Past Value

” How much will you take for that?” a friend asks. “Oh its not for sale, it came to me from my Grandfather. Its priceless”.  A made up conversation of course but not an improbable one for we simply cannot put a price on the past. Why is that? Why are the  things from our past held in such high esteem and value? There are probably lots of answers to this but it seems to me that our valuation of the past and of those who have gone before us is pretty closely linked to our self understanding. In other words we care about the past because we are, in a real way, part of it.  We exist in time  and not only in the present. Therefore we cannot truly understand ourselves unless we take into account those who have come before us. Its true at work. Its true in our homes and true in our religious life as well. Its been this way in the church from the very beginning.  Take for instance Irenaeus an early Bishop who, when contending against heretics, appealed to the past and connection to the Apostolic tradition in his defense of the truth. For him teaching and practices  with no visible precednet or connection to the past were specious at best. Tradition is sometimes thought of as a dead weight its true. More likely though, its  an anchor. 

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