Print Article | Email Article | Write To Us

"Hey, Your Worship. I'm Only Trying To Help" (Part II)

01/18/2010 Comment

In a previous post, I discussed how the word “worship” can cause confusion regarding whether Catholics worship saints, angels, etc.
The term “worship” originally just meant worthiness or honor, and in the old sense anytime you honored or signaled the worthiness of someone (or something), it was an act of worship.
But in contemporary English, the term “worship” has come to mean the honor due to God alone, and if you try using it any other way (without a lot of set-up), you’re going to get confusion.
So people should not get hung up about old uses of the word that they find in old books or—now—on web pages quoting old books. The term has changed its everyday meaning, and we need to look deeper if we want to get to the substance of the discussion.
St. Paul tells us: “Stop disputing about words. This serves no useful purpose since it harms those who listen” (2 Tim. 2:14).
In this discussion, the underlying issue is what honor should be paid to whom.
Only the most closed-minded individual would assert that we should only honor God. Scripture is replete with examples, counsels, and commandments showing we should honor others; for example, our parents, our rulers. People of good will should be able to agree on this.
We also should be able to agree that there is a difference between the type of honor that we should show God and the types of honor we should show any creature.
This distinction, at least back to the time of St. Augustine, has been expressed with the terms latria (commonly translated “adoration”) and dulia (commonly translated “veneration”)—latria referring to the honor due to God and dulia referring to the kind of honor due to creatures.
It seems to me that people of good will should be open to this, since it is only a way naming a distinction we both agree exists.
Where might we disagree?
One place is over a companion term—hyperdulia—which signifies the special honor shown to the Virgin Mary, which is above (huper-) the honor shown to ordinary saints. Christians of good will should be able to agree that Mary, as the Mother of Christ, should be shown a special honor (Luke 1:28, 42, 48). The question would be what kind of special honor, and here Christians will have different views depending on the understanding of Mary presented in their churches.
Another place we may disagree concerns what external actions should be used to show honor. That is a subject I can write about another time if people want. But external actions are symbols of inner attitudes, and symbols can be used different ways. (Think of all the things a kiss can signify, as when Leia kisses Luke “for luck,” Han kisses Leia romantically, or Judas kisses Jesus as a sign to his enemies.)
What is ultimately important is what the symbol is used to signify, and here the Catholic Church is clear: God must be paid a special honor different not only in degree but in kind from the honor that can be shown to any creature.
READ IT FOR YOURSELF (Paragraphs 2096 and 2097).
AND ALSO HERE (Paragraphs 2112-2114).

Filed under adoration, dulia, latria, mary, saints, veneration, worship

About Jimmy Akin

Jimmy Akin
  • Get the RSS feed
Jimmy was born in Texas, grew up nominally Protestant, but at age 20 experienced a profound conversion to Christ. Planning on becoming a Protestant pastor or seminary professor, he started an intensive study of the Bible. But the more he immersed himself in Scripture the more he found to support the Catholic faith. Eventually, he entered the Catholic Church. His conversion story, "A Triumph and a Tragedy," is published in Surprised by Truth. Besides being an author, Jimmy is a Senior Apologist at Catholic Answers, a contributing editor to This Rock magazine, and a weekly guest on "Catholic Answers Live."