Yet sacred Tradition has preserved these truths, claimed to be part of the deposit of faith that Christ gave to the Church.
We can get a fascinating glimpse into this portion of the Apostolic Tradition through private revelation. Years ago, I bought a book by Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich: The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ. I tried to read it that Lent, but ending up putting it aside, not feeling like it was going to be fruitful for my spiritual life at the time.
But this Triduum I began reading it again and have discovered many illuminating passages that fill in the narrative and historical gaps of the biblical accounts of Christ’s Passion. Just after the Last Supper and institution of the Eucharist, Emmerich writes of the vision she was given:
Jesus told them [the Apostles] how they were to preserve the Blessed Sacrament in memory of him…and how to consecrate, themselves, after he should have sent them the Divine Comforter. He then spoke concerning the priesthood, the sacred unction, and the preparation of the Chrism and Holy Oils.
Jesus then uses the sacred oils and anoints Peter and John, ordaining them bishops. She saw that Jesus gave both of them a special kind of anointing, with Peter then receiving a further consecration. After this, Jesus ordained several other of the Apostles. Interestingly, she then recounts that these ordained Apostles then ordained the remaining Apostles after Pentecost, along with other disciples.
What are we to make of this? Well, as a Catholic, I can believe in approved apparitions and visions, though I am not bound to believe in them as I am the Church’s other doctrines. But remember what John wrote at the end of his gospel:
Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written (John 21:25).
Indeed, Christ taught His Apostles much more than what was written down in the Scriptures. How else would they have known how to celebrate the liturgy, given how little is written of that in the New Testament? So here in private revelation we see when Jesus taught them about the Eucharist, the liturgy, and consecration of priests and bishops.
This private revelation receives additional confirmation through the writings of Pope Fabian (who was bishop of Rome in the mid-200s), who wrote in a letter to the bishops in the East about Christ delivering these instructions on the Chrism after the Last Supper.
In any event, I found this example of the source of sacred Tradition fascinating. The Bible is a tremendous gift to us and contains exactly what God desired to be written down, but it remains only a small part of the divine revelation that Christ gave to His Apostles.
Paul confirms this fact when he said: “So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the traditions we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter” (2 Thess. 2:15).