Why Tradition?

Andrea Mategna

Why is fidelity to Catholic Tradition the best manner of understanding the Faith? In a Church into which the fullness of all the means of salvation has been entrusted by Christ our Lord, which even today retains all the treasures of grace willed by God for the world, of what importance is it for us to maintain a living connection to certain historical, liturgical and spiritual traditions from bygone ages?  Is this not just nostalgic antiquarianism? When Christ warned us to beware of "traditions of men" (Mark 7:8), what necessity is there in turning to Tradition as the most fitting response to the crises in the modern Church and world?

The Value of Tradition

Catholic Tradition has an eternal value because it is nothing else than the fullness of faith, entrusted "once and for all to the saints" (Jude 1:3). Our Tradition is everything handed on to us from our ancestors - liturgy, spirituality, writings, attitudes, even a collective consciousness of certain historic events and their consequences. Furthermore, within this Tradition Christ Himself is present, He who "walks among the seven lamp stands" (Rev. 2:1), guiding the Church through the Holy Spirit. Our fathers in faith, in handing us this Tradition, handed on everything we needed to know about God, Christ and the Faith. Everything we need for our salvation is found within this Tradition, in such a way that our Faith needs nothing brought in to it from the outside. This is because the Tradition points us to a Person - Jesus Christ Himself.

The Catholic Tradition, in all its fullness and splendor, is also the most powerful tool of evangelization we have. It is a paradox: the Faith is what we want to bring people to, but the Faith is also the tool that we use to bring people to the Faith. The Faith is Truth, and when we fearlessly teach the truth, it has a power behind it; a power that Pope Benedict XVI says “is not only informative but performative" (Spe Salvi, 2). The Catholic Tradition is like a lion: all we have to do to solve the problems in our Church and world is to simply let it out of the cage and leave the Holy Spirit free to work; then it can take care of itself. The problem is, too many priests and bishops of our day, even those within the Magisterium, are fearful of letting this lion out of its cage.

How beautiful the Faith of the Fathers is! How interesting and majestic, imbued with the grace and power to transform lives and purify souls! How beautiful is the Mass, celebrated in its ancient solemnity, replete with august prayers in the Latin tongue, sublime Gregorian chant and the elect on heaven and earth gathered around the altar to celebrate the mystery of our redemption. The Mass is our Faith acted out; by attending Mass, especially in the Extraordinary Form, one does not simply learn about the articles of the faith but lives and experiences the Faith; it is inhaled and basked in, culminating in the great Mystery of the altar.

Thus, the Traditional Catholic Faith, the Faith as it was understood and lived by the Fathers, Doctors and Saints, retains of permanent value to our individual formation and our collective worship of God. This is the value of tradition, and why we believe that any authentic reform in the Catholic Church must be centered on restoring our hallowed Traditions.