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Does God worship?


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#1 Byron Jack Gaist

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Posted 25 April 2012 - 01:28 PM

Dear monachos posters,

I recently had the following thought, and wondered what others think.

If man is a eucharistic being, and man is created in God's image, does this mean God is also somehow eucharistic? Does God worship? And if yes, do the Persons of the Holy Trinity worship each other?

I look forward to hearing others' thoughts on this...

In Christ
Byron

#2 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 25 April 2012 - 02:58 PM

God is self-existent and as the Maker of all things has no need of anything. Worship is the response of the created to the Creator prompted by the need of the created. That is a basic answer based in trite theology. The fact that God exists in Three Persons does not change this since the essence of the Three is the same. What does exist in the Trinity is, of course, love.

More interesting and, to me, difficult is the question, did Jesus Christ in His human nature worship God? He prayed, in private and in the Temple, and observed all that Jewish worship of that time required. Perhaps the unity in Jesus Christ between perfect man and God entails worship of God by the perfect man, but I do not know whether this is correct because Jesus Christ is one Person. If, as is said, it is the free human spirit (and will) that comprises the basic essence of man, and if it is this basic essence of human nature without individual hypostasis that worships God, can we then say that Christ in His human nature worships God? If I am in error here, I should very much like to know!

#3 IoanC

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Posted 25 April 2012 - 06:19 PM

Jesus did not exactly worship God (The Father); as Man, He was a teacher and a model for how humans were to relate to The Father, by being like Christ, and in The Holy Spirit. His Divine Nature was not always that obvious, He had to reveal it slowly. However, we cannot talk about worshiping God without The Three Persons of The Holy Trinity. So, Christ would have had to worship Himself, too, but obviously that's impossible. I think we also have a wrong understanding of what worship means, that is the Adoration of God, not some sort of sacrificial offering to God. Only the Trinity is worthy of Adoration, but The Trinity does glorify the Saints/Angels by means of Deification or through Grace. Every creature that is made in God's image is to be a god by Grace, so we actually do talk about an equality between God and Creation (in dignity, not Power or Perfection, yet God wishes to add even these, over an infinite period of time). Worship remains a reality, but it's very different than what we generally imagine; it's really a relationship based on Love.

God is self-existent and as the Maker of all things has no need of anything. Worship is the response of the created to the Creator prompted by the need of the created. That is a basic answer based in trite theology. The fact that God exists in Three Persons does not change this since the essence of the Three is the same. What does exist in the Trinity is, of course, love.

More interesting and, to me, difficult is the question, did Jesus Christ in His human nature worship God? He prayed, in private and in the Temple, and observed all that Jewish worship of that time required. Perhaps the unity in Jesus Christ between perfect man and God entails worship of God by the perfect man, but I do not know whether this is correct because Jesus Christ is one Person. If, as is said, it is the free human spirit (and will) that comprises the basic essence of man, and if it is this basic essence of human nature without individual hypostasis that worships God, can we then say that Christ in His human nature worships God? If I am in error here, I should very much like to know!



#4 Byron Jack Gaist

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Posted 26 April 2012 - 06:23 AM

Thank you for your responses. Clearly this is a question "above my head". Andreas rightly points out that Christ in His human incarnation did pray and possibly this also means that as perfect man He also worshipped (but if anyone can shed more light on this, I'd like to know if this is an admissible Orthodox perspective). My question was more about the nature of God, which of course ultimately remains a mystery to us. But I don't remember where I get it from, I have this image of the prayer of God sustaining the universe (it might be William Blake's artwork, so not an Orthodox source). Anyway, I'm curious about what 'love', 'adoration', 'prayer' and 'worship' might mean when these originate from a Divine Person. How is love different from worship? We are told to love our fellow humans, for example, but to reserve worship exclusively for God (although in my own language, Greek, people annoyingly insist on using the verb 'latrevo' to describe any enthusiasm, from that of a romantic partner to a bag of crisps). Nevertheless, in psychological terms worship seems to me to be 'simply' the profoundest love there is. So why is the love within the Holy Trinity different from worship? Mr Ioan, could you say a little more about the relationship between adoration, sacrifice and worship?

I'm sorry if this is a bit confused, I'm probably "stretching" my intellect to try to understand phenomena which lie outside its grasp.

#5 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 26 April 2012 - 08:36 AM

Worship. In English usage, we have tended to reserve the use of the word ‘worship’ for God alone. The Greek/Latin word ‘latria’ should be reserved for God alone (and not also for crisps, much as I like them). ‘Adoration’ might be a preferable term to ‘worship’ linguistically. We pray, however, not only to God but to the saints as well, so prayer is a wider thing than worship or adoration. We love God (or are supposed to) and express this through our worship. In our worship, we acknowledge God as alone being holy; we give Him all glory, honour and praise. (The seraphim, cherubim, and all the heavenly host likewise adore Him.) We acknowledge that He is Sovereign Lord, and holy, mighty and immortal. Our worship includes our thanksgiving to God for His every good gift and His mercy towards us, most of all in giving His only-begotten Son for our salvation. We abase ourselves before the transcendent God and before His majesty (from Lat. ‘maiestas’, meaning ‘supreme dignity’). As readers will realise, I have drawn from the text of the Divine Liturgy for much of this, especially the prayers of the priest.

Love. God is love, as we all know. Though God is one, He is triple in Person. The relationship among the Three Persons is one of love. The Triune God being absolute, unchangeable and of one essence and one will the love is perfect because perfect love is the perfect unity of will of persons, in the case of the Trinity, of the Three Persons. The love of human beings for one another can be great: ‘Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends’. But generally, we qualify our love by our self-will. But whether perfect or not, love is or strives to be an expression of the unity of will and thought, of one accord and one mind, and the rejection of our own selfish will. We are commanded to love God and to show such love to our neighbour, love which is patient and kind.

#6 Aidan Kimel

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Posted 26 April 2012 - 04:38 PM

Given the Incarnation, eternally confirmed and established by the resurrection and ascension, I believe it is indeed proper to speak of worship occurring within the Trinitarian life of God. While both Eastern and Western theologians have enjoyed speculating on the divine life of the Holy Trinity apart from the economy of salvation, while they have felt free to talk about the logos asarkos as if he had never assumed human nature in Jesus Christ, I believe that all such speculation is fundamentally flawed. It assumes a dualistic separation between the Son of God and the Son of Man, a separation that is truly inconceivable to us. As St Cyril of Alexandria states, "For my part, I say that it is appropriate neither for the Logos of God apart from the humanity, nor for the temple born of the woman not united to the Logos, to be called Jesus Christ." The divine Son is eternally the God-Man.

With the assumption of human nature in Jesus Christ, God has entered the world as man. He has become our Mediator and Great High Priest, and the Church is his Body. As already observed, Jesus Christ did indeed worship and pray to the Father during his days on earth; but we are wrong, I believe, to think that this stopped with his death. God Incarnate remains our Mediator and Intercessor, as evidenced in the liturgical prayer of the Church. The primitive pattern of Christian prayer is Trinitarian: we pray to the Father through and with the Son in and by the Holy Spirit. Thus the Great Doxology of the Roman Canon: Through him and with him and in him all honor and glory is yours, O God the Father almighty, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, through all the ages of ages. Amen. The classic work here is Josef Jungmann's The Place of Christ in Liturgical Prayer. Unfortunately, my copy of this title does not appear to have survived the great library purge of 2008.

Particularly illuminating on this question is T. F. Torrance's essay "The Mind of Christ in Worship: Problem of Apollinarianism in the Liturgy" (Theology in Reconciliation, pp. 138-214). Torrance devotes a large section of this essay to St Cyril of Alexandria's understanding of the mediatorial work of Christ. Consider this lengthy passage passage:

Cyril considered it of the utmost importance that in his complete oneness with us Christ plumbed the depths of our most intense human experiences, so that from the depths he might engage in intense supplication and prayer to the Father, not only as an example for us to follow, important as that is for all our worship, but as the mode of his vicarious mediation on our behalf. … The vicarious Priesthood of Christ is fulfilled in and through himself the Mediator between God and man, because in him the divine and human hypostaseis or physeis, without being confused, were made to coalesce in one Person. It is as such, God become man, man who is also God, man who in the ascension has a place in the innermost seat of the Godhead, that "he carried up the mind of believers into the one nature of the Godhead." That is why Cyril insisted on describing the nature of our worship as rational, worship in spirit and in truth; and why he constantly spoke of Christ as "the High Priest of our souls," or alternatively as "the High Priest of our confession." … It is therefore in and through Christ that we continue to have access to the Father and our worship, taken up with ourselves into him and assimilated to his worship and his vicarious self-oblation to the Father, is accepted by the Father. It is highly distinctive of Cyril's thought, however, that we worship and pray to the Father not only in and through Christ but with him, for in accordance with the law of the economy his self-identification with us meant that he ranged himself along with us as himself a worshipper of God the Father. He worships for he has assumed the nature that pays worship. Hence, "although the host above and the holy spirits worship him," "when he became as we are, he worshipped with us as man offering, as fragrant incense, himself on our behalf and us through himself and in himself to God the Father." (pp. 174-177)


If we are reluctant to think of the risen and glorified Son as worshipping the Father, might this not be because of a hidden docetism that so often creeps into our devotional lives? We are very strong on our Lord's consubstantiality with the Father but his consubstantiality with us, while certainly not denied, seems to get downplayed. We need to recover a full comprehension of the Ascended Lord's priestly ministry.

#7 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 26 April 2012 - 05:22 PM

I'm getting out of my depth here, but I see some force in Fr Aidan's point that the human nature of Christ continues to worship. This should not lead us to believe that the Divine Persons of the Holy Trinity worship one another. But, as I say, I am out of my depth and welcome the contributions of those more knowledgeable.

#8 IoanC

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Posted 27 April 2012 - 05:50 PM

My understanding is that God is The Trinity. We worship The Trinity, not The Father alone. Christ is a Human model for our sake, not that The Father needed His Son to worship Him (as Man); WE need Christ's Humanity to help us worship. But as Man, Christ also draws attention to His own Deity that needs to be worshiped as Divine Logos, and The Holy Spirit is also present to make this possible. Still, it seems that our greatest problem is our understanding of what worshiping is; as Man, Christ would have to worship Himself, but He doesn't because He KNOWS He is God, and neither does He worship The Father, nor The Spirit in the manner that we most often understand the meaning of worship. He simply mediates for us between His Deity (or that of All Three Persons) and our Manhood, as, conversely, we are to become more divine.




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