Becoming Tradition

Tradition and Ideals by Adam Wood

Think about this in any other context. You can’t (reasonably) say that pasta isn’t authentically Italian just because it was invented in China and didn’t get there until the Rennaisance. It makes no sense to champion cabbage as the ideal Irish cuisine and dismiss potatoes as an innovation from the New World. How would somebody even try to make rules about this sort of thing? “All cultural cuisine in use as of April 15, 1875 is to be considered the ideal representation of each country’s national gastronomic habits.”

If God the Son became a real human being in a real culture, and institued a Church which was to be guided by real human beings through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and revelation provided by Scripture and Tradition, I would suggest that we can’t simply ignore what “tradition” is like everywhere else that real human beings are involved. (Not to mention the fact that the history of liturgical practice is similarly messy and varied.)

When will Gospel music, or Praise and Worship pop styles, or anything else become a legitimate part of the musical tradition of the Church? It will not be when some professional thinker finds a convincing argument for its inclusion, or when some piece of written legislation appears to allow it. It will only be when musicians who are deeply connected with the existing tradition of liturgical practice, who understand it in a way that cannot be set down in legislation or academic papers, find a place for it.

Wood summarises his essay at the Chant Café in this way:

There is no such thing as ideal liturgical praxis, only a lived tradition. This means that rather then theorizing about what is the essential aspect of the ideal (the Proper texts, the original melodies, the Latin language), we rather must live with and live into the received tradition (Gregorian Chant, the Graduale Propers, Sacred Polyphony, etc) before we can even begin to think about what new treasures should find a place in the storehouse.