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Deacon-structing worship

Deacon Pedro

Monday, December 27, 2021

Detail of The Adoration of the Shepherds by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (Source: Wikimedia Commons)
It’s impossible to go through Christmas without listening to Christmas music. As I listened this year, I was drawn to the idea that we come to worship the newborn King. Once you start listening for it, it is hard to miss, starting with “O come, let us adore Him...”
There is also the song of the angels: Gloria in excelsis Deo!” That very word “Gloria” implies worship and adoration. That’s why the herald angel sings: Hark! Glory to the newborn King!"
The third verse of "Angels We Have Heard on High" says, “Come, adore on bended knee...” Another favourite hymn that talks about adoring on bended knee is "O Holy Night", which calls you to “Fall on your knees!” There’s only one reason why we fall on our knees. The last verse says, “Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we, Let all within us praise His holy name.” That’s what we do when we meet the newborn King.
One of my favourites is “What Child is This?”, which urges us to Haste, haste to bring Him laud, the Babe, the Son of Mary!”
And so I’ve been thinking of the shepherds who came to see the child wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. We know all the beautiful images that show them on bended knee. There are also the Wise Men, who give him homage.
What does it mean to give praise, to give glory and honour, to worship and adore? Do all those mean the same thing? And why on bended knee?
 
Definitions
If you look it up on Google (which draws its definitions from the Oxford English Dictionary), “to praise” means “to express warm approval or admiration”. A synonym is “to laud”, which comes from the Latin word for giving praise: “laudare”.
To worship, on the other hand, is defined as “showing reverence and adoration for (a deity); honour with religious rites”. Synonyms are “to revere”, “to venerate”, and “to honour”. The word "worship" comes from the old English “worth-ship”: to give worth.
"Glory" can have various meanings, but in this context, "to give glory" means to praise, worship, or offer thanksgiving to a deity.
"Adoration" can also mean worship or veneration, but it has more to do with showing love or respect to someone. The word comes from the Latin “adorare”, which means “to pray to” (literally, ad + orare).
"To give homage" also has to do with giving respect or showing admiration.
All these words are used in very much the same way when we talk about praising, worshipping, adoring, and giving homage and glory to our God.
 
When you pray, how much of your prayer is a prayer of praise?
If you are like most of us, worshipping God is not easy. I think it's because we don't usually go around "worshipping" other people. We could say that we praise other people. Sometimes we even say that we “adore” someone. We can give honour to or venerate another person, but it is not that common to say that we “worship” someone else. We only worship God.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church refers to this in Part 4 on Christian Prayer. There are five forms of prayer: Blessing and Adoration, Prayer of Petition, Prayer of Intercession, Prayer of Thanksgiving, and Prayer of Praise.
Adoration
Adoration is the first attitude of man acknowledging that he is a creature before his Creator. It exalts the greatness of the Lord who made us and the almighty power of the Savior who sets us free from evil. Adoration is homage of the spirit to the "King of Glory," respectful silence in the presence of the "ever greater" God. Adoration of the thrice-holy and sovereign God of love blends with humility and gives assurance to our supplications. (CCC 2628)
 
Prayer of Praise
Praise is the form of prayer which recognizes most immediately that God is God. It lauds God for his own sake and gives him glory, quite beyond what he does, but simply because HE IS. It shares in the blessed happiness of the pure of heart who loves God in faith before seeing him in glory. By praise, the Spirit is joined to our spirits to bear witness that we are children of God, testifying to the only Son in whom we are adopted and by whom we glorify the Father. Praise embraces the other forms of prayer and carries them toward him who is its source and goal: the "one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist." (CCC 2639)
They sound pretty similar.
When we worship God we are telling Him how wonderful He is. When we praise Him we are telling Him how much we love Him. We show honour, glory, reverence, and respect by listening to Him, asking for and doing His will, and offering Him gifts and offerings, the best of which is the gift of ourselves.
Praise and worship of God is a realization that we are creatures and that He is the Creator. He is above us, and we are His servants. The only humble posture for adoration is on bended knee.
This may feel awkward since it is not something we do every day with our family and friends. But when we love someone, we tell them and we show them. When we do the same with God, we are worshipping Him.
 
Psalms of praise
I don’t need to tell you where to find praise, worship, and adoration in Scripture. Primarily, there is a whole category of psalms called psalms of praise. These are the psalms that express praise, thanksgiving, and exaltation to God. Some verses you may recognize:
“My mouth will speak in praise of the LORD. Let every creature praise his holy name forever and ever.” (Psalm 145:19)
 “I will praise the LORD all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.” (Psalm 146:2)
“LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” (Psalm 8:9)
Let everything that has breath praise the LORD.” (Psalm 150:6)
When we don’t know how to worship God, these psalms are a great way to do so. But if all else fails, just say to God how much you love Him, how great He is, and how thankful you are to Him.
And if you find it hard to enter into the spirit of worshipping God, remember that it’s also no coincidence that Scripture often encourages us to worship in song. In fact, some traditions call those psalms of praise hymns. I guess that’s why there’s a whole category of music that we refer to as “praise and worship”. Another reason why I love that for a month before Christmas the world worships without knowing as they play a lot of those traditional Christmas hymns on secular radio (read Deacon-structing Christmas Music to read more about this.)
I was hoping this would be a short, simple post about how we can best worship God but have instead discovered there is so much to what it means to worship.
Come back next week to delve a little deeper as we talk about adoration, thanksgiving, and blessing.

pedroEvery week, Deacon Pedro takes a particular topic apart, not so much to explore or explain the subject to its fullness, but rather to provide insights that will deepen our understanding of the subject. And don’t worry, at the end of the day he always puts the pieces back together. There are no limits to deaconstructing: Write to him and ask any questions about the faith or Church teaching: pedro@slmedia.org


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