Thursday, April 4, 2013


What is worship?

It would seem an easy enough question to answer. But the truth is that each culture has a slightly different idea of what constitutes worship. Is worship about ritual, feeling, submission? A combination of two or more, and what manner of combination?

Religious rituals among the Greeks was heavily orthopraxic, that is, it centered around rituals that were cultural and specific. Many forms of which were unique to particular areas of Greece, but others which were pan-Hellenic and part of the Greek cultural norms. But ritualistic worship without any sense of feeling, of piety, of love for the Gods would be meaningless, and studies into the religion of Greece that ignore this aspect of Hellenic Religion are useless.

But I am not, of course, an ancient Greek. I am a modern man, an American man, and so I must confront not what worship meant then, though that certainly colors my ideas some, but what it means to me today. So, I will proceed with a simple explanation in three easy steps.

1: To worship a God is different from the more loose use of the word worship in relation to other human beings. In the common sense, worship of heroes and celebrities is simply a kind of admiration. To worship a God, however, is to accept that God as a God and then accept that he or she has an influence and effect on your life. Because of this, you give the God reverential treatment. 

2: While ritual is a part of worship, it is not in itself worship unless it is also accompanied by the above acceptance and reverence. If it is, it is empty, which is not so much worship as capitulation to an expectation.

3: Worship is not submission. We are not slaves bowing down to our masters, we are proud human beings who accept our place in the cosmos and show reverence and do honor to those divine beings who we perceive in our lives.

Now, having said that, submission can play a part in worship, as sometimes we seek to understand the will of the Gods and to do that will. To submit, willingly, to that will. The Gods do not demand this, we offer it.

Ritual, however, is a different matter. all worship seems to include some kind of ritual. even if it is simply praying in a formulaic way, or lighting a simple candle, those acts, when repeated as part of our daily worship are ritual. My rituals are simple, as I don't personally buy into the idea that we must copy what the Greeks did in order to worship the Greek Gods, but there is no mistaking that the ritual aspect of my worship plays a part in my life. It has an effect, whether it is the pacifying nature of meditation or the way lighting my hearth candle make me feel, it affects how I feel about the God or Gods in question when I pray and meditate.

But when I say I worship Zeus, or any of my other Gods, I mean this, that I feel their presence in my life and through my daily rituals prayers and meditations, I acknowledge them and love them.

In the end, that is what worship is about, love. 

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