One of the greatest gifts of the Church is the preservation of Tradition. Tradition is the wellspring of life that was present prior to our arrival. Traditions invite us into a relationship so that we can dance with and build up the life of those that came before us. In some of the more beautiful moments Traditions help move us into a new level of understanding or even better, relationship with those around us. And like all life, I believe that Traditions are to be protected and respected - because life is Tradition.
At a core level we know that Traditions are life, which is why sometimes we are over-protective of Traditions. Much like a parent over-protecting their child, sometimes we feel that to change or stop engaging with a Tradition will some how wound the Tradition to the point of death. We forget that one of the things that make a Tradition so powerful is the Traditions ability to adapt, grow and roll with the punches. Traditions are hearty and thick skinned. When we feel a Tradition is not strong enough to handle new realities we either don't understand Tradition or are not actually handing a tradition.
We may have a custom on our hands.
Customs can look like Traditions and in fact we sometimes use the words interchangeably. However, Traditions and Customs are not the same. For instance no matter what you try to do YOU cannot start a Tradition. You can start a custom. If that custom is built upon by the next generation, then the custom is moving toward becoming a Tradition, but one person does not create a Tradition.
Customs are those practices that serve a particular situation. They are specific and often times, bound by time and circumstance. Because of these limitations, customs are not very adaptable and are fragile when attempting to change.
The Church is at her best when we honor Tradition for all that Tradition is. When we respect Tradition with a life unto it's own. Like a mature person who is able to respect being invited and not invited to a party. Tradition is strong enough to be set down for a time because Tradition endures. Customs need constant attention and tending.
Customs fear death, Traditions transcend it.
And this is the frustration that some have with the Church - confusing Traditions as Customs: treating a Tradition of the Church as helpless practice that needs our attention least it dies. Trust me, Traditions can handle death because Traditions have seen it before - it is what makes them Traditions.
Are we confusing the Tradition of unity as the Custom of uniformity? Are we confusing the Tradition of Love alike as the Custom of think alike? Are we confusing the Tradition of orthodoxy as the Custom of fundamentalism?