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.
Went to a lovely baby shower*, yesterday, at the home of one of the hostess’s grandmother, an antique-filled, sprawling and gracious home on a Concord (MA) hillside overlooking the family’s farm. And while delighted to be in such a stunning setting with all four daughters, my mother and sister, one of my dearest friends and many, many friends of the guest of honor, like most Americans, I grieved the Aurora massacre. How blessed we are to be so carelessly and easefully seated together under a magnificent tree sipping summery drinks, I thought.
Inside that lovely home, framed, over the downstairs bathroom sink in a spot you couldn’t miss every time you washed your hands hung a hand-written version of the above prayer by Fra Giovanni. I recognized this prayer immediately: I’d come upon a version** of it last week as I’d sorted memorabilia from Friends Meeting at Cambridge memorials. Here’s how that version read:
The gloom of the world is but a shadow.
behind it, within our reach, is joy.
There is radiance and glory in the darkness,
could we but see. . .
And I was comforted to think that all over the world, hung in places you can’t miss noticing, are similar acknowledgements of deep, deep pain and transcendent joy.
*For daughter Hope, who is due at the end of August.
** From Polly Thayer Starr’s memorial program, October 29, 2006