Thursday, January 1, 2015

Venite Adoremus

Solemnity of the Epiphany 2015

Venite Adoremus  – “O Come Let Us Adore Him;” so goes the refrain of that well-loved hymn Adeste Fideles, “O Come All Ye Faithful.” As often as this hymn is sung, we can imagine accompanying the shepherds as they go running through the streets of Bethlehem or the Magi, wise men crossing impossible distance and terrain, to reach the Christ Child on bended knee humbly petitioning the Blessed Mother “O come, let us adore Him.” What is the reason for their haste and the purpose of their visit? They have certainly not come just to observe or to satisfy their curiosity. And the gifts they present to the child are more than just gestures of friendship and salutary presents. They have come to do what is at the very heart of our Christian faith– they have come to worship the Lord.

Several thoughts come to mind on this Solemnity of the Epiphany, the Manifestation of the Lord, but this year I would like to approach this meditation from one angle: the importance of worship in the story of Jesus' epiphany for our modern world, and in particular, for all disciples of Christ. Unfortunately, the worship of God has become a secondary focus, even for many who consider themselves as part of the Church. Even within the Church, the liturgy often seems to rank last of all among its many activities. To modern man, worship seems altogether insular, anti-social and a waste of time. Just observe the number of times you have looked at your watch in the course of this mass. Today, you are most likely going to encounter a greater amount of discussion on solidarity with the poor or even the task of evangelisation, reaching out to one’s neighbours. To be sure, these things are very important. But I guess we have forgotten that worship is more important. In fact, worship is the first and chief work of the Church. Today’s feast therefore is an apt reminder that we need to restore the rightful priority of worship in our daily lives and in the life of the Church.

The Magi reminds us that the essence of religion is the worship of God. God created the universe for this very purpose. God created men and women, created in the divine image, and wrote on their hearts the command to worship God who created all things. “God’s first call and just demand is that man accepts Him and worship Him.” (CCC #2084)

To worship God means acknowledging, in all humility and honesty, that all we have and all that we are comes from Him. To worship God is to humbly recognise our creature-hood and our servant-hood. He is God and we are not. To worship God consists in submitting to His holy will, not begrudgingly but gladly. We human beings, however, could never truly or adequately worship God on our own. That is why the greatest act of worship is to be found in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass where Christ offers perfect worship to the Father. Christ is both the perfect High Priest and the perfect Sacrifice. What He offers is His own Paschal Mystery, ie His Passion, Death and Resurrection, by which the whole world is redeemed and through which the Father is glorified. Whenever we participate in the liturgy, therefore, we participate in the eternal priesthood of Christ and thereby offer truly pleasing worship to God. This is why the Church at the end of the Eucharistic Prayer, affirms that our worship can only be accomplished “through Him, with Him and in Him… in the unity of the Holy Spirit.”

Little do we realise that everything hinges on understanding, appropriating and living out this Truth – that we are made to worship God and God alone. Worship of God does not demote man; it elevates him. In worship, we find our fulfillment; we reach our highest dignity, and discover our true self in God. So, God is not our competitor; He does not steal the limelight, and the worship of Him is not a distraction or in opposition to our work and mission in this world. Rather, the basis of our mission and work in the world must be prayer and worship.

That great convert to Catholicism, G.K. Chesterton once wrote, “When Man ceases to worship God, he does not worship nothing but worships everything.”  We too can easily recognise the false gods of materialism, power and popularity. But, today, the fastest growing religion, the most subtle of all, is the worship of oneself. Herod the Great, the king who would tolerate no rivals, not even the one who could turn out to be the Messiah, is the iconic representation of this mind set. Herod loved himself more than anything else, more than the liberation and salvation of Israel. His love of self would ultimately lead him to plot “Deicide” – the murder of God. Narcissistic conceited idolisation of oneself has made each of us into a god that tolerates no rivals. It is no wonder that true worship of God is forgotten and even vilified in this self-obsessed culture of ours. If anything is worthy of adulation and praise, then it can only be us. Chesterton’s timeless quote may sound like this today, “When Man ceases to worship God, he does not worship nothing but worships himself.”

Perhaps, some of you may protest that this is an unfair and inaccurate assessment of our modern culture. Are we really so conceited and self-absorbed? We only need to find evidence of this claim in our own culture of worship. I’m quite sure that you know of many Catholics, and may even count yourself as one of them, who constantly complain about the mass being boring or being too long. It is boring because it is not about “us.” It is too long because worship is such a waste of time and we have little love for God. We could be better using our time to entertain ourselves. It would seem that “boredom” is symptomatic of an entertainment culture, a culture that manufactures reality TV shows, Talentime contests, and Social Media, a culture which continually demands to "feel good". The goal of such culture is never the worship of God. On the contrary, it is all about ourselves – we must be kept entertained. Hence, the mass too becomes "show time" with an unhealthy focus upon the performance, which has been adapted from a world that does not know God.

In a recent blog posting, Monsignor Charles Pope of the Archdiocese of Washington D.C. raised the caution that when churches jump unto the entertainment and “feel-good” factory band-wagon of worship, they would still risk losing congregants because eventually, boredom sets in, ideas run out, and Catholic parishes will always lose out to the “glitzier and better funded” Protestant mega-churches who specialise in the trendy. He concludes with this poignant reminder – “the central point of liturgy is not to impress or entertain human beings. (In other words, it’s not about the worship of man by man, but rather) It is to worship God.”

So today, in contrast to Herod who demanded worship from his subjects, we have the example of the Magi, whom tradition tells us were also kings. But here lies the difference. Those who were in the custom of having others bow and even prostrate before them, now humbly bow before this seemingly powerless and insignificant Child. Rather than expecting adulation and praises from others, the Magi teach us that true worship comes in the form of losing one self to the divine. As the Star guided the Magi to worship at the crib of Our Lord and Saviour, let us be guided by this liturgy to worship Him in the Most Holy Sacrament of his Body and Blood. And if you do get to sing that beautiful hymn with its chorus resounding; “Venite Adoremus!” “O Come Let Us Adore Him”,  remember that it does not only bid us to obey God, or to serve Him, to strive, to live or die for Him;  all of that might come in good time, but for today, the call is to adore and to worship. And that is what we must do, not just for today, but for the remainder of my life here and for all eternity thereafter.

1 comment:

  1. ".........but for today, the call is to adore and to worship. And that is what we must do,........."

    Adore and Worship - simple words but so loaded..........
    thkq Fr for timely reminder.


Terms of Use: As additional measure for security, please sign in before you leave your comments.

Please note that foul language will not be tolerated. Comments that include profanity, personal attacks, and antisocial behaviour such as "spamming" and "trolling" will be removed. Violators run the risk of being blocked permanently. You are fully responsible for the content you post. Please be responsible and stay on topic.