Three Windows

 

My office has five windows that look out on the world, each one giving me a different view. The window furthest to the north allows me to see who is walking down the path to my door, the window to its left provides a view of the parking lot. A window in the center opens to a large blue spruce where I get to enjoy the branch-to-branch flitting of wrens and finches. The window further left frames a tall cottonwood which I fear is struggling for life as it claims the daily attention of a flicker and a downy woodpecker, each of whom find daily nourishment under it’s bark. The window at the southern most extreme of the room gives view to two magnificent apple trees, pink and fragrant in spring, drooping with heavy yield in autumn. Since the area around my office is fairly small, I am, in truth getting different views of the same thing no matter which window I use.

I have used the windows in my office as an example in therapy, suggesting to clients that we get to choose the lens through which we look at the world. Insistent voices urge particular views upon us, demanding that we see humanity as irredeemable, or the world as teetering on the cusp of annihilation. Each day brings a new barrage of urgent calls to look: look at your diet, look at your blood pressure, look at how old your car is, look at the weeds in your lawn, look, look, look…

Of course, we choose where we look, and it goes without saying that we decide what we’re looking for. Some folks keep their eye on the mirror, others keep their eye on the Dow. Some look for advantage, others for position.

Like many others, I keep looking for that which is true, enduring, noble, ideal and I’m anxious to find the windows that afford me the best views.

Trinity Sunday has, in recent years, taken second place to the more marketable and less theologically challenging celebration of Pentecost. While the Church used to count its weeks for at least half a year as Sundays after Whitsun (it was the custom of folks to wear white on Trinity Sunday), we now mark the Sundays in the latter half of the year by their distance from the Sunday preceding Trinity Sunday.

Most folks have come to believe that the concept of the Trinity is too difficult for moderns to manage intellectually, at least in it’s originally crafted form by the talking heads of the Nicene and Lateran Councils. Just trying to sort out the subtleties of hypostases, co-equality, and consubstantiality seems daunting in a world that has difficulty attending to anything more complex than a Twitter feed. As a result, most people give up and slough off pat explanations in the “I’m a mother, a daughter, and a sister” vein.

While I do not claim any particular insight beyond that which has been attempted in the past by minds wiser than my own, I tend to focus my thinking in terms of windows.

There are many windows that allow us a view of things worth seeing. The three facets of Trinitarian thinking are simply windows that make sense to me. I would not suggest for an instant that they are the only ways that ultimates can be seen; simply that they provide a clear view that I can comprehend. The first and most obvious is the nature of creation itself – the cosmos breathes truth and insight about that which is ultimate, and St. Paul insisted that simply to look at the window of the universe is to know something about the Divine. For many, the life, teaching and self-sacrifice of a first century Jew is another authentic window into that which is the highest and best of human existence. Moments of astonishing connectivity and empowerment within the context of relationships offer yet a third window with astonishing views. Theological shorthand labels them Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier. Three windows, different views, same reality.

It should be noted, though, that unlike the strivings or aspirations of some spiritually or religiously minded people, each of these windows share some things in common. First, they all take place in time. Each of these views of ultimacy are found within the confines of human experience. Second, they all are accessible though human perception – none of them demand the development of extra-sensory skills to be experienced. Third, all are earth-bound, or incarnational. While there may be other windows that provide a clearer view of cosmic ultimacy for aliens on other worlds that SETI keeps searching for, one need not escape the bounds of our fragile little planet to see clearly into the highest and best and purest that can be seen by human eyes, grasped by human minds, felt by human hearts.

Three windows, three ways of seeing: What is under and through and behind all that is? What does a perfect life look like? Where does the ultimate touch the ordinary?

If it’s worth seeing, it can be seen right here by folks with everyday eyes, as long as they’re looking and want to see.