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제목 1st Commandment - 2nd part : worship(2016-02-06)
작성자 관리자 작성일 2016-02-08

 


1st Commandment – 2nd part : worship(2016-02-06)


My dear Brethren,

Last time, we saw the interior requirements of the First Commandment. It is a commandment of life, binding us to live entirely for God, first through an interior life where our Lord Jesus Christ reigns by the virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity. Jesus truly lives in us as the Truth, as the Way and as the Life, the Truth enlightening our mind, the Way to Heaven, the Life of Charity, a beginning of Eternal Life.



But man is not an Angel: he does not only have a soul; he also has a body. What he lives interiorly, he ought to manifest exteriorly. He ought to serve God also through his body. This is done by worship. St Thomas calls it “the virtue of religion”. It is the virtue by which we honour God. What does that mean, to honour someone? It means “to give testimony to the excellence of someone”. Worship is thus the testimony to the supreme excellence of God. Asians have the sense of respect, honour: it is thus easy for them have the sense of worship, supreme respect due to God alone.

 It is good to understand that notion more clearly, with the help of St Thomas Aquinas. It is clear from the Scriptures that “honour” is due not only to God, but also to some creatures: the very fourth Commandments bids us “to honour our father and mother”. What is reserved to God is “supreme honour”. The definition of honour by St Thomas helps us to understand this easily: honour is the testimony given to the excellence of someone. Now there is the supreme excellence, absolute excellente, which belongs to God alone, and to which we give testimony by worship; and there is relative excellence, which can be found in some creatures with regard to others, thus parents have a relative excellence over their children which is the foundation of the duty of the children to honour their parents.

Similarly the Saints have a relative excellence over the normal faithful, which is the foundation of the honour given to the Saints, as we shall see. Therefore honouring the Saints is very legitimate, nay it is a duty; in no way does it detract to the worship of God, because we only give a “relative honour” to the Saints, but we give to God the supreme honour, worship! Note that our Lady has a special place, above all the other saints, but below God: to her we give “hyperdulia”, that is, “super-honour”, but not worship. Moreover honouring the artwork of an artist is undoubtedly a very good way to honour the excellence of the artist. The Saints are the artwork of God: He made them holy; He gave them holiness to a heroic degree. Thus by honouring the Saints, we give great honour to the Sanctifier, to God, the Most Holy Trinity, Who made such beautiful saints. Those who refuse to honour the saints, far from honouring God, in fact they offend God: indeed those who would refuse to praise the painting would in fact offend the painter!

At the human level there are four kinds of excellences which we honour in our neighbour: the excellence of science, of virtue, of authority and of origin. Let us see some examples. We honour the excellence of science for instance in people who have done great studies by giving them an appropriate title, such as “doctor”, or “Professor”; we honour the discoveries of great scientists by giving them a Nobel price. At a lower level, there used to be the practice to give “prizes” in schools at the end of the academic year for the best students in the classes. This is a public recognition of the relative excellence of knowledge of some over others. In the Church certain saints have the title of “Doctor of the Church”, such as St Thomas Aquinas or St Augustine, for their extensive and deep knowledge of the Doctrine of our Lord Jesus Christ.

We honour the excellence of virtue for instance by giving military medals to soldiers who have shown great courage; this is also given for instance to firemen or policemen who have shown great courage in saving or protecting the lives of others: this can take the form of “merit medals”. More commonly in the Church the honour given to the Saints is a testimony for their “heroic virtues”, which make them models for all the faithful.

We honour the excellence of authority for instance in the kings, civil authorities or military authorities. St Peter even commands to do so: “Honour the king” (1 Pet. 2:17). And St Paul says: “Render therefore to all men their dues. Tribute, to whom tribute is due: custom, to whom custom: fear, to whom fear: honour, to whom honour” (Rom. 13:7). Note that paying taxes or tribute is part of the honour due to civil authorities… In the Church we honour the Pope, the bishops, the priests and even one another, being the temples of the Holy Ghost: “Honour all men. Love the brotherhood” (1 Pet. 2:17). “Loving one another with the charity of brotherhood, with honour preventing one another” (Rom. 12:10).

The last kind of honour is more difficult to understand, yet even more important. Our parents are not always the most knowledgeable persons, nor always the most virtuous persons, not always high in authority. Though when the children are minor, the parents have authority over them, this is no longer true when they have become adults and have their own families: yet even adults owe “honour” to their parents, and must help them in their old age. Why? St Thomas Aquinas explains that parents have the “excellence of origin” over their children: the children have received life, and so many other goods, from their parents. Since life is the most fundamental good, without which no other good would be profitable, the children will always remain indebted to their parents for this. If children would make the list of all the goods that they received from their parents, it will be very long! And the better the parents, the longer the list. Often it is only many years later that one gets to understand how much one owes to one’s parents. Sometimes it is even after their death that one understands how much one owed them. How can children repay such gift? What can equal life? St Thomas explains that in such domain we can never repay as much as we have received: the debt is greater. The best we can do in such domain is to acknowledge the excellence of our parents by honouring them.

The honour due to parents is also due for a similar reason to all those from whom we have received much: teachers, benefactors, and priests who are “spiritual fathers” and have given us treasures of infinite value: the Holy Eucharist, the very Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ! Hence we honour them too.

But in all these four domains, God is infinitely above all others: He alone has the absolute and supreme knowledge: not only of all creation, but above all created things He has the supreme knowledge of His own self. Also He alone is the First Cause of all good, of all virtuous act and the supreme rule of all good: all what He did is done with supreme wisdom, goodness, mercy and justice, kindness and order. Hence to Him alone is due the supreme honour for virtue: all other virtuous action is such only in as much as it imitates this supreme Model and is moved by Him as the First Goodness. God has the supreme authority over all creation, and all authority comes from Him as St Paul says (Rom. 13:1), hence here again to Him alone is due supreme honour. Lastly God is the First Cause of all good, at the origin of all the goods that we have ever received: He is our universal benefactor: all other benefactors have only transmitted the goods that they have received, our own parents have only transmitted to us the life that they have received: God alone is the very Author of Life and of all other goods. Hence to Him alone is due the supreme honour. And that supreme honour is called worship.

Thus we understand that worship flow from contemplation of the supreme excellence of God. It includes a sense of admiration, a sense of awe in front of the divine perfection. Like St Michael, we exclaim: “Who is like to God?” Nothing! Nothing can ever be compared with God: He is infinitely above all other things, infinitely more excellent. From that admiration flows worship. To take a little comparison, in the circus one can see people doing very difficult things, such as walking on a high tight rope: we hold our breadth when they are doing it, and when they finished we all clap in admiration: this sense of admiration gives a very small idea of how much we ought to praise God for His infinite perfections.

Honour is due to excellence, because we should fill our intelligence with the knowledge of excellent things, not with “trivia”, things which it is absolutely useless to know! By giving testimony to excellent things, honour helps others to know them; it makes them “glorious”. Thus worshipping God gives glory to God. It is our little way to repay God’s generosity towards us.

The essential and most important worship is the interior worship, which is done by the virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity, as explained last time. These three virtues are called theological virtues because they have God directly as their object: we believe God, we hope in God, we love God. This certainly does honour God. But there is another virtue whose object is not God himself, but rather the honour of God, the acts by which we directly testify of His excellence: this is the virtue of religion. The virtue of religion is the virtue by which we worship God. In themselves, faith hope and charity are superior virtues. Yet by its proximity to them, the virtue of religion is a very important virtue, since its object relates us to God: it is therefore superior to all the virtues whose object are our relations with our neighbour.

St Thomas explains that there are two other acts of interior worship: prayer and devotion. By the very word “prayer”, you recognise how important it is in each faithful’s life! However it would take too much time to start treating prayer completely here. Let us just remember that the First Commandment of God binds us to pray. Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself said: “we ought always to pray!” (Lk. 18:1) And St Paul bids us: “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17). Now St Thomas defines devotion as the promptitude of the will to honour God, to offer all our actions for the honour of God. St Paul says: “whatsoever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31). Hence arriving late at Mass is certainly a lack of devotion; being reluctant to pray is a lack of devotion.

There are many exterior acts of religion, acts by which we honour God. The first is praise: to tell the excellence of God, to sing the glory of God. This is what is done by the monks and the nuns and the priest, in the divine office; this is often done in the Psalms, which all priests recite every week, according to the Ancient tradition. Note that the modernists have broken that tradition, and now only recite them once a month, and yet have suppressed certain verses which they have judged undesirable: they have censured the Holy Ghost!

We honour God by words in other ways too: vows, oaths; we shall see them when speaking about the second Commandment. There are persons who dedicate their life to the honour of God, to the practice of the virtue of religion; hence they are called “religious”: monks and nuns are “religious”; they usually make the “religious vows” of the Three Evangelical Counsels.

We can honour God by acts of the body, such as prostration, genuflections, and similar acts: such acts when they signify supreme honour are called “adoration”. Thus we kneel down to receive our Lord Jesus Christ in Holy Communion, in order to adore Him: it is a profession of faith in the Real Presence; but, even before that, it is to render Him our due adoration!

St Thomas says we can honour God also by making offerings in His honour, tithes, to help those who have dedicated their lives to Him or to works of charity.

Note that the same act in different context can signify a simple honour, and not the supreme honour. Thus we see in the Scriptures that certain great Saints prostrated before others: this was not worship, but a lower honour. We see Abraham doing so, or Joseph’s brothers prostrating themselves in front of him; we see David prostrating himself in front of Saul (1Kg 24:9). In the Church the children kneel at the foot of the bishop to receive Confirmation. Thus we incense our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, but we also incense the priest, the lower ministers, even the altar boys and all the faithful: the first incensing is an act of adoration and the others are act of honour: God keeps the first place but we also fulfil the Scriptures which bids us: “with honour preventing one another” (Rom. 12:10).

Now among the exterior acts of honour, there is one that is reserved to God and this one may never be offered to a creature, and that is the Sacrifice. We praise God, and we can praise the saints though at a lower level; we pray to God, we can pray also to the Saints, though differently also. We offer sacrifices to God, but here we may never offer sacrifices to a creature! Sacrifice is the act of supreme honour, it is the act proper to worship, absolutely reserved to God. The supreme act of worship is the Sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Sacrifice which He offered on the Cross to His Father for our salvation, the Sacrifice of the Body and Blood, where He is both the High Priest and the Victim. And He gave that most holy Sacrifice to His Church, so that it becomes her Sacrifice, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, which is the very offering of the sacrifice of the Cross through the ministry of the priests.

Now the sin against worship is called idolatry: to offer to a creature the worship that is proper to God, especially the sacrifice. This is a very grievous sin, for which God most severely punished the Hebrews in the Old Testament, and also some pagan nations. “Thou shalt not have strange gods before me” (Ex. 20:3). Then God goes into particulars, to avoid any escape, and forbids the building of idols of all kinds: “Thou shalt not make to thyself a graven thing, nor the likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or in the earth beneath, nor of those things that are in the waters under the earth” (Ex. 20:4).

Now Protestants, not understanding the Scriptures nor proper worship, cut the first commandment in two and pretend that this second sentence is a second commandment, as if the making of any statue would be forbidden: if that were true, then God would never have commanded Moses to make a Brazen Serpent (Num. 21:8), nor to sculpt the two cherubs above the ark (Ex. 25:18). In fact right after having said the above about “graven things”, God continues and explain: “Thou shalt not adore them, nor serve them: I am the Lord thy God, mighty, jealous” (Ex. 20:5). So it is clear that it is forbidden to make statues or images “in order to adore them”; but it is not forbidden if they are not adored, as the two cherubs were not adored, nor the brazen serpent! In fact, later under King Ezechias, the Hebrews started to worship the brazen serpent and this devout king ordered to break it to pieces (2 King 18:4). As long as the brazen serpent was used as a SIGN of the salvation of the Lord, a SIGN of Christ crucified, there was nothing wrong with it: it was even very beneficial for the Hebrews; but as soon as it was worshipped in itself, then it had to be destroyed.

The Church, endowed with the wisdom of the Saints, coming from the Spirit of Wisdom, approved the proper use of holy pictures and statues: as SIGNS of heavenly realities. A holy picture is like a window onto heaven: when one looks at a window, one does not pay attention to the glass, but rather he looks at what he sees beyond the glass. Similarly when we look at a holy picture, our thoughts and affections are all for our Lord Jesus Christ and the Saints in Heaven. Similarly when a mother looks at the photo of her children, her affection goes to the children, not to the paper of the photo: she may say that she loves that photo, but the love goes to the children, not to the image itself! This is rather evident; the denial of this comes from evil minds. There used to be heretics called the “iconoclasts” who destroyed all pictures and holy images. The Church strongly rejected such heresy. It is good to have holy pictures and statues and crucifixes: it is strongly recommended to have one presiding each room of one’s house, and to have a place in the house like a little sanctuary, where the family gathers every day for family prayer, well decorated with a nice crucifix and holy pictures. However there would be idolatry if one would start to worship the picture itself, and not refer the devotion to the person signified by it: the Catholic religion is all towards heaven; it is not attached to these earthly things.

The only thing we worship on earth is our Lord Jesus Christ Himself in the holy Eucharist, because He is God, true God of the true God, equal with the Father, and hence does deserve our adoration: as the Magi adored Him (Mt. 2:11), and the blind man whom He had healed adored him (Jn. 9:38). The refusal to adore our Lord Jesus Christ is a very grave sin.

To adore other “gods” which are in fact not God, because there is only one true God, whether Buddha or other Indian gods, or any other false gods, to adore them is also a very grave sin. Idolatry is not mere ignorance of the true God: it is to give honour and worship to someone, something that is not the True God: and that is most opposed to reason! Our human reason can easily see how wrong this is: how can one give faith to all the myths about Hindu gods, about Egyptian gods, about Greek or Latin pagan mythology? Even Islam is not worthy of any faith: Mohamed claimed that Allah revealed to him, but he never gave any proof of the divine origin of his revelation: no miracles, no prophecies, nothing at all, only the sword! That would rather be a proof of devilish origin.

To put the one true God on the same level as the false gods, as was done in Assisi in 1986 and has been done many times after this scandalous example from high up, to equate our Lord Jesus Christ with false gods is also a very grave sin against the first Commandment. God is very clear: “Thou shalt not have strange gods before me” (Ex. 20:3). No one may put false gods on an equal level with the one true God, with our Lord Jesus Christ; it is a very grave scandal when the Pope does that, a grave sin against the First Commandment.

Worship of false gods is against the first Commandment; false worship of the true God is also against the First Commandment. This is what happens with the modern Jews and the heretics. The God of the Old Testament is the Most Holy Trinity, it is the one true God indeed. But all the worship of the Old Testament was oriented towards the Incarnation, towards our Lord Jesus Christ: it was preparing for His coming. To reject Him when He came, and to look forward to the coming of the Messiah as if He had not come is not to be faithful to the Old Testament itself. Our Lord said to the Pharisees: “Search the scriptures, for you think in them to have life everlasting; and the same are they that give testimony of me” (Jn. 5:39). “Think not that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one that accuseth you, Moses, in whom you trust. For if you did believe Moses, you would perhaps believe me also; for he wrote of me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?” (Jn. 5:45-47).

False worship of the true God is also found among the heretics, first because they don’t give the true worship of charity, that loves unity, the unity of the Church which our Lord Jesus Christ has founded. Also because most of them have distorted the worship itself. Luther could not stand the Mass; he opposed the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in a very violent way. Yet this is the supreme act of the true worship of the New Testament!

My dear brethren, I have been a little long, but worship is a very important duty and it is therefore very important to understand well what it is: a testimony to the supreme excellence of God. It is practiced by the interior worship of faith, hope and charity, especially in prayer and devotion, but also it is practiced exteriorly by praise (vocal prayers), by adoration, by tithes, and above all by the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, which is the very heart of the Church and a preparation for the heavenly worship in eternal life. May the blessed Virgin Mary, who was so closely united to the Sacrifice of the Cross help us to worship God, to worship our Lord Jesus Christ in a manner worthy of God as much as we can, so that we may go to Heaven. Amen.

Fr. F. Laisney(sspxasia)