They're located in almost every room in my house. They are uniformly rectangular and singularly boring, and so they blend in well with the rest of the architecture of our modern geometric suburban house. The builder surprised us by showing up a few days after we'd moved in to install mini-blinds over them which we didn't realize we'd paid for; as close as we are to our neighbors, the blinds are a must, and are seldom fully opened except in the two rooms at the back of the house, which overlook a greenbelt and a small lake.
Unless they become unusually grimy, I never even think about them. They're just there, performing the daily task of allowing softly-filtered sunlight in at the appropriate times. And sometimes that's a thankless task; I finally put heavy drapes over the ones in the master bedroom, so the brilliant lights from a nearby apartment complex would quit tricking my brain into thinking that it was dawn at 3 a.m. But it's hard to shut out light completely; sometimes when there's a full moon a shaft or two of silver light will find just enough of a crease in the curtains to pierce playfully into the room, waking me with its persistent cold joy.
Windows can be as invisible and unnoticed as the silent avenues of grace which surround us, transforming us day by day into creatures more pleasing and more obedient to our Creator. Just as the windows in our homes allow the lights of day and night to enter and transform our surroundings, so do the agents of grace efface themselves before the Presence, becoming like windows as they allow the Holy Spirit to work in and through them, until the grace they bring transforms our hearts as much as the sunlight at noon or at dusk can transform the appearance of a room.
Who are these agents of grace? What do they do that makes them like a window, often unnoticed and under-appreciated, but easy to miss should they no longer be with us?
Some of them are the good and holy priests who work tirelessly to bring us the grace of the sacraments of the Church. At the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass they stand in the place of Christ to bring us the Eucharist, which nourishes our souls and strengthens us for every trial. In the Sacrament of Penance they listen patiently to our halting lists of embarrassment and shame, giving us words of wisdom, prayer and penance, and the power of absolution to send us, cleansed, on our way. They preach and teach us, they set quiet examples of holy living, they perform in a typical week every one of the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. Right now, they are suffering both from the betrayal of some of their brother-priests and the assumption on the part of many that all priests are like this, living lives of secret hypocrisy and evil; yet they don't hesitate to denounce the evil anyway, and to bear patiently with the negative portrayals they endure by those who are quick to judge and condemn anyone who remains in the Church after the Scandal. Like a window, they are overlooked and under-appreciated much of the time; like a window, they're more interested that the Light should shine through them than that they should get any credit for it.
And then there are the religious, the good and holy brothers and sisters living a religious vocation in the service of God, whether in a contemplative cloister or an active order. Whatever their life or charism, they are dedicated to serving God and man, to being instruments of grace and prayer. Our encounters with these communities of faith always serve as a source of inspiration and strength for us; it is amazing to think, for instance, that some order of priests or brothers or nuns is praying right now for you, for me, and for our world, and will be praying all through the day and into the night for us and for our triumph over evil. We may scarcely ever notice these members of the family of God unless we are blessed to live among some of them, but the good works they do, and their constant prayer, transform us nonetheless.
United with the efforts of the two groups I've already mentioned are those of the rest of us struggling to live out our vocations as members of the laity each day. Some are single, and dedicate themselves to the service of God in their efforts to live according to His laws, and to work, pray, and give of themselves in a parish community. Many of us are living out our vocation to the married state, and strive to raise and educate our children in the ways of the faith, to bear patiently with each other as husbands and wives, and to reach out into the wider community to offer whatever service we can. As windows go, I may be a bit spotty and dusty from time to time, which makes it harder for the Light to filter through me; but thanks to the sacramental confession I mentioned above it's possible to become clean again, and to let the Light of Christ radiate through me unhindered by my own sins and selfishness.
Not long ago we had a hailstorm here in Texas, and my daughters' biggest concern was about our windows. What if one of them broke? What if all of them broke? What would we do? We wouldn't be able to close them--we would have to cover them--and then what? Wouldn't it be really dark and scary, without the windows?
We didn't lose any windows at all (this time), but their questions made me think, especially in light of what I've been writing about above. How is it that I take something so useful, so necessary, so important--so completely for granted? Wouldn't a little appreciation for these invisible servants be in order?
For the windows of glass, a little cleaning fluid and some rags will do. For the windows of grace, a word of appreciation, a gesture of thanks, now and again, would probably help gladden the hearts of those who strengthen ours, by letting Christ shine so strongly through all their words and deeds.