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What is the difference between veneration and worship?

Question: "What is the difference between veneration and worship?"

In response to the accusation that they worship Mary and the saints, Catholics will often claim that they “venerate,” not worship, them. To venerate is to regard with great respect or to revere. Veneration can be defined as “respect or awe directed toward someone due to his/her value or greatness.”

The simplest definition of worship is to “ascribe worth.” Worship can be more completely defined as “showing respect, love, reverence, or adoration.” Based on the dictionary, no clear difference between veneration and worship exists. In fact, veneration and worship are often used as synonyms for each other.

But dictionary definitions are not the point. It does not matter what it is called. The Bible nowhere instructs followers of Jesus Christ to offer worship, veneration, adoration, or anything similar to anyone but God. Nowhere does the New Testament describe any followers of Jesus Christ worshiping, venerating, or adoring anyone other than God. They did not receive worship, either. Peter refused to receive adoration from Cornelius (Acts 10:25–26), and Paul and Barnabas were equally adamant that the people of Lystra not venerate them (Acts 14:15). Twice in the Book of Revelation (Revelation 19:10; 22:8), the apostle John begins to worship an angel, and the angel instructs him, “Worship God!” Mary and the saints who have gone to heaven before us would say the same thing: “Worship God!”

The Catholic Church has different degrees of worship: dulia, hyper dulia, and latria. Dulia is the honor given to the saints. Hyper dulia is the honor given to Mary alone, as the greatest of the saints. Latria is the honor given to God alone. In contrast, the Bible always ascribes honor, in the context of worship, to God alone (1 Chronicles 29:11; 1 Timothy 1:17; 6:16; Revelation 4:11; 5:13). Even if there were biblical support for different levels of worship, there still would be no biblical support for offering lower/lesser levels of worship to anyone other than God.

Only God is worthy of worship, adoration, praise (Nehemiah 9:6; Revelation 4:11; 15:4), and veneration, no matter how it is defined. Mary’s worth comes from the fact that God choose her for a glorious role and saved her from her sins through the death of Jesus Christ (Luke 1:47). The saints’ worth comes from the fact that God saved them, transformed them, and then used them in mighty and amazing ways. May we all, with Mary and the saints, fall on our knees and worship the only One who is worthy.

Recommended Resource: The Gospel According to Rome: Comparing Catholic Tradition and The Word of God by James McCarthy

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Is worship of saints / Mary biblical?

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What is the difference between veneration and worship?

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