My family in Christ,
“When He had come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed Him. And behold a leper came and worshipped Him, saying, ‘Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.’ Then Jesus put out His hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed.’ Immediately his leprosy was cleansed.” (Matthew 8:1-3 NKJV)
(See, Jesus heals a leper | Bible Study Resource Centre)
During the first few years of this century, God blessed me by allowing me to worship Him in an Anglican church which dates back to the 11th century . It was such an amazing time! The church was small but architecturally beautiful, set within an enchanting graveyard. By ‘small‘ I mean that yes, compared to 20th century standards, the church looked, from the outside, to be a bit cramped. Inside one’s pre-conceptions were proved to be right, but I felt this enabled the congregation to enjoy a familial intimacy.
One of the things that my eyes were always drawn to was a small transparent, rectangular window which was situated next to the font. Through this one had a clear view of the altar. Indeed I still think about this a lot. Like a lot of things inherited from the past, however, its true reason for being is debatable. I think there were 2 possible explanations for this:
- it was there for lepers (they could watch the priests carrying out the holy mass while keeping away from the congregation and the clergy), and
- it was there for a recluse to see the service while maintaining their separation from the world .
I think that when considering the first suggestion, one has to ask whether it would have been possible for 2 or more people to have looked through the window at the same time. On the other hand, would such considerations have been taken into acount at the time? I prefer the latter explanation, but then again I am one of those children of God who prefer to take account of the lives of those who lived apart from society for the sake of developing a greater spiritual relationship with God .
But I suggest a third option (although it is possible that this idea was floating around at the time). It is possible I think that although the original intention of the window was for lepers to look upon salvific acts of worship , the changing religious habits in society meant that recluses  took over the use of the window. It may also have been possible that with the advance of medical knowledge (or even a great willingness to completely rely on the providence of God) that both lepers and recluses shared this facility – even if not at the same time!
God’s love, which is far more merciful and compassionate than earthly social values, is and always has been for all. And I honestly think its wonderful that the Church did not turn its back on those which society did (or even those who separated themselves from the worldly elements in society). Likewise, although different people may perceive it differently, all people present in a place of worship in a sense may experience the same vision of our Great Father, and it’s fantastic that those who were usually parted from societyfolk in their day-to-day life could come together to joyfully sing:
God bless you.
 Although obviously this spent 400-500 years as a Roman Catholic place of worship.
 Alongside the latter explanation goes the suggestion that the window was connected to a wooden box in which the recluse would sit in order that they eyes and ears could not accidentally see or hear worldly persons.
 I also find the lives of the Carthusians pretty remarkable. They greatly appreciate the benefits of such a lifestyle, although they also understand the spiritual beautiful and empowerment of sharing a life in common.
 To let those excluded from society know that they are indeed children of God!
 For example, Simeon of Syracus, Julian of Norwich and Theophan the Recluse.