Sacred Tradition Is the Bride of Christ Dancing with Him Throughout History

Go to the Beginning of this Book Sola Scriptura or Prima Scriptura? (The Bible Alone or the Bible First?) – What Scripture Alone Testifies Concerning the Church as the Body of Christ Expressing Himself in Scripture, Tradition, and Magisterium:  The Biblical Basis for the Early Church’s Formal Repudiation of Heretics, Which Is the Biblical Basis for Refuting Modern Doctrinally Liberal Christianity Which Likewise Rejects or Doubts Traditional Christian Faith and Morality

Sacred Tradition Is the Bride of Christ Dancing with Him Throughout History.  Scripture and Tradition Are So Interdependent That the Bible Might Be Regarded as Tradition Written Down and Tradition Might Be Regarded as The Bible as Lived in Christian History. Tradition Is the Life of the Living Body of Christ the Church Passed on Through History (Including the Orthodox Interpretation of the Scriptures)

Sacred Tradition is understood as the living faith and whole practical experience of the Living Body of Christ, the Church, handed down (Latin: tradere [verb] or traditio [noun]) since Apostolic times.  This deserves explanation. Jesus never wrote a book, nor told His followers to wait for a book.  Instead, Jesus and His Apostles founded a living faith community (the Church), which they identified as mysteriously the Body of Christ Himself:  Jesus said to Saul, the persecutor of the Church, why do you persecute me?, Body of Christ then becoming the converted Apostle Paul’s favorite expression for the Church, along with the term Bride of Christ, which Paul relates together with Body in Ephesians 5:22-32, concluding that “this is a profound mystery, but I am speaking of Christ and the Church.” This living faith community of the Church, united to Christ as a Body to its Head [1] and animated by the Holy Spirit as the Soul of that Body, experienced the Living Presence of God, preached the truth revealed in the Person and work of Jesus and His promised Holy Spirit, fought heresies which undermined its saving faith, worshiped, modeled godly moral values and celebrated rituals like Baptism and Holy Communion in specific ways for decades before a few of the Apostles and their friends wrote down the documents of the New Testament to testify for future generations to the Truth revealed once for all in Jesus the Son of God (and for centuries before these documents were collected by the Church into the New Testament as we know it today)The full Truth of Jesus the Divine Word (John 1) cannot be comprehended by the merely human mind, much less be exhaustively expressed in mere words.  Written words can only testify to the awesome reality of a relationship with the Divine Living Word Jesus which must be lived and experienced by human beings.  This living relationship is passed on (tradere, traditio) within the (human) Church, as each generation of Christians personally introduces the next generation to the Word of God Incarnate in Jesus.

Moreover, much of the practically, physically lived Christian experience of this relationship (in worship, morality and ritual) does not lend itself to being written down and clearly is not described in exhaustive detail in the New Testament, but it is passed on by example to later generations of the Church as a heritage from Christ’s Holy Spirit-guided Apostles who founded the Church at His command.  One of the last-written books of the New Testament clearly states that even things which do lend themselves to being written down, like all the events in the life of Jesus and everything he preached, were not written down (John 21:24-25).  The living preaching of the Apostles before and after the various New Testament documents were written, providing the Apostolic interpretation of the Apostolic Scriptures along with the Apostolic interpretation of the Old Testament which had been taught to them by Jesus Himself who opened their minds to properly read it (Luke 24:44-45, see also verse 27), is all part of the complete living faith of the Christian community which is passed on in Sacred Tradition.  This primary, interpretive aspect of Apostolic Sacred Tradition was in fact historically the premier guard of the revealed truths of Christianity against the endless stream of heretical interpretations of Scripture Alone which cropped up within the Church starting even while the Apostles were still alive and never abating.

So the Catholic Church considers that Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition together form one Apostolic Deposit of the Christian faith laid down as a foundation for the Christian Church. [2] One Apostolic heritage as the norm of faith, transmitted in two modes, of which written Scripture is the supreme fixed norm, but which cannot do without the unwritten elements including the proper Apostolic interpretation of the Scriptures preserved in the whole Sacred Tradition, the lack of which leads to a multiplicity of contrary interpretations and heresies.  Also, Tradition as a rule precedes Scripture:  the oral Tradition of what Jesus said and did guided the Living Church for decades before some of it was written down in the Gospels (as Old Testament Israel was guided by the oral testimony of God’s actions in history passed on in oral Tradition sometimes for great stretches of time before that history was written down in Biblical books).  Therefore the two modes by which the Apostolic Deposit of Christian Faith are transmitted to us are so interdependent that Scripture might be regarded as Tradition written down and Tradition might be regarded as the Bible as lived in Christian history.

For us removed in time from the Apostles, much of the interpretive (and the practical) content of Apostolic Sacred Tradition is well testified to in the “Monuments of Tradition,” mainly the non-Apostolic writings of the Early Christian Church, starting with those Church leaders who were trained by the Apostles personally, who in each generation were forced to explain more precisely and defend the Apostolic Faith (and the Divine relationship) as it had been passed on to them against the heretics with their novel interpretations of Scripture Alone.  But these written Monuments of Tradition just confirm the essential conformity of our present lived experience in the Christian Church, loving and worshiping God, with that of those early Christians who passed this faith on to us (Latin: tradere) in a Living Sacred Tradition (Latin: traditio) within the Living Body of Christ the Church.  As written Scripture itself only testifies to the Divine Revelation of a Divine Person which is beyond the power of words to convey, so the other written Christian documents which are Monuments of Tradition only testify to a reality whose fullness cannot be expressed in words: the living faith experience of the Church, the Bride of Christ dancing with Him throughout history.  This is Tradition.

© 2003, 2006, 2011 Peter William John Baptiste, SFO

Go To Next Section The Magisterium (Teaching Office)-the Apostolic Authority to Settle Christian Disputes over Interpretation Passed on in the Living Body of Christ the Church in Order to Preserve Orthodoxy

Go to the Beginning of this Book Sola Scriptura or Prima Scriptura? (The Bible Alone or the Bible First?) – What Scripture Alone Testifies Concerning the Church as the Body of Christ Expressing Himself in Scripture, Tradition, and Magisterium:  The Biblical Basis for the Early Church’s Formal Repudiation of Heretics, Which Is the Biblical Basis for Refuting Modern Doctrinally Liberal Christianity Which Likewise Rejects or Doubts Traditional Christian Faith and Morality

 

Endnotes

[1] Colossians 1:18, 2:19, Ephesians 5:23, 4:15, 1:10, 22.

[2] See the 21st Ecumenical Council (Vatican II)‘s Dei Verbum, the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation.

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