We had a new window installed in our sitting room a few weeks ago. I gaze delightedly out of it each morning as I sit down at my computer table preparing to work. I can see everything so clearly! Gone are the smudges, the dust, the nicks in the glass. It’s as though nothing at all is between me and the trees and sky.
A religious icon is a window into the realm of heaven. When I write an icon, I often think of myself as the glass. The ego part of me creates all sorts of smudges, nicks and dust. It’s inevitable to the human condition that this would be so. I try to get as clear as possible by sitting in prayer, but I have to resign myself to never being completely transparent. The same is true when I gaze at an icon. I cannot see the icon as clearly as it was written unless I sit quietly, with an empty mind. That is definitely a rare thing. The ego smudges my gazing just as it smudges my writing. I see “through a glass darkly”, as St. Paul would say. And sometimes things are pretty dark indeed.
What would it be like to have totally transparent glass in all the windows that look out on God? I’d be aligned with the Christ in my soul, aligned with the deepest impulses in me to be the person God dreams me to be. I would be most truly myself.
These days when I read passages like today’s reading from Malachi (Malachi 3:1-4), in which the Messiah comes like a refiner’s fire, I feel a yearning well up in my heart. He will purify us like gold and silver. He will purify us until we present offerings to God in righteousness.
I imagine all the dross in my psyche boiling away. Oh, how wonderful that would be, all the smudges gone from my windows! I would see clearly, as though nothing were between me and God.
Iconographers sometimes talk about this state as a union with light. I see it more as a union with love. The pure, lustrous gleam of our purified hearts cannot help but be love — love shining in the unique hue that is the essence of each one of us and only each one of us, distinctive and yet joined irrevocably in the mysterious Body of Christ.
We spend way too much time on the worries of life. In the grand scheme of things they are just little bits of grease and dirt. They are just smudges on the windows, or, at worst, nicks in the glass. The whole of creation goes begging, meanwhile, for our clear gaze, our admiration, our praise and gratitude.
May we live ever more fully into seeing clearly and into being the windows that others see through clearly as well. May we be able to bring our thankfulness and love as righteous offerings to God.