Tradition

Eucharist“Tradition.” It’s a word that turns many people away. But I think that is because people often confuse it with “traditionalism.” As someone pointed out, tradition is the living faith of dead people, while traditionalism is the dead faith of living people.

In fact, when we gather for Eucharist every Sunday those who are celebrating are not only the ones who visibly amble up to the altar, but also participating are members of what is called the Church Triumphant.

Psalm 78 is a good example. Israel is to pass on (tradition) the stories of God’s faithfulness to succeeding generations. And in 1 Corinthians 11:23 Paul introduces the words often used in the Lord’s Supper 2000 years later by beginning, “I received from the Lord what I tradition to you . . . .”

Holy Trinity Church—indeed, all of Christianity would not be alive today if it were not for tradition—if it were not for faithful disciples of Christ passing on the Faith.

In fact, when we gather for Eucharist every Sunday those who are celebrating are not only the ones who visibly amble up to the altar, but also participating are members of what is called the Church Triumphant—the “great cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1). As G. K. Chesterton once said, tradition is just democracy spread out over time; just because the faithful departed are not ambulatory and breathing does not mean they do not get to have a voice.

I am reminded of these folks when I visit the L. A. Cathedral and see the tapestries on the walls depicting saints of all times facing the altar with folded hands, worshipping with those who are sitting in the pews.

One way these members of the Christian church have a voice is through their writings. And they are no more difficult to understand than, say, Max Lucado, and sometimes they are more insightful. Here are suggestions to get started hearing these voices: Gregory of Nyssa, Sermons on the Beatitudes (InterVarsity Press, 2012); Bonaventure, The Life of St. Francis (HarperOne, 2005); Basil the Great, On Social Justice (St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2009).

Happy listening to the living faith of dead people!

 – Dennis Okholm