So then, our friends, stand firm and hold on to those traditions which we taught you, both in our preaching and in our letter.
– 2 Thessalonians 2:15
Tradition. Tradition is an absolutely essential part of the Christian faith. It is one of the highest authorities we have as a community of Jesus followers. Any professor of Christianity would refer to a three legged stool of authority for the Christian faith: The Bible, Tradition, and Reason. Upon these three things, it has been traditionally been held, our faith sits upon. Now I have some serious disagreements with this model. I would say there is a four legged stool, the fourth leg being “Experience”. But that’s beside the point. The reality is that for most evangelical Christians, there stool only has two legs: The Bible and Reason. This is a sad reality because in this thinking, we have become afraid of any and all things that look “religious”, “mystic”, or “catholic”. And as we have reduced our faith to this modernistic approach, we have lost nearly all of the richness, broadness, and mysteriousness of our faith. It has become black and white. Sing songs, pray prayers, read the bible, go home. That is our faith.
But I want to propose that Paul, Peter, Clement, Justin Martyr, and all of the other Christians that lived from 30 A.D. to about 1650 would not recognize our version of Christianity and would probably be highly offended and in direct opposition to all we do in our worship services. I know thats a bold statement. But it’s true. The problem is that we Evangelicals have tunnel vision and tend to think that our way is the way and that most Christians are just like us. But nothing is further from the truth. The reality is the Western Evangelical non-traditional Christianity is the minority. We are the odd ones out. We are outnumbered by far by the number of Christians who attend churches and live lives based on Christian traditions such as Liturgy, The Church Calendar, meditation and contemplation, Corporate Prayers, Eucharist, and the plethora of other practices that have been an essential part of the Christian faith.
Thankfully, God is working in the hearts of evangelicals who are growing weary of our disconnected, unrooted, and weak faith. We are seeing the value of the third leg of our stool and are putting it back in place firmly. We are coming back to tradition and we are realizing we are part of something much bigger than our megachurches. We are finding the mystic wonder of being connected and unified with millions upon millions of Christians around the world who are celebrating the same feast as us at the same time, who are partaking of the same Eucharist, praying the same prayers, and practicing the same practices. Tradition is a way to unite people to the past and future. We do it in our families and we are commanded to do it in the family of God. Tradition does not only enrich our corporate worship experience, but also deeply enhances our spiritual life and connectedness. That’s why Islam is generally so unified. Because for thousands of years, five times a day, Muslims from every nation of the earth prostrate towards one central location of the earth at the same time. What a powerful image. What a powerful tradition. What an amazing experience.
The traditions of our faith, such as the church calendar, cause us to contemplate, reflect, and journey deeper into our faith day by day and year by year. My prayer is that churches and individuals in the Evangelical world will wake up to the profound need for tradition as well as the direct command to observe both Scriptural and Oral Traditions of Christianity. This is what we Revangelicals are desiring. These are the types of Churches that are being planted. This is the future, and the past, of the Catholic Christian Faith.
In line with the flow of this post, let me end with a traditional Christian benediction to you:
The grace of the beneficence of your only-begotten son, our Lord, God and Saviour Jesus Christ are now fulfilled. We have confessed his saving passion, we have preached his death, we have believed in his resurrection, and the mystery is accomplished. We give thanks to you, O Lord God the Pantocrator for your mercy is great upon us, for you have prepared for us those things which the angels desire to behold. We ask and entreat your goodness, O Philanthropic One, that since you have purified us all, you join us unto Yourself, through our partaking of your divine mysteries. That we may become filled with your holy spirit with the longing for your true love, may we speak of your glory at all times, in Christ Jesus, our Lord, through whom the glory, the honour, the dominion, and the adoration are due unto you, is of one essence with you, now, and at all times and unto the age of all ages. Amen.
-Liturgy of St. Basil, 300 A.D.