Past Imperfect, Future Perfect

A Grammar Lesson?? 

As a kid, I was one of those weird ones who loved grammar.

Yes, I know. What does this have to do with the Ascension? Bear with me. 

This week we celebrate the Ascension, a major feast that offers an opportunity to review the past of Christ’s life, and the future of our life with him in the Father’s dwelling place. It is precisely those words expressing TIME that led me to today’s meditation.

When I studied (and later taught) Latin, I was introduced to verb tenses different from those  in our own English language. In Latin, something wasn’t simply past: it could be past imperfect, which meant that it continued over a period of time. On the other hand, past perfect expressed an action that was completely over and done with. For example,  “I was writing (imperfect) this post, when my pencil broke (perfect).”

[You’ll be relieved that I don’t plan to get into the more complex verb forms, such as pluperfect, future perfect and the subjunctive.]

Yes, we grammarians are weird, but as with everything in life, there’s a spiritual lesson to be discovered here. “In grammar??” you say, incredulously. Yes, even in grammar. After all, the Catechism tells us that “God is everywhere.” St. Ignatius teaches us to find God in all things, and Thérèse of Lisieux Open Bookclaimed that everything is a grace. Let me explain.

All of us live in the past imperfect tense, that is, in a state of continuous imperfection. Our past has not only continued to accumulate events every second and every hour of every day, but our handling of these events are more often than not glaringly imperfect, in the sense of flawed. It is these past imperfect/flawed events that weigh us down with negative feelings such as regret, guilt, self-recrimination, and blame. It is for this past that Christ’s forgiveness and the Sacrament of Reconciliation have been given to us. Dwelling on the imperfect moments of our past squanders both our physical and spiritual energy, and deprives us of the peace that Christ offers us.

Though ascended into heaven, Christ is still present with and in us. In Christ and in Christ alone, is the future truly perfect, since he has gone to prepare a place for us in his Father’s heavenly dwelling, so that where he is, we also shall be. This is our future perfect, our perfect future.

Where, then, will our imperfect past have gone? It has now become Past Perfect, for in the merciful mind of God it is not only past and forgiven; it is totally forgotten.

May we all one day ascend with Christ to our perfect, timeless eternity.