Windsor Castle, Private Rooms

Yesterday I visited Windsor Castle, somewhere I have always wanted to see. It is the largest inhabited castle in the world and the spiritual home of our current ruling house. Soldiers in red tunics and bearskins guarded key points, while collections of ancient swords and muskets were stylishly arranged on every wall, and busts and portraits of royal figures peered down. Windsor is said to be the Queen’s favourite home, a weekend retreat from the hustle of central London and formal duties. It was there she spent the war, safely away from German bombs, and where the family's love of rural pursuits can be enjoyed without being too far from the office. We walked through St George’s Hall, that huge dining room where state banquets are held; St George’s Chapel where her grandson was recently married and husband now lies buried; various galleries and drawing rooms in which ambassadors and dignitaries might be received. Yet these rooms were not where she lives. These are state rooms, areas set aside for pomp and show. She really lives across the upper ward, in the royal apartments. These are strictly private, not a part of the tour. Here she unwinds and relaxes, wearing those rather fetching granny cardigans and tartans skirts. I could only gaze across the courtyard and imagine the rooms she really occupies.

Perhaps this is like our looking into the skies. We can see the gigantic fireballs we call stars, the huge expanse of space with its planets, meteors and galaxies. With powerful telescopes, we can draw close to the heavens. Yet through no lens can we behold the very presence chamber of God, the cosmos’ Maker and sovereign Lord. His dwelling place is beyond our view.

Thus says God the Lord, Who created the heavens and stretched them out, Who spread forth the earth and that which comes from it, Who gives breath to the people on it, And spirit to those who walk on it. Isaiah 42:5

These unseen heavens, even more majestic and awesome than the huge orbiting spheres and astounding strokes of distant light, can only be seen by those whom God invites. This week, I was a curious, ticket-carrying visitor to a huge palace.  No summons to the private apartments came, no intimacy was shared. Yet the Great King of heaven makes this offer to His people, that they move beyond the visible to the invisible, from the public universe of atoms and molecules to the private realms of the spirit and divine fellowship.

One thing I have desired of the Lord,

That will I seek:

That I may dwell in the house of the Lord

All the days of my life,

To behold the beauty of the Lord,

And to inquire in His temple.

For in the time of trouble

He shall hide me in His pavilion;

In the secret place of His tabernacle

He shall hide me;

He shall set me high upon a rock. (Psalm 27)