Tradition - Passing on the Faith


When you hear the word traditional what is your immediate reaction? Is its meaning positive, negative, or neutral?

I ask the question because one of the four attributes that both the LCMC and the NALC use to describe themselves is that they are Traditionally-Grounded. And there are many of us, your Pastor included, happy to be connected with that identification.

Jaroslav Pelikan, a noted Church historian, distinguished between tradition and traditionalism, with a memorable definition. He said, “Tradition is the living faith of the dead, while traditionalism is the dead faith of the living.”

As Christians we believe, teach and confess, in the words of the Apostles’ Creed, “the communion of saints.” We also believe, teach and confess, in the words of the Nicene Creed, “one holy catholic and apostolic Church.” That is to say, as believers we are part of a long line of believers down through the ages. Those belonging to preceding generations, though buried and awaiting the resurrection of the body, are still very much alive and in Christ’s presence. And all of us are grounded upon the apostolic proclamation and teaching. It is the foundation of our very own faith.

The Apostle Paul writes in his letter to the Ephesians, “So then you are … members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone” (2:19-20). And Jude writes in his New Testament letter, “contend for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (1:3).

The desire to be traditional in Christianity does not mean that we wish to be living in an earlier time. Instead, it means that we very much hope to be sharing in the identical “saving faith” that Peter and Paul believed and proclaimed. It means that although we are living twenty centuries later, we know ourselves to be a part of the same community, indeed the family of God. For we are not looking for novelty, but for belonging and for permanence.

Since You Asked…

What is the meaning of the “KYRIE” (kir-E-A)?

KYRIE is a Latin term which is in turn is a transliteration of a Greek word meaning “Lord.” In the Latin Mass the term KYRIE was combined with the term ELESION meaning “have mercy.” In addition, the Mass included a three-fold response: KYRIE ELEISON, CHRISTE ELEISON, KYRIE ELEISON, which translated is “Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy.” In our Lutheran Worship Service we utilize a prayer from the Latin Mass known as a Peace Litany. A Litany is a responsive prayer. This Litany is usually led by our Assisting Minister, and the congregation response is the KYRIE ELEISON. And so the Assisting Minister begins, “In peace let us pray to the Lord,” and the congregation responds to this and each succeeding petition with, “Lord, have mercy.” (with help from the Manual on the Liturgy a companion to the Lutheran Book of Worship, publ. by Augsburg).