Bolton Abbey Parish Magazine
What’s your perspective?
Past put behind us, for the future take us:
Lord of our lives, to live for Christ alone.
Those familiar words from the hymn Lord for the years offer a conventional perspective on the passage of time: the future is what
lies before us; the past lies behind. But now try a thought experiment. Imagine taking a walk facing backwards. Having
overcome the obvious practical difficulties, the perspective you would have of your journey would be fundamentally different from
the conventional one. You would be able to see exactly where you had come from, but you would be unable to see where you were
going. In effect your past – the part of the journey you had already travelled – would be in front of you; your future – the part of the
journey you had yet to travel – would be behind you. As it happens this was precisely the perspective adopted by the ancient Greeks:
their word for ‘the future’ literally translates as ‘what lies behind’; their word for ‘the past’ literally translates as ‘what lies in front’.
Since the past is all we know of our lives (after all, none of us can know the future), the perspective of the ancient Greeks makes a good deal of sense.
As humans we are used to the idea that time flows in a straight line, whichever direction we are facing. The sum of human history is
constituted by particular events that have happened along that line and which are, we say, in the past. But Maundy Thursday, which falls
at the end of this month, reminds us that each time we celebrate the Eucharist together we are invited to step into God’s time. We recall a
past event: the Last Supper; we bring that event into the present through the sharing of bread and wine; and we look forward to the
time when God will unite earth and heaven at the end of this present age. Past, present, and future as one
eternal dimension: that’s God’s perspective. May it be ours as well.
With prayers and best wishes,