Fr. Thomas Colyandro
Have We Forgotten How to Worship God?
With all of the fervent discussion in recent years about the veracity of certain theological movements, the connections between prayer and social action, and the fear of the impact of modern culture on the life of the believer, we seem to have forgotten that our first and most important act of faith is worshipping the One, True God. What does this mean?
In the fourth chapter of the Holy Gospel According to St. John, Jesus explains to the Samaritan woman that “the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for such the Father seeks to worship him” (John 4:23).
The story behind this passage is a familiar one to most of us. Jesus had left Judea for Galilee, stopping in Samaria to drink from a well where he met a woman with five ex-husbands who was living with a sixth man. Because Jesus had known this about her, the Samaritan woman said she believed Jesus was a prophet and asked Him about the proper place for worship. What comes next is instructive and interesting.
Jesus responds first by telling her that a time is coming when people would not worship on the mountain or in Jerusalem. Instead, He tells her in verse 23, that people will focus on the one who is to be worshipped, which is the true God. He also explains that these people will worship in “spirit and truth,” which means 'in the Holy Spirit' according to Christ’s revelation. This seems straightforward, especially when you consider that most scholars say that the meaning of this passage is that God cannot be confined to a particular location.
But those of us who have faith recognize that there’s more to it than that. In verse 23, Jesus says “true worshippers will worship” (ἀληθινοὶ προσκυνηταὶ προσκυνήσουσιν). The Greek word ἀληθινοὶ (true) clearly depicts a “true” worshipper as someone who authentically believes what he says he believes. In other words, the true believer is someone who is organically connecting the exterior act of worship with an interior belief instilled in him by God. Additionally, the Greek words προσκυνηταὶ προσκυνήσουσιν (worshippers will worship) imply that a true “worshipper” is someone who offers proper reverence. In other words, the true worshipper will literally and figuratively fall to his knees to kiss the ground before God.
So why is all of this important?
As much as it seems that modern commentary on Christianity has lulled the world into a false sense of complacency about God based on the 'Jesus-is-our-friend-and-brother' narrative, we must always be reminded that God is God and is therefore to be worshipped first and foremost. It is also important to be reminded that buried deep within the respect that is offered and received through our various acts of obeisance – there is an even deeper and more profound love that is exchanged between a people and their God.
Thus, by actually worshipping God, we are reminded that we were created, redeemed, and sanctified by a God who “so loved the world that he gave his only Son, [and] that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
Today is not an untimely day to think about giving God our utmost reverence and our deepest, most truthful commitment to Him and the faith He has instilled in us.