In the third chapter of The Apostles
the Holy Father discusses Tradition. He says, “The Holy Spirit appears to us as the guarantor of the active presence of the mystery in history, the One who ensures its realization down through the centuries.”
Piling up Scripture references, he shows how it is the Holy Spirit who first of all teaches the apostles and empowers them to first know the truth, and then live it and spread it. It is the Holy Spirit working in and through the Apostles who builds in them the living Christ and his dynamic truth.
This tradition is handed on to us through the continuing work of the Holy Spirit and it is fidelity to this tradition which binds us together with one another and with other Christians down the ages. We therefore enjoy synchronic and diachronic unity–unity with all Christians everywhere and unity with all Christians down the ages.
The Holy Father quotes Ephesians 2.19-22: “Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.”
Pope Benedict re-asserts the truth that tradition is not a dead body of beliefs and customs, but a living and dynamic work of the Holy Spirit. “Tradition is not the transmission of things or words, a collection of dead things. Tradition is the living river that links us to the origins, the living river in which the origins are ever present, the great river that leads us to the gates of eternity. And since this is so, in this living river the words of the Lord are ceaselessly brought about: ‘I am with you always, to the close of the age.'”
Finally, he quotes Tertullian and Clement of Rome–showing clearly how the first generations of Christians after the apostles understood the living and dynamic tradition of the Apostles to be alive in the church of their day,and that fidelity to this tradition was a mark of the true Christian. Clement of Rome writes, “The Apostles have preached the Gospel to us from the Lord Jesus Christ’ Jesus Christ was sent by God. Christ, therefore, was sent forth by God, and the apostles by Christ.”
“Therefore,” the Pope concludes, “through the apostolic ministry it is Christ himself who reaches those who are called to the faith. The distance of the centuries is overcome and the Risen One offers himself alive and active for our sake, in the Church and in the world today. This is our great joy. In the living river of Tradition, Christ is not 2,000 years away, but is really present among us and gives us the Truth, he gives us the light that makes us live and find the way towards the future.”