The Windows by George Herbert

George Herbert (1593-1633)

Lord, how can man preach thy eternal word?
He is a brittle crazy glass:
Yet in thy temple thou dost him afford
This glorious and transcendent place,
To be a window, through thy grace.

George Herbert was a poet, preacher and priest. In ‘The Windows’, he says that ministers, preachers, are like windows…

Brittle, crazy… 400 years ago crazy meant damaged… Herbert’s preacher has flaws and faults – he’s brittle and crazy glass that preaches God’s ‘eternal word’.

Stained-glass windows… Beautiful works of art, carefully, skilfully constructed, there for all to see…

Ministers are there on show. Their lives are on public display. ‘A picture speaks a thousand words…’ The minister’s stained-glass window speaks louder than the words he preaches.

Transparent windows… We look at stained-glass windows; we look through plain-glass windows.

Ministers need transparency. We see through the minister’s words and actions… looking for a consistent life of truth, justice, hope, compassion, faith…

Light… Windows require light. In darkness windows have no purpose… Light shows up the brittle, crazy flaws, the beauty of the stained-glass, the world outside the plain-glass window.

Herbert’s minister would know… Jesus said, ‘I am the light of the world’… and to his followers: ‘You are the light of the world’…

Ministers are the transmitter of God’s light… they’re light in themselves… they’re the window the light shines on…

Ministers… The Latin word ‘minister’ means servant… it’s the root of the words ‘minus’ and ‘minor’… implying inferior, subordinate… requiring humility. Ministers of religion… also ministers to the sick, ministers of politics…  may be leaders but essentially they’re servants.

Musing… It’s about me! I’m the brittle, crazy ‘minister’ who seeks to serve with humility… the stained glass window on display for all to see… needing the transparent integrity that brings light into darkness.

My faith points to God choosing to filter the light of his grace through my fragile, flawed window to those around me.

Praying… I’m a beautiful, useful window… not just a real pane…

2 thoughts on “The Windows by George Herbert

  1. I read this yesterday and was thrilled to see my favourite poet. I first ‘met’ dear George in English Literature class at Bishop Lonsdale College, and I fell in love with him and his poems. Mrs Goon (not sure that was her name) taught the class on the metaphysical poets and it was obvious she thought George’s poems were amazing. I often read his poems – they are a real treasure. So thanks Malcolm, for musing on one of George’s poems!


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