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Maintaining the Fire

I know a Catholic priest who has a strong distaste for tradition. No, he would not describe it this way. Instead, he would say that the new traditions of the last 50 years are better than the older ones from the previous 2000 years (I guess maybe that is a new definition of "tradition"?). I doubt there are many Catholics (if any) that would openly say that they reject all tradition. Yes, there are those who speak disdainfully of the historic traditions of the Church, but even they would admit that they like the new traditions they have created (even the rejection of tradition appears to be a new tradition!).

The issue then is not whether we want tradition, but whether we believe that Tradition (with a capital "T") can or should be changed. How we view tradition makes all the difference. Those who reject the ancient Tradition of the Church, do so because they believe that those practices are "old" and "out-dated". They see them as needing to be updated (as though the very idea of updating was automatically OK).

There are times that the Church has needed to update things. Centuries ago, the Church realized that very few people could speak Greek anymore, so they needed to translate many of the things the Church did into Latin (which was the common language of the day). Thus, the Mass, the Daily Offices, the Scriptures, all these things were translated into Latin; thus they were updated--but they were not changed in the modern sense of updating.

Tradition is not the worship of ashes, but the maintaining of the fire. Many see things like reverence, communion on the tongue, veils, Gregorian chant, etc., as just the ashes of the past, and they want to get rid of them. If we see the traditions of the Church, and her authoritative Traditions as something handed to us to keep, protect, and hand on to the next generation, then we will see the importance of maintaining the fire. We will stoke it, add fuel to it with beauty that is consistent with the past, and tell our children: "Here is the fire that I was given. Keep it burning, because you will be asked by God someday how faithful you were to it."


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