BBC Radio 4 Prayer for the Day, 16 February 2017
One evening, a friend of mine from the Nuba mountains, South Sudan, described his wedding ceremony in symbolic detail explaining: ‘We are a people who love tradition. ‘It’s so close to us, it’s in our breath.’ My neighbours like to practice Shabbas saying they’re not religious but love Jewish tradition.
We often hear people fighting to keep their traditions for a sense of identity but I wonder if it’s more than that. The Greek word for love, Agape, is often translated as charity. As a love that is passionately committed to others. Tradition is just that. A gift for generations to come with its rituals, music, art, places and language.
In my own tradition, for Easter, I was brought up by my grandmother to boil my pace eggs in vinegar with the memory of her mother boiling them and the idea that her grandmother and great-grandmother would have done the same. Like a post card sent through generations. Like being alongside them. The old Cumbrian folk songs still conjure an evening’s sing along just from their form of stories and choruses.
Many people find that taking a stone from the bottom of a mountain to the cairn at the top turns a walk into a pilgrimage. They feel the companionship of a tradition. Their intention supported.
And voices from the past gives us friendship and mentors for life. Rowan Williams has been deeply influenced by his relationship with Augustine. Emily Dickenson loved the old Hymnody tradition, especially Isaac Watts. And Virginia Woolf’s father recited poems walking up the stairs which brought the sound into her body. They loved tradition as a central relationship in their lives.
Gracious God, may we find the freedom to partake of the traditions we inherit. And the courage to place our gifts in its archives for generations to come. Amen.