A certain kind of person approaches the tradition by chewing and swallowing the words of theologians past only to vomit them up again. He regurgitates them, but in their regurgitation they have become a mere semblance of what they were, half-digested, mixed with bile. Such a man confuses the repetition of tradition's words with its upholding or maintenance, not recognizing that the spirit of the tradition—its animating principle—has been sundered from the letter which it animated. Dead tradition can only be tradition out-of-context; it is the result of the attempt to apply, with strict correspondence, what is from another time to one's own time.
The traditional man does not merely recapitulate the past (save, perhaps, in liturgy, but for reasons distinct to worship). He inwardly digests the traditions of the fathers, that their substance might become his own. And thus he carries them about in his person and applies them organically, as he applies himself to his context. Living tradition, tradition which lives within us and by which we live, is like a seed planted which must grow to maturity; we must harvest it in season, grind it into flour, mix it with water, bake it, and eat it as bread.