Catholic Worship

Degrees of Worship:
There are multiple degrees of worship:

  • If it is addressed directly to God, it is superior, absolute, supreme worship, or worship of adoration, or, according to the consecrated theological term, a worship of latria. This sovereign worship is due to God alone; addressed to a creature, it would become idolatry.
  • When worship is addressed only indirectly to God, that is when its object is the veneration of martyrs, of angels, or saints, it is a subordinate worship dependent on the first, and relative, in so far as it honors the creatures of God for their particular relations with Him; theologians designate it as the worship of dulia, a term denoting servitude, and implying, when used to signify our worship of distinguished servants of God, that their service to Him is their title to our veneration (cf. Chollet, loc. cit., col. 2407, and Bouquillon, Tractatus de virtute religionis, I, Bruges, 1880, 22 sq.).
  • As the Blessed Virgin has a separate and supereminent rank among the saints, the worship paid to her is called hyperdulia (for the meaning and history of these terms see Suicer, Thesaurus Ecclesiasticus, 1728).

Since the first era of Christianity, the degrees of worship have been divided into the Greek terms latria, hyperdulia , and dulia . Their degree of greatness follows that order. Latria being the most supreme degree of worship, followed by the lesser degree, hyperdulia , and then by dulia . In Old English terminology, all three were lumped together in the word “worship” which, by definition, is used to designate honor towards someone. The concurrent use of the English word “adoration” is now best used to describe the Greek latria . Hyperdulia and dulia now fall under the singular term of veneration. This designates a lesser degree of honor to those who are venerated while leaving the highest form of adoration to God alone. The lumping of the degrees of worship into a single word has caused much confusion to non-Catholics. It has caused many to think that Catholics worship Mary and the saints equal to God. The fact is that at the beginning of the Church, the designation was clear. While the designation is still in Catholic doctrine, it’s not as clear to observers.

Evolution of the Catholic Mass
At first, the Christian meeting followed closely to the Jewish rite: the singing of psalms and the reading of the Sacred Books, followed by a sermon. The first changes were that the day of worship was changed from the Jewish Sabbath on Saturday to The Lord’s Day on Sunday and the addition of the Lord’s Supper. The “worship leader” was either one of the apostles, a bishop or priest. These have remained unchanged in the Mass to this date. Later, the Church incorporated from the religion of the Gentiles certain general rites which are current in all religions, such as the use of incense, lights, processions, and gold and silver ornaments. After the Gospel was completed, they became the “Sacred Books” that were read at every meeting, along with other inspired and uninspired writings.

The earliest surviving mention of the Eucharist outside of scripture is the Didache , or (translated) Teachings of the Twelve Apostles, written c.80ad as instructions for new Christian converts. It is mentioned again in the writing of St. Ignatius c.110ad.

The earliest surviving detail of the celebration of Eucharist or Mass in Rome is that of Saint Justin Martyr (written c.147ad):

  • On the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things. Then we all rise together and pray, and, as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and the presider in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability, and the people assent, saying Amen. There is a distribution to each, and a participation of that over which thanks have been given, and to those who are absent a portion is sent by the deacons. (First Apology, chapter lxvii).

The Mass was spoken entirely in Greek until it changed to Latin near the beginning of the 3rd century. In the beginning, the common name for the worship service was episunagoge , which translates from Greek to “assembly.” In the first century, Pope Clement used the Greek word eucharistia , which translates to “giving thanks.” When Latin became the primary language of the Church, the description of the service was called missa catechumenorum , which translates to ‘dismissal of the catechumens.’ It was commonly referred to as such because before the part of the worship where the Holy Eucharist was given, the catechumens, those who had not yet been baptized into the Church, were dismissed. Later it was shortened to missa and then translated into English as Mass. The word eucharistia remained to describe the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, which in English became Eucharist.

Elements of the Mass
The structure of the Mass has two main parts framed by two rites.


  • Fortescue, A. (1910). Liturgy of the Mass. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved February 19, 2010, from New Advent:
  • Chapman, J. (1908). Didache. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved February 19, 2010, from New Advent:
  • General Instruction of the Roman Missal, 2006