I first ran into the phrase “Take Joy!” when I watched a documentary about children’s book illustrator Tasha Tudor. The phrase originates from a letter written by Fra Giovanni Giocondo Angelica, to his friend, Countess Allagia Aldobrandeschi on Christmas Eve of 1513…
I salute you. I am your friend, and my love for you goes deep. There is nothing I can give you which you have not. 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 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 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 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. Your 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 pilgrims together, wending through unknown country home.
The poem we now have that is a paraphrase of Fra Angelica’s letter. Tasha loved it, and even titled her Christmas anthology, Take Joy! The poem has also been an inspiration to me… a reminder that no matter how gloomy things looks, we always have a choice to look for joy in the situation and claim it as our own. To look on the bright side, so to speak. Here is the poem, as we know it today…
No heaven can come to us unless
our hearts find rest in it today.
No peace lies in the future which is not
hidden in this present little instant.
The gloom of the world is but a shadow.
Behind it, yet within our reach, is joy.
So, go ahead! It’s there! Take it!