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Worship is an act of religious devotion usually directed towards a deity. An act of worship may be performed individually, in an informal or formal group, or by a designated leader. Such acts may involve honoring.
The word is derived from the Old English weorþscipe, meaning to venerate "worship, honour shown to an object, which has been etymologised as "worthiness or worth-ship"—to give, at its simplest, worth to something.
Worship in various religions
Worship in Buddhism may take innumerable forms given the doctrine of skillful means. Worship is evident in Buddhism in such forms as: guru yoga, mandala, thanka, yantra yoga, the discipline of the fighting monks of Shaolin, panchamrita, mantra recitation, tea ceremony, ganacakra, amongst others. Buddhist Devotion is an important part of the practice of most Buddhists. According to a spokesman of the Sasana Council of Burma, devotion to Buddhist spiritual practices inspires devotion to the Triple Gem. Most Buddhists use ritual in pursuit of their spiritual aspirations. In Buddhism, puja (Sanskrit & Pali: pūjā) are expressions of "honour, worship and devotional attention." Acts of puja include bowing, making offerings and chanting. These devotional acts are generally performed daily at home (either in the morning or evening or both) as well as during communal festivals and Uposatha days at a temple.
Meditation (samādhi) is a central form of worship in Buddhism. This practice is focused on the third step of the Eightfold Path that ultimately leads to self awakening, also known as enlightenment. Meditation promotes self-awareness and exploration of the mind and spirit. Traditionally, Buddhist meditation had combined samatha (the act of stopping and calming oneself) and vipasyana (seeing clearly within) to create a complete mind and body experience. By stopping one's everyday activities and focusing on something simple, the mind can open and expand enough to reach a spiritual level. By practicing the step of vipasyana, one does not achieve the final stage of awareness, but rather approaches one step closer. Mindful meditation teaches one to stop reacting quickly to thoughts and external objects that present themselves, but rather to peacefully hold the thought without immediately responding to it. Although in traditional Buddhist faith, enlightenment is the desired end goal of meditation, it is more of a cycle in a literal sense that helps individuals better understand their minds. For example, meditation leads to understanding, leading to kindness, leading to peace, etc.
In Christianity, a church service is a formalized period of communal worship, often but not exclusively occurring on Sunday (or on Saturday in the case of those churches practicing seventh-day Sabbatarianism). The church service is the gathering together of Christians to be taught the "Word of God" (the Holy Bible) and encouraged in their faith. Technically, the "church" in "church service" refers to the gathering of the faithful rather than to the building in which the event takes place. In Christianity, worship is reverent honor and homage paid to God. The New Testament uses various words to express the concept of worship. The word proskuneo - "to worship" - means to bow down (to Gods or to kings).
Mass is the central act of divine worship in the Catholic Church. The Congregation for Divine Worship at the Vatican publishes a Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy. Roman Catholic devotions are "external practices of piety" which are not part of the official liturgy of the Catholic Church but are part of the popular spiritual practices of Catholics. They do not become part of liturgical worship, even if conducted in a Catholic church, in a group, in the presence of a priest.
Anglican devotions are private prayers and practices used by Anglican Christians to promote spiritual growth and communion with God. Among members of the Anglican Communion, private devotional habits vary widely, depending on personal preference and on affiliation with low-church or high-church parishes.
Adoration versus veneration
- adoration or latria (Latin adoratio, Greek latreia, [λατρεία]), which is due to God alone
- veneration or dulia (Latin veneratio, Greek douleia [δουλεία]), which may be lawfully offered to the saints
The external acts of veneration resemble those of worship, but differ in their object and intent. Protestant Christians, who reject the veneration of saints, question whether Catholics always maintain such a distinction in actual devotional practice, especially at the level of folk religion.
According to Mark Miravalle the English word "worship" is equivocal, in that it has been used (in Catholic writing, at any rate) to denote both adoration/latria and veneration/dulia, and in some cases even as a synonym for veneration as distinct from adoration:
As St. Thomas Aquinas explains, adoration, which is known as latria in classical theology, is the worship and homage that is rightly offered to God alone. It is the manifestation of submission, and acknowledgement of dependence, appropriately shown towards the excellence of an uncreated divine person and to his absolute Lordship. It is the worship of the Creator that God alone deserves. Although we see in English a broader usage of the word "adoration" which may not refer to a form of worship exclusive to God—for example, when a husband says that he "adores his wife"—in general it can be maintained that adoration is the best English denotation for the worship of latria.
Veneration, known as dulia in classical theology, is the honor and reverence appropriately due to the excellence of a created person. Excellence exhibited by created beings likewise deserves recognition and honor. We see a general example of veneration in events like the awarding of academic awards for excellence in school, or the awarding of olympic medals for excellence in sports. There is nothing contrary to the proper adoration of God when we offer the appropriate honor and recognition that created persons deserve based on achievement in excellence.
We must make a further clarification regarding the use of the term "worship" in relation to the categories of adoration and veneration. Historically, schools of theology have used the term "worship" as a general term which included both adoration and veneration. They would distinguish between "worship of adoration" and "worship of veneration." The word "worship" (in a similar way to how the liturgical term "cult" is traditionally used) was not synonymous with adoration, but could be used to introduce either adoration or veneration. Hence Catholic sources will sometimes use the term "worship" not to indicate adoration, but only the worship of veneration given to Mary and the saints.
Orthodox Judaism and orthodox Sunni Islam hold that for all practical purposes veneration should be considered the same as prayer; Orthodox Judaism (arguably with the exception of some Chasidic practices), orthodox Sunni Islam, and most kinds of Protestantism forbid veneration of saints or of angels, classifying these actions as akin to idolatry.
Similarly, Jehovah's Witnesses assert that many actions classified as patriotic by Protestant groups, such as saluting a flag, count as equivalent to worship and are therefore considered idolatrous as well.
Worship in Hinduism involves invoking higher forces to assist in spiritual and material progress and is simultaneously both a science and an art. A sense of bhakti or devotional love is generally invoked. This term is probably a central one in Hinduism. A direct translation from the Sanskrit to English is problematic. Worship takes a multitude of forms depending on community groups, geography and language. There is a flavour of loving and being in love with whatever object or focus of devotion. Worship is not confined to any place of worship, it also incorporates personal reflection, art forms and group. People usually perform worship to achieve some specific end or to integrate the body, the mind and the spirit in order to help the performer evolve into a higher being.
In Islam, worship refers to ritualistic devotion as well as actions done in accordance to Islamic law which is ordained by and pleasing to Allah (God). Worship is included in the Five Pillars of Islam, primarily that of salat, which is the practice of ritual prayer five times daily.
Thus, the innermost purpose of the creation of all rational beings is their cognition of the existence of Allah and, hence, their conscious willingness to conform their own existence to whatever they may perceive of His will and plan: and it is this twofold concept of cognition and willingness that gives the deepest meaning to what the Quran describes as "worship". As the next verse shows, this spiritual call does not arise from any supposed "need" on the part of the Creator, who is self-sufficient and infinite in His power, but is designed as an instrument for the inner development of the worshipper, who, by the act of his conscious self-surrender to the all-pervading Creative Will, may hope to come closer to an understanding of that Will and, thus closer to Allah Himself.
In the Muslim world, the word worship (in the literal context of worshipping) is forbidden to be used if it refers to an object or action and not exclusively to Allah.
Worship of God in Judaism is called Avodat Hashem. During the period when the Temple stood, the rites conducted there were considered the most important act of Jewish worship. However, the most common form of worship was and remains that of prayer. Other forms of worship include the conduct of prescribed rituals, such as the Passover Seder and waving the Four Species, with proper intent, as well as various types of Jewish meditation.
Worship through mundane activities
Jewish sources also express the notion that one can perform any appropriate mundane activity as the worship of God. Examples would include returning a lost article and working to support oneself and one's family.
In Sikhism, worship takes place after the Guru Granth Sahib, which is the work of the 10 Sikh Gurus all in one. Sikhs worship God and only one God, known as "One Creator", "The Wonderful Teacher" (Waheguru), or "Destroyer of Darkness".
Wiccan worship commonly takes place during a full moon or a new moon. Such rituals are called an Esbat and may involve a magic circle which practitioners believe will contain energy and form a sacred space, or will provide them a form of magical protection.
In modern society and sociology, some writers have commented on the ways that people no longer simply worship recognised deities, but also (or instead) worship consumer brands, sports teams, and other people (celebrities). Sociology therefore extends this argument to suggest outside of a religion worship is a process whereby society worships itself, as a form of self-valorization and self-preservation.
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- Ancestor worship
- Animal worship
- Idol worship
- Imperial cult
- Major world religions
- Muscle worship
- Nature worship
- Pole worship
- Sacrifice - an offering of propitiation or of worship
Fergusson, David (2008). "The Theology of Worshp: A Reformed Perspective". In Forrester, Duncan B.; Gay, Doug (eds.). Worship and Liturgy in Context: Studies and Case Studies in Theology and Practice. Norwich: Hymns Ancient and Modern Ltd. p. 71. ISBN 9780334041689. Retrieved 28 December 2018.
The English term 'worship' itself derives from an Anglo-Saxon word for 'honour' (weorthscipe) suggesting again that worship is an action honouring one who is worthy.
- Bosworth and Toller, Anglo-Saxon Dictionary, "weorþscipe"
- Kay, William K., Religion in education, Gracewing Publishing, 1997, 372 pages, ISBN 0-85244-425-7
- Maex, Edel (May 2011). "The Buddhist Roots of Mindfulness Training: A Practitioners View". Contemporary Buddhism 12 (1): 165–175. doi:10.1080/14639947.2011.564835. Retrieved 2/9/15.
-  Hardon, John, Modern Catholic Dictionary
- 'DIRECTORY ON POPULAR PIETY AND THE LITURGY: PRINCIPLES AND GUIDELINES
- Called to Worship: The Biblical Foundations of Our Response Vernon Whaley - 2009 - In the Greek, the word for worship, proskuneo, means to express deep respect or adoration—by kissing, with words, or by bowing down. Associated words include epaineo, "to commend or applaud"; aineo, "to praise God"; and sebomai.
- Miravalle, Mark (November 24, 2006). "What Is Devotion to Mary?". www.motherofallpeoples.com. Mother of all peoples. Retrieved November 2, 2013.
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- Ljakić, Zijad. "Upotreba riječi "obožavam"" [Use of word "[I] worship"]. n-um.com (in Bosnian). Archived from the original on 2019-09-03. Retrieved 2019-09-03.
- Shmuel Safrai, Centrality of the Temple during the Second Temple period (Hebrew)
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