In classical Rome, adoration was primarily an act of homage or worship, which, among the Romans, was performed by raising the hand to the mouth, kissing it and then waving it in the direction of the adored object. The devotee had his head covered, and after the act turned himself round from left to right. Sometimes he kissed the feet or knees of the images of the gods themselves, and Saturn and Hercules were adored with the head bare. By a natural transition the homage, at first paid to divine beings alone, came to be paid to monarchs. Thus the Greek and Roman emperors were adored by bowing or kneeling, laying hold of the imperial robe, and presently withdrawing the hand and pressing it to the lips, or by putting the royal robe itself to the lips.
Ancient Middle East
In Eastern countries, adoration has been performed in an attitude still more lowly. The Persian method, introduced by Cyrus the Great, was to kiss the knee and fall on the face at the prince’s feet, striking the earth with the forehead and kissing the ground. This striking of the earth with the forehead, usually a fixed number of times, was a form of adoration sometimes paid to Eastern potentates.
The Jews kissed in homage, as did other groups mentioned in the Old Testament. Thus in 1 Kings 19:18, God is made to say, “Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him.” And in Psalms 2:12, “Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way”. (See also Hosea 13:2.)
In Western Europe, the ceremony of kissing the sovereign’s hand, and some other acts which are performed while kneeling, may be described as forms of adoration.
Main Article: Eucharistic Adoration
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that “Adoration is the acknowledgement of God as God, creator and savior, the Lord and master of everything that exists, as infinite and merciful love.” “Adoration is homage of the spirit to the King of glory, respectful silence in the presence of the ever greater God.” Adoration is prompted by the Holy Spirit.
In the strict sense, adoration is an act of religion offered to God in acknowledgment of His supreme perfection and dominion, and of the creature’s dependence upon Him. “The rational creature, looking up to God, whom reason and revelation show to be infinitely perfect, cannot in right and justice maintain an attitude of indifference. That perfection which is infinite in itself and the source and fulfilment of all the good that we possess or shall possess, we must worship, acknowledging its immensity, and submitting to its supremacy.”
In Luke 4:7-8, Jesus tells the tempter, “Scripture has it, ‘You shall do homage to the Lord your God, Him alone shall you adore.'” The worship called forth by God, and given exclusively to Him as God, is designated by the Greek name latreia(Latinized, latria), which is usually translated “Adoration”. Adoration differs from other acts of worship, such as supplication, confession of sin, etc., inasmuch as it formally consists in self-abasement before the Infinite, and in devout recognition of His transcendent excellence. The primary and fundamental element in adoration is an interior act of mind and will; the mind perceiving that God’s perfection is infinite, the will bidding one to extol and worship this perfection.
Adoration is a willing submission of self to God expressed interiorly as well as exteriorly by one’s actions. It is an interior act of mind and will where the mind humbly admits that God’s perfection is infinite, and the will moves one us to worship this perfection. An acknowledge of God’s right as God to be Lord of one’s life and in control of it involves a voluntarily offer of submission. Thomas Aquinas says: “Adoration is primarily an interior reverence for God expressing itself secondarily in bodily signs of humility: bending our knee (to express our weakness compared to God) and prostrating ourselves (to show that of ourselves we are nothing).” Genuflecting is an outward gesture of an inward attitude of adoration towards God, as is the praying of the Pater Noster. “The first phrase of the Our Father is a blessing of adoration before it is a supplication. For it is the glory of God that we should recognize Him as “Father”, the true God”.
Adoration is reflected in the prayer of praise which acknowledges God for who he is in comparison to the prayer of thanksgiving which acknowledges God for what he has done. Rev. Raniero Cantalamesa observed that “the greatest danger with God is for us to become accustomed to him, to fall from awe into routine.”
Adoration also takes the form of Eucharistic adoration. The Catholic belief in transubstantiation is that the bread and wine literally become the body and blood of Jesus Christ, through which Catholics adore Jesus Christ. The host is usually placed in a monstrance, and reverently viewed at Benedictions and during adoration. Some churches contain “adoration chapels” in which the Eucharist is continuously on display that the faithful may observe their faith through it. “The Cure of Ars would spend hours in front of the Blessed Sacrament. When people would ask him what he would do or say during those hours, he would say: ‘He looks at me, and I look at him.'”
- One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). . Encyclopædia Britannica. 1 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 214.
- CCC §2096
- CCC §2628
- Sullivan, William L. “Adoration”. The Catholic Encyclopedia Vol. 1. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1907. 20 November 2016
- Aquinas, Summa, 84.2
- CCC §2781
- Cantalamesa, Raniero. Praise Him, January 2003, Vol. XXIX, No. 1
- Grutsch, Paul. “Adoration”, Ignatius Press
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