I was on Broadway in New York City, and I had tickets to “The Fiddler on the Roof!” And I was as giddy as a school boy. This is one of my favorite plays, mainly because one of the deep vacuums in my life was a sense of rootlessness because I was part of the vast American population that didn’t know where my family came from, and I felt this missing identity. Frankly, I’m convinced this deep longing in my heart for roots helped guide me to Holy Orthodoxy.
When Tevye sings that song “Tradition! Tradition” well, it gives me goosebumps. You see, all of us have tradition, even if it’s the tradition we just made up ourselves this very day. We all use traditions to order our lives. Even the most radical anti-traditionalist is following a long line of traditions of anti-traditionalism! So, the real trick is to make sure you’re following healthy tradition.
Look at our lesson today in 2 Thessalonians 2:13-17; 3:1-5:
BRETHREN, we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God chose you from the beginning to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter.
Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.
Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed on and triumph, as it did among you, and that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men; for not all have faith. But the Lord is faithful; he will strengthen you and guard you from evil. And we have confidence in the Lord about you, that you are doing and will do the things which we command. May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.
Paul tells these Thessalonians, who are so very occupied with stories about the Second Coming, that they have been chosen “from the beginning to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the Truth.” So this salvation thing, according to Paul has everything to do with God’s plan and purpose AND their participation in that plan and purpose! Both the embracing of timeless truths (belief in the truth) and “sanctification” (acting on and practicing those same truths) encompasses what Paul calls “Tradition” (παράδοσις).
And the power of this Tradition isn’t that it’s old or even venerable. The power of tradition is that it has the ability to bear timelessness and then pass on that timelessness to the next generation. To properly embrace the power of tradition means both the humility of being taught AND the willingness to actively live this tradition.
If you’ve ever wondered what is the key to the Christian life, know beyond any shadow of a doubt it is the ability, the willingness to embrace tradition. Because if you can embrace tradition, you aren’t embracing old teachings as much as you are embracing the people who passed on that tradition to you. Look at what Paul tells us. He says “hold firm” the tradition, no matter how you received it; either by “word of mouth” or “letter.” In other words, Paul encourages us to be willing to see the timeless tradition of the Faith in the real lives of the people who lived it before us in their actions spoken and written down.
By embracing this wisdom, we set ourselves free from the temptations of merely being contemporary or relevant. We enter that perfect “school of eternity,” the “holy Tradition” of the Body of Christ, and allow the Holy Spirit to shape us into beings that can enjoy eternity.
Today, are you willing to embrace the healthy Holy Tradition of a Normal Orthodoxy? This is absolutely the ONLY way we will ever be Orthodox on Purpose!