I just recently purchased a copy of "Heart of the World" by Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis (Meditations on the Gospel of Matthew). In his opening remarks to his first chapter he writes about the possible true definition of Tradition. It set me thinking about how to reconcile the two Popes, Benedict and Francis. The abrupt (apparently) change of style is still troubling many Catholics. How to reconcile Benedict's presentation of beauty in liturgy and in the Church's life with the "down-to earth" simplicity of Francis? The answer lies in the true understanding of Tradition. Please let me try to explain what I mean.
We all know that the word tradition comes from the Latin verb tradere (to hand on). We all know that Tradition goes with Sacred Scripture as two of the pillars of the Church. There is a third pillar - Peter. Peter is the one who unites and draws together different elements, reflecting, in union with the bishops, different facets of the Truth. Tradition is not continued simply by texts, formulas or even the great Creeds. It is not only expressed or projected by Councils or Dogmatic pronouncements; it is, above all, lived. It is carried by and expressed in the lives of the people of God. As Leiva-Merikakis reminds us in his brief remarks, we need each other; we need to see the Truth in the life and joys and sufferings of another Christian; we need the lives of the saints; we need to hear and witness the faith as it is lived by another human being. Knowing that each person cannot possibly encompass the whole, we draw from each other, learn from each other and so come to a deeper personal grasp of the meaning of faith and a fuller appreciation of the treasure which is the Truth. As each person is a mystery in himself or herself; as each person is unique and experiences a unique relationship with Christ among all that we share with each other, so we must learn to value and respect the witness of each member of the Church, and in a particular way, the witness of each successor of Peter. There are different emphases in the lives of Benedict and Francis. All of them are valid and, according to the grace of God, necessary. The Holy Spirit leads us on one path but draws our attention to different things along the way. We might say that we remain on the road of Truth but pass through different vistas or vary our diet. There is no real comparison of these different elements or aspects; all are valuable, in one way or another. All are part of the journey. If the contrast between the Pope Emeritus and the new Pope is so noticeable, perhaps there is a message in that. Perhaps we can learn to be more open-hearted and open-minded to the work of the Spirit; perhaps we can even rejoice that the Spirit IS in the Church and that the Church is alive. Perhaps we should even rejoice that, whilst holding to the treasures of the past and carrying them ahead into the future we can move together in a growing appreciation of all that God continues to give to each person, recognising the workings of grace in all and so walking with confidence, hand in hand, shoulder to shoulder, strengthening the Body of Christ and bringing more joy and hope to a world in need.