Tradition. It is the title of a famous song from the movie, “Fiddler on the Roof.” In the movie, tradition forms the framework of society and culture. There seems to be a negative side to almost everything that is considered good. Ice cream is delicious, and yet if we over-indulge it causes negative effects on our health. In the movie, the father’s love is tested when one of his daughters marries out of the traditional path, and another of his daughters wants to marry a man from a different religion. Faith and religion are arguably very good, but can go wrong if fueled with selfish or errant intentions.
Some traditions are inherently errant. Most would agree that stoning, maiming of women, or slavery are inacceptable, inhumane practices; these are traditions gone way wrong. But most traditions are positive for society, and perhaps essential. Some people may link tradition negatively to verses in the Bible when Jesus spoke about the Pharisees, but he was commenting on their hearts and intentions. In reality, Jesus followed the traditions of his Jewish people in an exemplary way.
Traditions serve to form the framework of society. I grew up in the Episcopalian Church, and it was traditional to be baptized young, and confirmed when a teenager. It was wonderful and very meaningful for me, forming a healthy world-view of humanity. A daily tradition in our family was to eat dinner together when my father returned home from work each day. A yearly tradition was to celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve, which was from my mother’s Austro-Hungarian heritage. Life had structure every day, every season, and we grew up feeling a sense of security, our lives responding in very healthy ways. We learned to value others and respect them.
In regard to Baptism, some churches perform these early in life, some perform them later, and some call them Christenings. There are people who argue strongly for one or the other. Some churches feel that others lean too heavily on tradition, and they quote certain verses from the Bible. In an effort to improve, change or reform a tradition, it is sometimes thrown out completely, in effect “throwing out the baby with the bathwater” as the American phrase describes. There is no real work to reform and it is just eliminated, often with violence or great unrest. When this happens, we can lose the most important aspects of the tradition.
Our grandson was recently baptized. It could not have been more beautiful, save for more family being able to attend. Our son-in-law’s parents and one of two brothers flew in. The other brother, the baby’s Godfather, was out at sea with the Navy, but he was able to watch in real-time by smartphone. Our oldest daughter flew in to attend as the baby’s Godmother. Our grandson was peaceful the entire time. He is now almost six-months-old and smiled throughout. He fell asleep as the water was poured over his head in the name of The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit. Just beautiful.
Afterward, my daughter and son-in-law had us all over to their home for a cookout. Gifts were presented, and elements from the baby’s great-grandparents were used, like the silver tray passed down from his great-great-grandmother, which held a cake. Over a dozen of us feasted and laughed and celebrated. Two families blended as one.
Tradition has the purpose and potential to form the framework of society, of culture, of family, of life. Good routines and practices are edifying, strengthening and restorative. I pray that you find yours, and that they bring you peace and joy.