“One of the most dangerous errors is that civilization is automatically bound to increase and spread. The lesson of history is the opposite; civilization is a rarity, attained with difficulty and easily lost. The normal state of humanity is barbarism, just as the normal surface of the planet is salt water. Land looms large in our imagination and civilization in history books, only because sea and savagery are to us less interesting.” — C. S. Lewis
The essential role of Tradition shines more clearly under the Dictatorship of Relativism.
It becomes clearer that a sensitivity to Tradition is neither archaeologism nor a nostalgia for past customs but a determination to restore those customs that express and protect the living of the Natural Law, and, in the case of Catholics, of the Catholic Faith.
Accordingly, a Catholic traditionalist may not be identified with a social or political conservative. Whereas the intellectual foundations of the man of tradition are truths of the Natural Law and Divine Revelation found in their integrity within Catholicism, the conservative, although he may profess many of the same convictions such as the values of free enterprise and private property, does not justify his stand on Truth, on the truth of the Natural Law and of the Catholic Faith.
Without this integrally intellectual coherent reasoning for values, conservatives build on the shaky foundations of the zeitgeist (the prevailing spirit of the times), emotional attachment to certain customs and patterns of behavior, and reticence in the face of change. Thus, as has been shown so clearly in recent politics, they are as changeable as the weather.
Tradition on the other hand liberates its followers from criteria that are often emotional, sentimental, or based on political ideologies seeking power and social control.
It empowers the Catholic to rationally and effectively choose the true, the good, and the beautiful in what history and his contemporaries present to him.
Tradition: The Lighthouse Identifying “our new old Enemies”
“I believe we can profit,” wrote Lieutenant-Colonel Ralph Peters, “from the study of the classical texts as never before. The veneer of civilization, so recent and fragile, is being stripped from much of the world. The old problems are today’s problems – and tomorrow’s. If we want to know ‘Who is our enemy?’ we must look within.” (Ralph Peters, Lines of Fire: A Renegade Writes on Strategy, Intelligence, and Security, 2011, p. 53)
To look within however we need a sure guide with strong enough light to enable us fallen men to avoid self-deception. Neither the Greco-Roman classics and the rest of the great classical literature of the West nor wide reading of history can by themselves enlighten us enough to pinpoint the strategies of man’s ancient enemies – Satan, man’s gravitational pull toward egotism, and the social structures impregnated by man’s evil.
We need more than mere facts. We need more than mere morality. We must have the ultimate meaning for the cosmos, for man’s existence on Earth, and the purpose of all human activity. Only Catholic Tradition will answer these questions coherently on the basis of Divine Revelation and the use of human reason liberated by sanctifying grace.
Thus, Tradition empowers us to stay alert living the Master’s maxim “Watch and pray”(Lk.21:29).