Tradition is something handed down from one generation to the next. Sacred Tradition is the living truth of Christ in common teaching, common life and common worship of the Church handed down through the centuries. The Apostles received a lot of unwritten teachings and traditions from Christ himself (cf. John 20:30; 21:25). They handed them down to their successors under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and thus have come down to us. St. Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians has emphasized that he is handing on what was handed on to him (Cf. 1 Corinthians 11:23).
The Protestant Churches, who depend on Martin Luther’s “Only Scripture” theory, hold that what is written in the Bible is the only basis of faith; Bible is the only pillar of faith for them. Whereas for the Catholics, Bible and Tradition are the two pillars of our faith. The reason why the Catholic Church holds the Tradition very important, is because as long as Oral Tradition was in vogue that was the norm of faith for Christians and when it was transmitted to Written Tradition, the human authors could not put everything to writing (Cf. John 20:30, 21:25;1 Corinthians 11:2; 2 Thessalonians 2:15; 2 Timothy 1:13-14).
In the Second Vatican Council’s document on divine revelation, Dei Verbum (Latin: “The Word of God”), the relationship between Tradition and Scripture is explained:
“Hence there exists a close connection and communication between sacred Tradition and sacred Scripture. For both of them, flowing from the same divine wellspring, in a certain way merge into a unity and tend toward the same end. For sacred Scripture is the word of God inasmuch as it is consigned to writing under the inspiration of the divine Spirit. To the successors of the apostles, sacred Tradition hands on in its full purity God’s word, which was entrusted to the apostles by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit. Thus, by the light of the Spirit of truth, these successors can in their preaching preserve this word of God faithfully, explain it, and make it more widely known. Consequently, it is not from sacred Scripture alone that the Church draws her certainty about everything which has been revealed. Therefore, both sacred Tradition and sacred Scripture are to be accepted and venerated with the same devotion and reverence.”
God bless you,
Fr. Arul Joseph V.