The Meaning of Worship

Matins at the Cathedral of Christ the Savior
Matins at the Cathedral of Christ the Savior
Source: Press Service of the Patriarch of Moscow and All Rus'

What do the words “worship” and “church” mean to you, how would you describe true “worship” of the almighty creator of the universe? How would you describe what we do in church.

When we worship, we bow down to God acknowledging Him as the creator of all things and granting Him the adoration and respect that He deserves. The raison d’etre of the Church is to worship God the Creator of the Universe.

The two words “worship” and “church” are closely bound together in usage over the past two thousand years and are seen as such in both the New Testament and the Old.

The New Testament uses hagioi which is translated as saints plural and the singular never appears in the New Testament, because the Church is not a collection or gathering together as a synagogue of individuals but a corporate body of those Believers who are in the process of sanctifying themselves – hence saints. The word ekklesia which is translated as Church therefore retains its meaning as those called out. The concept of the qaahaal or assembly is central to the Old Testament as it means corporate body of the people of God. The word qoheleth, usually translated as preacher but has the meaning of calling the qaahaal or corporate assembly together. Individualism as we know today, it is simply not found in the Bible.

Worship means that the Church comes before God as her corporate work and both the Hebrew and Greek regard this as a prostration of His people before God. The word avodah is the word we translate as worship it is the word used for what the high priest did on the Day of Atonement at the Temple’s Altar of Sacrifice and it literally means just work – labour done in the serving at the altar of the Lord. The word shakah can be translated as to prostrate oneself and this is commonly used for worship.

The Church then, is in this sense, the qahai or congregation of those called out from the greater worldly society and which has a sense of consecration. We see it in a loaf of bread which is particles of wheat gathered to make a whole, much like a congregation as individuals are gathered to make one body and thus are individuals no more.

It is not, however only in the Old and New Testament that this corporate worship is enjoined. The document the Didache, a catechism written by the Apostles while the documents that would become the New Testament were as yet only two Gospels and no Epistles, also says “And on the Lord’s own day gather yourselves together and break bread and give thanks, first confessing your transgressions, that your sacrifice may be pure. “

There is no such thing as being a Christian alone. Yes, circumstances may mean that you are distant from the congregation that you belong to and you may only be able to join them for worship occasionally, but that is the important part of belonging to the Church, you are part of those called out by the Lord and corporately you are His people. Of course in the interim between joining with the rest of the congregation, you should worship God and converse with Him at every opportunity, and you must make those opportunities. It is however vital that you are part of a congregation, visibly worshipping together as the called out People of God.