It probably does not need to be said, but simply retaining the practices of the past, as many so-called “traditional” Catholics wish to do, does not preserve that past. Nicholas Lash likes to tell a story about the market place in Cambridge that makes this point beautifully. If, Nicholas says, you went down to the market place in Cambridge in the early thirteenth century and you saw a man with an undyed wooden robe, a rope for a belt and sandals you would probably think, “Drat, another stupid beggar. Get a job!” If you went down to the market place today (and it is in exactly the same place, and, in my opinion, selling the same cheeses), and you saw a man with an undyed woolen robe, a rope for a belt and sandals, you would probably think “There goes a mildly eccentric, but harmless ecclesiastic.” To do the same thing in a different cultural context or historical period is really to do something very new and different. It is a form of unintended novelty. To say the Rosary, or hear the Mass in Latin outside the world that included and created the movies “Going My Way” and “On the Waterfront” is to introduce something brand new to the Church, not to preserve its past. This may be a good thing or a bad thing, but it is certainly a new thing. The loss of the past is inevitable, and not to face the inevitable is psychologically, culturally, and, I suspect spiritually dangerous.
Gary Macy, “Impasse passé: Conjugating a Tense Past,” Proceedings of the Sixty-fourth Annual Convention, Theological Society of America, vol. 64, 1-20, here 19.