[Ed. God is outside the realm of creation, outside our concept of time. This is fatal and all to common, Stephen Hawking et al, flaw many thinkers make, trying to reason about God within creation, which He is not. He is transcendent.]
“The saints in heaven all speak the same language, and they favor one tense for their verbs: the present tense. Safe from all threat of sin and defection, they sing in the eternal now of the divine glory: “To Him Who sits upon the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might for ever and ever” (Rev 5:13). The saints live forever in the ‘today’ of heaven, sharing in the eternal life of He Who Is (Exod 3:14).
Here on earth, we too must hear God’s voice “today” and in the present moment (see Ps 95:7). This is the only real time available to us. As Saint Augustine observed, the future “is not as yet,” and the past “now is not” (Confessions, XI, 14). The present is the most real of times, and therefore the most heavenly.
However, only God can fully claim the eternal present for Himself because He alone simply is. For our part, we are either wayfarers in the world, longing for future happiness, or former wayfarers marked by our past decisions. Consequently, the grammar of human speech is always more complex. The blessed pray in the present tense, but because of their time on earth even they preface their sentences with past counterfactual conditions. A brief word on grammar will help us understand this significant point.
Counterfactuals give a false hypothetical scenario and then say what would have happened if that scenario had been real. If the train had been delayed, then he would have been late. If she had studied German, then she would have known what they were saying. If sentence diagrams brought great joy to our childhood, then we would not need these examples.
The saints, precisely because they are not the eternal God, always use their own counterfactual condition, as the psalms reveal:
If it had not been the Lord Who was on our side,
let Israel now say—
if it had not been the Lord Who was on our side (Ps 124:1-2).
By imagining a world without divine aid, the Psalmist vividly recalls God’s real and constant action for His people. If God had not been on Israel’s side, then her enemies would have “swallowed” her “alive”; the “raging waters” would have drowned her (Ps 124:3-5). But, thanks be to God, this premise is pure fiction: Israel’s “help is in the name of the Lord, Who made heaven and earth” (Ps 124:8).
The Church uses this same construction whenever she marvels at the gift of grace. All that we know and do by nature depends radically on God, in whom “we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). But grace elevates us still further, to live and act in an order entirely above our nature. Without grace, we could never love God with the love of charity, and we could never merit everlasting life. This supernatural life is our gratuitous participation in the life of the triune God (see 2 Pet 1:4). Jesus preached about this divine generosity when He offered His own counterfactual to the Samaritan woman: “If you knew the gift of God, and Who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water” (John 4:10).
Jesus Himself is the living water and the gift of God (John 7:37-39). The saints know perfectly this divine gift. They acknowledge that their present glory rests on the reality of God’s saving grace during their earthly lives. We depend upon and can sing about this same divine help, just as the saints did and do. Whenever we strive in our “today” to go up and join them in the new Jerusalem, may we, like them, remember that God has been “on our side.”
Summa Catechetica, "Neque enim quaero intelligere ut credam, sed credo ut intelligam." – St Anselm, "“Si comprehendus, non est Deus.” -St Augustine, "Let your religion be less of a theory, and more of a love affair." -G.K. Chesterton, "And above all, be on your guard not to want to get anything done by force, because God has given free will to everyone and wants to force no one, but only proposes, invites and counsels." –St. Angela Merici, “Yet such are the pity and compassion of this Lord of ours, so desirous is He that we should seek Him and enjoy His company, that in one way or another He never ceases calling us to Him . . . God here speaks to souls through words uttered by pious people, by sermons or good books, and in many other such ways.” —St. Teresa of Avila, "I want a laity, not arrogant, not rash in speech, not disputatious, but men and women who know their religion, who enter into it, who know just where they stand, who know what they hold and what they do not, and who know their creed so well that they can give an account of it."- Bl John Henry Newman, Cong. Orat., "We cannot always have access to a spiritual Father for counsel in our actions and in our doubts, but reading will abundantly supply his place by giving us directions to escape the illusions of the devil and of our own self-love, and at the same time to submit to the divine will.” —St. Alphonsus Ligouri, "The harm that comes to souls from the lack of reading holy books makes me shudder . . . What power spiritual reading has to lead to a change of course, and to make even worldly people enter into the way of perfection." –St. Padre Pio, "Screens may grab our attention, but books change our lives!" – Word on Fire, "Reading has made many saints!" -St Josemaría Escrivá, "Do you pray? You speak to the Bridegroom. Do you read? He speaks to you." —St. Jerome, from his Letter 22 to Eustochium, "Encounter, not confrontation; attraction, not promotion; dialogue, not debate." -cf Pope Francis, "God here speaks to souls through…good books“ – St Teresa of Avila, Interior Castle, "You will not see anyone who is really striving after his advancement who is not given to spiritual reading. And as to him who neglects it, the fact will soon be observed by his progress.” -St Athanasius, "To convert someone, go and take them by the hand and guide them." -St Thomas Aquinas, OP. 1 saint ruins ALL the cynicism in Hell & on Earth. “When we pray we talk to God; when we read God talks to us…All spiritual growth comes from reading and reflection.” -St Isidore of Seville, “Also in some meditations today I earnestly asked our Lord to watch over my compositions that they might do me no harm through the enmity or imprudence of any man or my own; that He would have them as His own and employ or not employ them as He should see fit. And this I believe is heard.” -GM Hopkins, SJ, "Only God knows the good that can come about by reading one good Catholic book." — St. John Bosco, "Why don't you try explaining it to them?" – cf St Peter Canisius, SJ, Doctor of the Church, Doctor of the Catechism, "Already I was coming to appreciate that often apologetics consists of offering theological eye glasses of varying prescriptions to an inquirer. Only one prescription will give him clear sight; all the others will give him at best indistinct sight. What you want him to see—some particular truth of the Faith—will remain fuzzy to him until you come across theological eye glasses that precisely compensate for his particular defect of vision." -Karl Keating, "The more perfectly we know God, the more perfectly we love Him." -St Thomas Aquinas, OP, ST, I-II,67,6 ad 3, “But always when I was without a book, my soul would at once become disturbed, and my thoughts wandered." —St. Teresa of Avila, "Let those who think I have said too little and those who think I have said too much, forgive me; and let those who think I have said just enough thank God with me." –St. Augustine, "Without good books and spiritual reading, it will be morally impossible to save our souls." —St. Alphonsus Liguori "Never read books you aren't sure about. . . even supposing that these bad books are very well written from a literary point of view. Let me ask you this: Would you drink something you knew was poisoned just because it was offered to you in a golden cup?" -St. John Bosco " To teach in order to lead others to faith is the task of every preacher and of each believer." —St. Thomas Aquinas, OP. "Prayer purifies us, reading instructs us. Both are good when both are possible. Otherwise, prayer is better than reading." –St. Isidore of Seville “The aid of spiritual books is for you a necessity.… You, who are in the midst of battle, must protect yourself with the buckler of holy thoughts drawn from good books.” -St. John Chrysostom