As part of the west end extension, completing the church after a 100 year wait, a new window is being fitted to the west wall. The former window did not do its job – it let in water and cold air as well as light! The new window has a cruciform design, shaped by the mullions which will give it strength and purpose.
Windows enable us to gaze upon the world in the relative comfort of our own space. We are slightly removed from the world that we see before us: sound is hushed and the air is stilled. We are observers, witnesses to the events of the world. But this can be a place of distortion too, offering a cosiness which is not quite real.
Faithful prayer in the depths of contemplative spirituality is anchored in watchfulness. This type of prayer is like one who looks adoringly at a work of art but travels beyond the surface meaning. If I immerse myself into the person of Jesus, I realise that his eyes are not only watchful, they are present. Jesus is not only an inspired observer, but he is truly present. Jesus engages with people and places, his life is an encounter. So, in imitation of his life, we will do well not to hide behind a window, a screen or a facade, but to be truly watchful and present.
Even if we consider the crucified Christ suffering his slow execution, we see that he was ever watchful, ever present, to those friends and enemies around him. His last words were full of awareness, empathy and charity. Jesus was able to look within, to see through the window of the human heart, to reveal something of the truth in the human condition. Prayer enables us to see something similar, to see in a way that penetrates that which is opaque, dimmed, masked or even closed. Our watchfulness becomes like a loving gaze as we become less aware of ourselves and purely present as God’s Spirit becomes active within us. It is this Spirit which opens our window to the world.
Take a look at what is happening at St Michael’s, Summertown. Click here. I hope to see you this Sunday (with the new window in place)!