God’s Revelation in Sacred Tradition

Summary of Catechism paragraphs 74-100:

  • Sacred Tradition (with a capital T) does not mean customs that have varied over the course of history, according to time and place.
  • Rather, Sacred Tradition refers to the teaching that has been handed on from the apostles and continued by their successors, the bishops.
  • The very term “Tradition” derives from the Latin verb tradere, meaning “to hand down,” “relate” or “bequeath.”
  • The apostles handed on divine Revelation in two ways: orally, by preaching, by developing institutions and framing the Church’s patterns of worship; and in writing, either by themselves or associates, which became the New Testament.
  • Thus Sacred Tradition was already operative in the earliest stages of the Church, even before the New Testament was completed.
  • Indeed, Sacred Tradition is itself responsible for the compilation of Sacred Scripture, through discerning which books are divinely inspired; in other words, no Tradition, no Bible.
  • As a result, Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture are both expressions of divine Revelation, and we cannot exclude one or the other.
  • Far from being a lifeless object, Tradition involves a living transmission of this teaching, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, until the end of time.
  • This living transmission takes place through the apostles’ successors, the bishops, in communion with St. Peter’s successor, the Pope; together they form the Church’s teaching authority.
  • This teaching authority, called the Magisterium (from the Latin term for “teacher,” magister), is not superior to the Word of God, but instead serves it by explaining, clarifying, and communicating the fullness of Revelation.

Live Your Faith

We too play an important role in the handing on of Sacred Tradition. Through our baptism, we are members of the Body of Christ. We are called to give our full assent to the teaching of the Church, to adhere to it firmly in our daily lives, to form our children in the faith, and to share it with our family members, friends, co-workers, everyone we meet. Let us actively cooperate with the Holy Spirit by opening our minds and hearts to the richness of our Catholic faith, and by passing it on to others.