September 15, 2019 – Ruminations by Fr. Pat

When looking at the Sacraments and Sacramentals, there is a term that we need to understand. The word is “tradition.” In Church circles we use that term a great deal. “It’s Traditional” people say. “It’s always been our tradition” When we use this term, it is very important to recognize the difference between using it with a capital “T” and using it with a small “t”. In the language of the Church, such a small difference can be critical to understanding the teaching of Jesus to the teaching of humans.

    When we use Tradition with a capital “T”, we are talking about the Teachings of Jesus and the Church. It is what we call the Deposit of Faith. The Tradition of the Church is all the Teachings and Understandings that were handed down generation after generation from the very Beginning. St Paul told the Thessalonians: Therefore, brothers, stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught, either by an oral statement or by a letter of ours. The Sacraments are Tradition, Scripture is Tradition. Tradition is the “meat,” of what we believe.

    On the other hand, “tradition” with a small “t” is a different story. Being traditional in this sense is looking at the various customs that we have used over the years. When a family says “we are very traditional,” this notion is what they mean. We have Christmas and Easter traditions that we do year after year. Birthday, Anniversary celebrations – these cover the word tradition. Tradition with a small “t” are how we express those teachings handed down.

    Using Church examples, let me give a small visual. The Celebration of Mass is both Traditional and traditional. The whole notion of Mass is Traditional because it came from Christ Himself. The Sacrifice of the Mass started at the Last Supper with the Commandment, do this in Memory of Me. How we CELEBRATE Mass falls under tradition. The meat of the Mass is our Reception of Holy Communion and our uniting with Christ. The language of the Church – English language, music, how we hold our hands in prayer (folded or lifted up) – this falls under the realm of tradition.

    Tradition with a capital “T” can never change; it is what has been handed to us by God, Himself. Tradition with a small “t” can definitely change. Using Latin vs English. Using Contemporary Music vs Gregorian Chant. These human elements can change over time. They only compliment what the Teachings being lived truly are, the Presence of Christ. Mass celebrated in the First Century was totally different than what we pray now. But it is still the Mass. The core teachings are the same; the expressions are not.


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