Do you hear the song, Tradition, from Fiddler on the Roof, when you think about tradition? I do! Tevya asks the question, “How do we keep our balance?” and then says, “I can tell you in one word, tradition!” I think as Catholics that’s how we keep our balance as well. We have many traditions that make up our faith, the important ones, the Traditions that all Catholics hold to be true and the other traditions that vary by time and place and interest.
Sacred Tradition is the living transmission of the entirety of revelation by the successors of the apostles under the guidance and protection of the Holy Spirit. As a Church, we consider Sacred Scripture and Tradition to be the “Deposit of Faith” through which God reveals himself and his will for us. Jesus Christ is the fullness of revelation. The last piece is the Magisterium, the teaching office of the Church, consisting of the Pope and bishops in communion with him, which through the power of the Holy Spirit guards and communicates the deposit of faith.
So now that we’ve gotten some terms and basic understanding down, what are the Traditions of the Church? They are the things which as Catholics, we believe to be true. Traditions are binding. They are the truths which make us Catholic. They are doctrines which have been passed down and held true over centuries and centuries. Theologians may have refined or explained more about them, but they have not changed.
Many of our Traditions are found in the Apostles Creed and Nicene Creed. Here is a list and brief explanation of some Traditions:
- The Trinity: Father, Son, Holy Spirit in One God
- Jesus Christ: True God and True Man
- Purgatory: A place of final purification before entering heaven.
- The Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist: Jesus is fully present, Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity in the consecrated Bread and Wine. Once the bread and wine are consecrated, He remains present.
- Immaculate Conception: Mary was conceived without sin
- Assumption of Mary: Mary was taken into Heaven, body and soul
Through Tradition, “the Church, in her doctrine, life and worship, perpetuates and transmits to every generation all that she herself is, all that she believes” (CCC 78).
Besides Sacred Tradition we have other traditions which do change over time and vary by culture; those traditions are how we express our faith and beliefs. Some examples of these are:
- posture at Mass
- praying the Rosary
- the Advent wreath
- wearing a crucifix, religious medal or scapular
- Eucharistic Adoration
- Marian Processions
Our Traditions and traditions come together in how we live our lives every day. Celebrating Holy Days, worshiping together, praying with our families, receiving the Eucharist, reading scripture and loving Jesus. All of this comes together, through the centuries, reminding us that we have Traditions that hold and sustain us, guiding us to love and serve God, helping to build up and bring about the Kingdom of God. How we do that looks different depending on who we are and our gifts and opportunities. Traditions that don’t change remind me how the Church has stood for over 2,000 years proclaiming the Truth. I pray that we continue to speak Truth and bring life to all.