Thursday, October 17, 2013

Research and Tradition


I love word origins and roots. Maybe that explains my love of Latin. If there is one word that I’m sure to encounter daily as a grad school student, it’s “research.” While it’s actually defined as “extensive investigation,” I can’t help but note that it literally means “search again.” So much research is studying what others have said, read, or written. It’s seeking out knowledge where others have already gone. It’s laying a firm foundation before trying to discover anything new on your own.

As usual, Chesterton has said it before and said it better, “Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about.” It’s foolish to ignore generations’ worth of study and thought. It’s arrogant to assume my 24 years of limited experience surpasses the collected knowledge of the past. I cannot build a tower without a foundation. That’s why it’s so wonderful to have Tradition. I have a foundation built by Apostles and Church Fathers and Doctors of the Church and other saints and theologians. I have 1,980 years’ worth of doctrines and practices and visions to reference when my personal faith is wavering. When I have a question, there is the assurance that it has been asked before by other seekers and that there is usually an answer provided.

But research does not just accept someone else’s answers. There is scrutiny and application. I don’t accept Tradition blindly; I accept it trustfully. I find it logical and credible and wise, and therefore, I accept it as my foundation. From there I reach higher than I ever could alone.

The most exciting thing about Tradition is that it’s alive. It’s not just origins and routine. It's still developing and building. It permeates every corner of faith. It shapes our understanding of God, our language, our interactions. There is always more to study and discover. I could spend a lifetime devoted to it and still not know it all. Because what is one woman’s century compared to billions’ millennia? Tradition is the sum that is greater than all our parts.

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