Traditions radiating from the Tradition

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Tradition and traditions

“The praise due the act of tradition only makes sense when what is preserved and will continue to be preserved through the generations is what is truly worth preserving. That is the point of young people’s doubting question. Why is it, they ask, that a duty has been violated, if we simply let what has been handed down rest on its laurels, so that we can say, think, and do something totally different?

“We can only hope that someone hears this radical question and gives an existentially believable and equally radical answer, “the” answer that goes to the heart of things: that among the many things that are more or less worth preserving and may have been accumulated as “tradition,” there is in the last analysis only one traditional good that it is absolutely necessary to preserve unchanged, namely the gift that is received and handed on in the sacred tradition.

“I say “necessary” because this tradition comes from a divine source; because each generation needs it for a truly human existence; because no people and no brilliant individual can replace it on their own or even add anything valid to it.” (Josef Pieper, Tradition, p. 35, 2010)

Ignatians, loyal to their Catholic identity, ground their thought and action on Catholic Tradition, the “immutable rule of truth” (St. Irenaeus), the guarantor of fidelity to the truths of Divine Revelation contained in Sacred Scripture and Oral Tradition, on the basis of which, as the supreme rule of faith, Tradition’s instrument, the Magisterium, has the moral obligation to make decisions.

The chief containers in which divine Tradition has been preserved are the creeds, the liturgy, the writings of the Fathers of the Church, and the practice of the Church.

This practice of the Church over the course of 2,000 years, containing liturgical, devotional, ascetical-mystical and disciplinary customs, constitutes the venerable “traditions” of the Church’s glorious history.

The Role of Traditions: Empowering Men to Think and Live Coherently with Ease their Catholic Identity

Although this cultural patrimony of traditions is distinct from the Tradition, it is nevertheless intimately connected with it because, through the action of the Holy Spirit in the saints, great Catholic minds, and the sensus fidei of the masses of Catholic faithful, century after century, it has flowed forth from Tradition as expressions, fragrance, ‒ and armor.

Thus, traditions have preserved Tradition in the minds and hearts of the faithful in its pristine purity – guarding it, expressing it, enlivening and invigorating it through the centuries. They are the texts, rituals and customs empowering a Catholic to think and live coherently with ease the truths of the Catholic Faith.

Foremost among traditions is the sacred liturgy since “lex orandi, lex credendi” (the law of prayer is the law of the truths to be assented to in faith). It is in the public prayer of the Church that one readily discovers the Church’s truths, as many a convert to the Faith has demonstrated.  It is the liturgy that is, for the majority of Catholics, the sole regular form of contact he has with the truths of Catholicism. Wise popes have always recognized this.

“That these blessings may be abundant and lasting in Christian society, it is necessary that the kingship of our Savior should be as widely as possible recognized and understood, and to the end nothing would serve better than the institution of a special feast in honor of the Kingship of Christ.

“For people are instructed in the truths of faith, and brought to appreciate the inner joys of religion far more effectually by the annual celebration of our sacred mysteries than by any official pronouncement of the teaching of the Church.

“Such pronouncements usually reach only a few and the more learned among the faithful; feasts reach them all; the former speak but once, the latter speak every year – in fact, forever. The church’s teaching affects the mind primarily; her feasts affect both mind and heart, and have a salutary effect upon the whole of man’s nature.

“Man is composed of body and soul, and he needs these external festivities so that the sacred rites, in all their beauty and variety, may stimulate him to drink more deeply of the fountain of God’s teaching, that he may make it a part of himself, and use it with profit for his spiritual life.” (Pope Pius XI, Quas Primas, 1925, n. 21)

The Tradition of Liturgy Must Be Conservative because it Must Conserve

Thus, liturgy by its very nature has to be “conservative”: it has to guard vigilantly the treasures of the divine and therefore unchanging truths and ensure that their meaning is never sullied by the fleeting fashions of the centuries.

“In every sacred tradition the real agens [agent of transmission] is the concern to prevent the loss or corruption of what was entrusted to mankind once upon a time ‘in the days of old’ through divine revelation. In addition, it must be handed down to the coming generations identically, as itself.

“One needs only to consider this fact for a moment to see how silly it is to measure the Church by the demands of ‘progressivism’. This demand belongs nowadays to the ‘confusion of the century’ about which Pascal too speaks.

“It consists in not making necessary distinctions, in measuring an institution founded explicitly for preservation with the same standard of judgment as the institutions of scientific research and the technological conquest of the natural world.

“It belongs, in fact, to the nature of these latter institutions for the sake of always progressing research into physical reality that they must surpass, correct, and even sacrifice what is already known.

“Of course, the tradita too have an unceasing need for interpretation and reformulation in order really to reach each new generation. (We have already talked about this at some length.)

“This process, however, by its nature has the character of “translation”, and we can only speak about translation, as everybody knowns, as long as the identity of the original text exists and remains preserved.” ( Josef Pieper, Tradition, p. 50)

The instrument of valid interpretation of Tradition and traditions is the magisterium of the Church (the Roman pontiff and the bishops united with and subordinate to him) who must, however, always interpret in the light of, and in conformity to, the history of tradition which is the expression of the entire Church’s interpretation, respecting the sensus fidelium. No ecclesiastic or council may ever morally go against Tradition.

As Pope Benedict XVI stated with regard to the free enactment of the ancient form of the Roman Rite of the Mass: what was once sacred remains forever sacred.

Or, as Robert De Plante stated with regard to upholding the classic Roman liturgy:

“What Catholics once were, we are.

If we are wrong, then Catholics through the ages have been wrong.

We are what you once were.

We worship as you once worshipped.

If we are wrong now, you were wrong then.

If you were right then, we are right now.”