I’ve recently been thinking about defining worship. It’s one of those words that is used all of the time but really has a vague meaning. In English, the word worship comes from the Old English worthscipe, meaning to give worth to something. A Google search defined worship as “showing reverence with religious rites” and “the honor and homage given to a divine being.” But that just makes me want clearer definitions of reverence, rites, honor, and homage.
When I think of worship, I think of liturgy. I think of transcending time and space and being as present with God and Christ’s passion as earthly possible. It’s separate from prayer or music. But other churches have worship teams and worships bands, and worship is a set of praise songs. So obviously, interpretations are vast. Is worship a feeling? Is it an act? Is it a time? Is it as complicated as I’m making it, or is it really nothing more complex than attitude?
I’m inclined to think it is attitude and intention. I can sing and sway to a praise song and be rolling my eyes, or I can sing and swag and be reaching out to God. I can sit quietly in a pew at Adoration zoned out or I can sit quietly in a pew and be internally singing to God. Worship is hard to define and recognize because it is so personal, internal. It is demonstrated in acts and rites and prayers and music, but they all fall short of the intention, the longing for, looking toward, and devotion to God. We give our best, knowing it falls short. And God accepts our efforts, like macaroni pictures parents place on the fridge.
I think worship can happen alone, but that it’s best at Mass, when you are part of the collective worship. Worship with a community is a whole other level. It’s falling on your knees not from emotional manipulation or blind obedience, but because before you is a king completely worthy of your humble expressions of gratitude. It’s the emotions that come naturally and the obedience freely given. It’s standing or kneeling or prostrating before the creator of existence. It’s saying “sanctus, sanctus, sanctus” with the entire Church, the militant on earth, the suffering in purgatory, the triumphant in heaven, the hosts of angels, all gathered to share in a moment of adoration.
Holy, Holy, Holy
Lord God of hosts.
Heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest.