What in the heck is “worship?” It seems like a fairly simple question, right? According to a dictionary definition, worship is either a noun, or a verb — reverence or adoration of a deity, or the acts associated with such objects of faith.
noun: the feeling or expression of reverence and adoration for a deity.
verb: show reverence and adoration for (a deity); honor with religious rites.
For those of us in Judeo/Christian traditions, worship is to be reserved for God alone. The First Commandment of the Law of Moses is pretty clear about that:
“I am the Lord thy God, thou shalt not have any strange gods before Me.”
This commandment forbids idolatry, the worship of false gods and goddesses, and it excludes polytheism, the belief in many gods, insisting instead on monotheism, the belief in one God. This commandment forbids making golden calves, building temples to Isis, and worshipping statues of Caesar, for example. And, contrary to how some believe or act, this also prohibits worship of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Yes, indeed, as scripture intones, “all generations” will indeed call her “blessed,” but worship?
Catholics often get a bad reputation on the subject of worship — most often with regards to our devotions to Mary, the Mother of Jesus. Quite frankly, some of this criticism is actually justified; as i found out, once again this morning.
While browsing through some comments on a friend’s facebook post earlier this morning, I came across one particularly troubling comment; this person flat out stated that he “worshipped” Mary. Well, after seeking clarification, he did walk back his position some, but… not entirely.
Devotion to our Lord’s blessed Mother is very important to most, if not many Catholics, including my to own spirituality. Seeking her intercession is both efficacious and valuable to me.
“Devotion to Our Lady of Mount Carmel is a special call to the interior life, which is preeminently a Marian life. Our Lady wants us to resemble her not only in our outward appearance but, far more, in heart and spirit. If we gaze into Mary’s soul, we shall see that grace in her has flowered into a spiritual life of incalculable wealth: a life of recollection, prayer, uninterrupted oblation to God, continual contact, and intimate union with him. Mary’s soul is a sanctuary reserved for God alone, where no human creature has ever left its trace, where love and zeal for the glory of God and the salvation of humankind reign supreme. Those who want to live their devotion to Our Lady of Mount Carmel to the full must follow Mary into the depths of her interior life. Carmel is the symbol of the contemplative life, the life wholly dedicated to the quest for God, wholly orientated towards intimacy with God; and the one who has best realized this highest of ideals is Our Lady herself, ‘Queen and Beauty of Carmel’.” Taken From—-Divine Intimacy, Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen OCD.
As Carmelites We live our life of allegiance to Jesus Christ and to worship and serve Him faithfully with a pure heart and a clear conscience through a commitment to seek the face of the living God (the contemplative dimension of life), through prayer, through fraternity, and through service (diakonia). These three fundamental elements of the charism are not distinct and unrelated values, but closely interwoven. All of these we live under the protection, inspiration and guidance of Mary, Our Lady of Mount Carmel, whom we honor as “our Mother and sister.”
Yes, the Catholic Church does teach that true Worship is reserved to God alone. Yet, like the individual noted above, poorly catechized Catholics often over emphasize a proper devotion of worshiping Mary to the extent that their acts become confused with worship.
My obligation as both a Bishop, and a Carmelite is to seek clarity and provide correction where necessary.
In this regard, Carmelites have traditionally relied on the example of the Prophet Elijah. We find it is important as This Old Testament prophet did, to direct ourselves and the Church towards worship of the One, True, God. Elijah did that on Mt Carmel for the people of Israel. Our mission is to do the same for the Church today.
Carmelites consider the Blessed Virgin Mary to be a perfect model of the interior life of prayer and contemplation to which Carmelites aspire, as well as a model of virtue, in the person who was closest in life to Jesus Christ. She is seen as the one who points Christians most surely to Christ.
Our blessed Mother, in all of her apparitions always points towards her Son, as the summit and source of our salvation and focus of our worship. We who adore Mary must follow her example. The words we utilize are important. Though I don’t believe the person who instigated this writing was actually worshiping her, using the word “worship” in describing our devotions can become problematic to those on the outside, looking in.
The Essence of Christianity is Worshipping Someone We Know.
The core or essence of being Christian is having a relationship with Jesus Christ—becoming His follower, friend, and disciple. It is impossible to truly WORSHIP God, if you don’t know him!
Quite often, our relationships with other human beings shed light on our relationship with God, and our relationship with God sheds light on relationships with other human beings. In both inter-personal relationships and the human-Divine relationship, we cannot have a relationship with someone we do not know. The more we get to know the other, the closer our relationship can be; and the closer our relationship becomes, the more we know the other.
So being Christian is getting to know Christ and then getting closer to Him. And being Christian is finding that the closer we get to Christ, the better we know Him, and desire to worship Him in Spirit and Truth.
Yet there are many Christs going around, which is to say that there are many views of Christ, often contradictory. Like there are many of views of who you are and who I am. Just as some views of us are right and some wrong, based on the reality of who we are, some views of Christ are right and some wrong based on the reality of Who He is.
What is the best way to know Christ? Thanks be to God that Christ Himself gave us the best way. “I will not leave you orphans,” He said to the Twelve Apostles at the Last Supper (John 14:18). So He left us His Church with its Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture as the best sources of God’s Revelation. Through the Apostles, Christ left us the Magisterium—the office or authority held only by the Twelve Apostles succeeded by the bishops—to give us authoritative interpretations of Tradition and Scripture. The Magisterium’s authoritative interpretations are expressed in doctrines, which are particular interpretations of Tradition and Scripture that define our Christian Faith and are true for all times and places, e.g., Jesus Christ is both fully God and fully human. These truths are immutable—unchanging.
Our particular devotion to Mary should only serve to emphasize our focus and worship of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Whenever our devotion on something else distracts us from a proper focus of God, we must reevaluate that devotion.
Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with the. Blessed are you and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary mother of God, pray for us sinners, now, and at the hour of our death, amen
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