A knock on the door reminded me I must get round to fixing that bell!  The words, ‘That will be £6 please, sir,’ were my first indication that we had our own window cleaner.  My extremely rare forays into the world of water and chamois leather were, mercifully, at an end!


The experience set me thinking about windows and the properties of glass.  I remember, as a child, being somewhat mystified by the question, ‘Is your father a glazier?’ whenever I stood in someone’s way – especially because everyone knew he was a steelfixer and bar bender!  He, in turn, was incensed by one of the few items of history he had acquired during his short school career that, in the past, people had felt it necessary to brick up windows because of the iniquitous ‘Window Tax’ – a tax on daylight!


However, all is not gloom - for glass and its properties have been used as powerful Christian symbols by many writers.  Paul, in his wonderful passage in 1 Corinthians 13 about the gift of love, looking forward to that, ‘which is perfect to come,’ explains, ‘For now we see through a glass darkly, but then face to face.  Now I know in part but then shall I know even as also I am known.’ Similarly, George Herbert in his hymn, ‘Teach me my God and King,’ used glass to illustrate the choices we can make in response to God’s revelation:


A man may look on glass

On it may stay his eye;

Or, if he pleaseth, through it pass

And then the heaven espy.


I have always been struck by how simple, yet how clear, this analogy is.  Of course, had I taken more notice of the fourth verse, I would have realised that even cleaning windows should have been a real joy – if approached in the right frame of mind!


A servant with this clause

Makes drudgery divine,

Who sweeps a room, as for thy laws.

Makes that and the action fine.


People approach the divinity of Christ in many ways.  For some, it is expressed in the story of the Virgin Birth or in the miracles or in the Passion and Resurrection.  The theologian, Paul Tillich approached it from, seemingly, the other end of the scale.  For him, it was Jesus’ total humility, selflessness and openness to God’s will that made Him divine.  To explain this, he used the symbolism of transparency.  For Tillich, Jesus was so utterly selfless and open to God’s will that he became, as it were, transparent, so that God was revealed through Him in a unique, once and for all, way.


Thomas Merton, a 20th century contemplative Christian writer, in his book, ‘New Seeds of Contemplation’, attempts to set out for us the mystery of Christ using the imagery of the magnifying glass:


As a magnifying glass concentrates the rays of the sun into a little burning knot of heat that can set fire to a dry leaf or a piece of paper, so the mystery of Christ in the gospel concentrates the rays of God’s light and fire to a point that sets fire to the spirit of man.  And this is why Christ was born and lived in the world and died and returned from death and ascended to his father in heaven.  Through the glass of His incarnation, He concentrates the rays of His Divine Truth and Love upon us so that we feel the burn, and all mystical experience is communicated to men through the Man Christ.


It would appear from these passages that, not only can glass illuminate our everyday lives, but it may also act as a symbol that can illuminate our spiritual lives.


As for me, perhaps it’s time I got around to having a look at that bell, now that our new window cleaner has freed up some of my time!


Alan Jones




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