Tradition and Innovation

Wisdom from Yves Congar, as compiled by Brother Emile of Taize in his Faithful to the Future (43):

“The problems of the fifth century and the resources of Augustine are not those of the third century and Hippolytus; the problems of the thirteenth century and the resources of Thomas Aquinas are not those of the fifth century and Augustine. Today we find ourselves equipped with resources that are new again and faced with problems and possibilities as yet unknown.”

“The Church of today is the Church of all time. But the Church of all time is the Church of today in that she adapts her forms of life and activity to the requirements of today.”

“The old sap, still living, brings life to a new tree. It is not simply a repetition of the old, like a new impression of an old record; it is an original expression, clothed in new vocabulary; the old, belonging to eternity, is indeed repeated, but not in its former state; deployed in reply to new problems, it uses new resources drawn from a given period, fashioned by human activity.”

He traced the living nature of tradition to the fact that it is passed from living person to living person in time: “The p[reservation of identity, because it is faithfulness within time – which changes everything – is different from the ‘repetition of the same thing, which repeats itself becoming distorted in the process.’ It is the perpetual youthfulness and vitality of Jesus Christ, lived out and made actual by new contributions and by the constant series of questions which demand of our fidelity a new response.”

Congar approvingly quoted from Balthasar: “In order to remain faithful to itself and its mission, the Church must continually make an effort at creative invention. Paul had to be inventive in order to cope with the problem of the Gentiles who were obliged to enter a Church that was heir to the Synagogue. The same applies to the Greek Fathers in the face of Hellenistic culture, and also to Saint Thomas in the fact of Arabic philosophy and knowledge. We, indeed, for our part, must do the same in the face of the problems of our day.”

Wisdom for all Christians, not only for Catholics.

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