S WE CELEBRATE the 100th anniversary of Le Sacre du printemps (The Rite of Spring) the genius of Igor Stravinsky comes to mind. By the way, who knew that Stravinsky was a liturgist? Well, not quite, but he certainly had a profound grasp of the living connection between tradition and its indispensable role in our everyday lives:
“Tradition is entirely different from habit, even from an excellent habit, since habit is by definition an unconscious acquisition and tends to become mechanical, whereas tradition results from a conscious and deliberate acceptance. A real tradition is not the relic of a past that is irretrievably gone; it is a living force that animates and informs the present….Far from implying the repetition of what has been, tradition presupposes the reality of what endures. It appears as an heirloom, a heritage that one receives on condition of making it bear fruit before passing it on to one’s descendants.”
Stavinsky understood that tradition tells us a great deal about ourselves. It is as necessary as food and water—nourishment that sustains us and keeps us alive. Otherwise we are dead and do not understand our faith, nor ourselves.
In the Julibee Year of 2000, I was fortunate to be invited to perform an organ recital in Bolzano, Italy. I took advantage of the trip to travel to Rome, walk through the Holy Door of St. Peter’s Basilica, and pray where so many have prayed who came before us.
Also quite revelatory, I had opportunity to visit my grandmother’s sister and my mother’s cousin in Tuscany. I also visited my grandmother’s birthplace. What I discovered was something extraordinary: the love, faith, the cooking, the smells, the sounds of the Tuscan dialect all brought me back home to my grandparent’s fifth floor walkup apartment on Leroy Street in Greenwich Village. (My grandfather came to the USA in 1927.) Yet, this rustic setting was all so familiar. Seeing where they grew their food, where and how they prayed, and how they lived, the two households seemed to have been right next door to each other, even though they were a world apart, New and Old. I experienced an extraordinary familiarity in another world. I experienced a better knowledge of where I came from, especially in faith—a living faith passed on to their descendants—to my mother and my sisters.
Tradition lives on in our own lives. Nourish it. Live it. Pass it on!