm wishes to everyone at Hawkshead and Poor Richard’s Almanac. Have a great holiday and thanks for the blogwarming comment! It means a lot that people still check in even if there’s no sign of life…

My pleasure, lzyjo! That adorable happy dog face really warms my heart. I’d missed it, so I went looking to see what had become of you! Wishing you a very merry Christmas as well!

4. Deb - December 26, 2008

Merry Christmas Y’all. Love the prayer. Thanks for sharing.

Most welcome, Deb, and a very merry Christmas to all of you!

5. Laurel - December 26, 2008

Beautiful prayer, and a beautiful gift 🙂 Thanks good folks and enjoy the rest of the holidays! 🙂

P.S. How did Christmas dinner go???

Thanks, Laurel! Ha! Funny you should ask about Christmas dinner. As it happened, we convened at the house of friends, and their oven wasn’t working! But all turned out fine. I brought my super-decadent mashed potatoes (made with tons of butter, cream, and Trocamare) and the most enormous, elaborate salad ever seen and some luscious homemade dressing, plus a vat of Curried Pumpkin Soup for our friend Rudy, who’d slipped on the ice and broken his wrist. Rudy brought wine (with his good arm), our friends Carolyn and Gary brought a roasted free-range chicken, Brussels sprouts, and baked winter squash, and our hosts Paul and Frieda provided dried corn (a regional specialty) and an assortment of appetizers and desserts. It’s an old home with deep window seats and lots of wood stoves, and they had candles blazing, a wonderful real Christmas tree with handmade German ornaments, and some very cute cats lurking about. All told, we had a great time!

6. Daphne Gould - December 26, 2008

Merry Christmas. I hope you had a wonderful day.

Thanks, Daphne! You, too!

7. lzyjo - December 26, 2008

Oh, It’s Hawkshaven isn’t it? Hawkshead sounds kind of gory! LOL!

LOL indeed, lzyjo! If you only knew how many people still referred to poor Silence as Silence DOGWOOD instead of Dogood, you wouldn’t think twice about Hawkshead!

8. Barbee' - December 26, 2008

I had never seen the complete verse… thank you for giving it to me for Christmas!

You’re most welcome, Barbee’! I hope you and yours had a wonderful Christmas!

9. debra - December 23, 2010

This is not the complete letter. This is what I have found. The original was in German, so to have an accurate full version, you would have to start there.

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.

Fra Giovanni

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.

Letter from Fra Giovanni Giocondo to Countess Allagia Aldobrandeschi on Christmas Eve, 1513

How lovely, Debra! Thank you so much for sharing it with us!

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