Tuesday, April 7, 2009

In Praise of Tradition

Thus says the LORD: "Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls. - Jeremiah 6:16 (RSV)

"Where the good way is..." The God of Israel was entreating the Jewish people to stop chasing after greed and return to the old ways, the ancient paths. Unfortunately, Israel refused and brought judgment upon herself.

It is a strong lesson for us and a strong exhortation to not throw away "the old ways" so quickly. There is a reason for these ancient paths. They have been tried and found worthy. They have kept many generations going in the right direction. They have provided stability and in that, "rest for our souls" is found.

During my years attending non-denominational churches, I can now say that for the most part, it was a time of unrest. I discovered moments of peace as I rested in the Lord, but most of the time, I was busy keeping up with the latest changes, fads, and trends within these congregations. There was always something "new." And like a child, I was often entranced by the "new and shiny."

But did it bring peace? Stability? No. In fact it brought more confusion at times, frustration, and weariness. There didn't seem to be enough hours in the day to implement the leadership's interpretation of yet another new trend, which often included endless meetings and pleas for more volunteers. It was constant information overload that made for quick burn-out.

Now that I have returned to Catholicism, I can see the value of "the ancient paths." Some Catholics have been trying to mimic some of these non-denominational approaches toward church and have been busily filling up their Mass with all types of activities. But do these activities bring peace? Or insecurity?

This is one of the reasons I love the Traditional Latin Mass. It is a Mass that has been around for quite some time. It has withstood the trends and fads and keeps to the basics. To me, it is a rich treasure trove of "ancient paths." But the "New Mass" still has those paths, too. It depends upon the leadership of the pastor and if he has the backbone to buck controlling personalities in a liturgical committee. It depends on if the people view the Mass as a time to focus on God instead of "expressing" themselves. It depends on many things, but it can be found.

I'm beginning to wonder if this is our Holy Father's intent - to return the Church to her ancient paths and bring stability. In a way, it is almost like setting broken bones. The cast at first seems too rigid, but it is there to protect the healing. Perhaps our Church, in all her brokenness, is in the midst of this healing. And after the healing, we will be able to walk with strength. That, most certainly, should be cause for rejoicing.


joannaB73 said...

I think tradition is important and stability. In one of my old churches it was like they had to invent something new each week and sometimes even failed to have any 'agenda' at all, leaving a very weak service. It will be good also when the English translation of the Mass reflects the original Latin Mass in wording.

Cathy_of_Alex said...

We will never totally ever go back but we will go forward stronger than ever. I see a future church informed and incorporating the best of the traditional with the best of the new Mass.