QUESTION 84: OF ADORATION
In due sequence we must consider the external acts of latria, and in the
first place, adoration whereby one uses one's body to reverence God;
secondly, those acts whereby some external thing is offered to God;
thirdly, those acts whereby something belonging to God is assumed.
Under the first head there are three points of inquiry:
(1) Whether adoration is an act of latria?
(2) Whether adoration denotes an internal or an external act?
(3) Whether adoration requires a definite place?
Article 1: Whether adoration is an act of latria or religion?
Objection 1: It would seem that adoration is not an act of latria or religion.
The worship of religion is due to God alone. But adoration is not due to
God alone: since we read (Gn. 18:2) that Abraham adored the angels; and
(3 Kgs. 1:23) that the prophet Nathan, when he was come in to king David,
"worshiped him bowing down to the ground." Therefore adoration is not an
act of religion.
Objection 2: Further, the worship of religion is due to God as the object of
beatitude, according to Augustine (De Civ. Dei x, 3): whereas adoration
is due to Him by reason of His majesty, since a gloss on Ps. 28:2, "Adore
ye the Lord in His holy court," says: "We pass from these courts into
the court where we adore His majesty." Therefore adoration is not an act
Objection 3: Further, the worship of one same religion is due to the three
Persons. But we do not adore the three Persons with one adoration, for we
genuflect at each separate invocation of Them [*At the adoration of the
Cross, on Good Friday]. Therefore adoration is nol an act of latria.
On the contrary, are the words quoted Mt. 4:10: "The Lord thy God shalt
thou adore and Him only shalt thou serve."
I answer that, Adoration is directed to the reverence of the person
adored. Now it is evident from what we have said (Question , Articles ,4) that it
is proper to religion to show reverence to God. Hence the adoration
whereby we adore God is an act of religion.
Reply to Objection 1: Reverence is due to God on account of His excellence, which
is communicated to certain creatures not in equal measure, but according
to a measure of proportion; and so the reverence which we pay to God, and
which belongs to latria, differs from the reverence which we pay to
certain excellent creatures; this belongs to dulia, and we shall speak of
it further on (Question ). And since external actions are signs of internal
reverence, certain external tokens significative of reverence are offered
to creatures of excellence, and among these tokens the chief is
adoration: yet there is one thing which is offered to God alone, and that
is sacrifice. Hence Augustine says (De Civ. Dei x, 4): "Many tokens of
Divine worship are employed in doing honor to men, either through
excessive humility, or through pernicious flattery; yet so that those to
whom these honors are given are recognized as being men to whom we owe
esteem and reverence and even adoration if they be far above us. But who
ever thought it his duty to sacrifice to any other than one whom he
either knew or deemed or pretended to be a God?" Accordingly it was with
the reverence due to an excellent creature that Nathan adored David;
while it was the reverence due to God with which Mardochai refused to
adore Aman fearing "lest he should transfer the honor of his God to a
man" (Esther 13:14).
Again with the reverence due to an excellent creature Abraham adored the
angels, as did also Josue (Jos. 5:15): though we may understand them to
have adored, with the adoration of latria, God Who appeared and spoke to
them in the guise of an angel. It was with the reverence due to God that
John was forbidden to adore the angel (Apoc. 22:9), both to indicate the
dignity which he had acquired through Christ, whereby man is made equal
to an angel: wherefore the same text goes on: "I am thy fellow-servant
and of thy brethren"; as also to exclude any occasion of idolatry,
wherefore the text continues: "Adore God."
Reply to Objection 2: Every Divine excellency is included in His majesty: to
which it pertains that we should be made happy in Him as in the sovereign
Reply to Objection 3: Since there is one excellence of the three Divine Persons,
one honor and reverence is due to them and consequently one adoration. It
is to represent this that where it is related (Gn. 18:2) that three men
appeared to Abraham, we are told that he addressed one, saying: "Lord, if
I have found favor in thy sight," etc. The triple genuflection represents
the Trinity of Persons, not a difference of adoration.
Article 2: Whether adoration denotes an action of the body?
Objection 1: It would seem that adoration does not denote an act of the body.
It is written (Jn. 4:23): "The true adorers shall adore the Father in
spirit and in truth." Now what is done in spirit has nothing to do with
an act of the body. Therefore adoration does not denote an act of the
Objection 2: Further, the word adoration is taken from "oratio" [prayer]. But
prayer consists chiefly in an interior act, according to 1 Cor. 14:15, "I
will pray with the spirit, I will pray also with the understanding."
Therefore adoration denotes chiefly a spiritual act.
Objection 3: Further, acts of the body pertain to sensible knowledge: whereas
we approach God not by bodily but by spiritual sense. Therefore adoration
does not denote an act of the body.
On the contrary, A gloss on Ex. 20:5, "Thou shalt not adore them, nor
serve them," says: "Thou shalt neither worship them in mind, nor adore
I answer that, As Damascene says (De Fide Orth. iv, 12), since we are
composed of a twofold nature, intellectual and sensible, we offer God a
twofold adoration; namely, a spiritual adoration, consisting in the
internal devotion of the mind; and a bodily adoration, which consists in
an exterior humbling of the body. And since in all acts of latria that
which is without is referred to that which is within as being of greater
import, it follows that exterior adoration is offered on account of
interior adoration, in other words we exhibit signs of humility in our
bodies in order to incite our affections to submit to God, since it is
connatural to us to proceed from the sensible to the intelligible.
Reply to Objection 1: Even bodily adoration is done in spirit, in so far as it
proceeds from and is directed to spiritual devotion.
Reply to Objection 2: Just as prayer is primarily in the mind, and secondarily
expressed in words, as stated above (Question , Article ), so too adoration
consists chiefly in an interior reverence of God, but secondarily in
certain bodily signs of humility; thus when we genuflect we signify our
weakness in comparison with God, and when we prostrate ourselves we
profess that we are nothing of ourselves.
Reply to Objection 3: Though we cannot reach God with the senses, our mind is
urged by sensible signs to approach God.
Article 3: Whether adoration requires a definite place?
Objection 1: It would seem that adoration does not require a definite place.
It is written (Jn. 4:21): "The hour cometh, when you shall neither on
this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, adore the Father"; and the same reason
seems to apply to other places. Therefore a definite place is not
necessary for adoration.
Objection 2: Further, exterior adoration is directed to interior adoration.
But interior adoration is shown to God as existing everywhere. Therefore
exterior adoration does not require a definite place.
Objection 3: Further, the same God is adored in the New as in the Old
Testament. Now in the Old Testament they adored towards the west, because
the door of the Tabernacle looked to the east (Ex. 26:18 seqq.).
Therefore for the same reason we ought now to adore towards the west, if
any definite place be requisite for adoration.
I answer that, As stated above (Article ), the chief part of adoration is
the internal devotion of the mind, while the secondary part is something
external pertaining to bodily signs. Now the mind internally apprehends
God as not comprised in a place; while bodily signs must of necessity be
in some definite place and position. Hence a definite place is required
for adoration, not chiefly, as though it were essential thereto, but by
reason of a certain fittingness, like other bodily signs.
Reply to Objection 1: By these words our Lord foretold the cessation of
adoration, both according to the rite of the Jews who adored in
Jerusalem, and according to the rite of the Samaritans who adored on
Mount Garizim. For both these rites ceased with the advent of the
spiritual truth of the Gospel, according to which "a sacrifice is offered
to God in every place," as stated in Malach. 1:11.
Reply to Objection 2: A definite place is chosen for adoration, not on account of
God Who is adored, as though He were enclosed in a place, but on account
of the adorers; and this for three reasons. First, because the place is
consecrated, so that those who pray there conceive a greater devotion and
are more likely to be heard, as may be seen in the prayer of Solomon (3
Kgs. 8). Secondly, on account of the sacred mysteries and other signs of
holiness contained therein. Thirdly, on account of the concourse of many
adorers, by reason of which their prayer is more likely to be heard,
according to Mt. 18:20, "Where there are two or three gathered together
in My name, there am I in the midst of them."
Reply to Objection 3: There is a certain fittingness in adoring towards the east.
First, because the Divine majesty is indicated in the movement of the
heavens which is from the east. Secondly, because Paradise was situated
in the east according to the Septuagint version of Gn. 2:8, and so we
signify our desire to return to Paradise. Thirdly, on account of Christ
Who is "the light of the world" [*Jn. 8:12; 9:5], and is called "the
Orient" (Zach. 6:12). Who mounteth above the heaven of heavens to the
east (Ps. 67:34), and is expected to come from the east, according to Mt.
24:27, "As lightning cometh out of the east, and appeareth even into the
west; so shall also the coming of the Son of Man be."