Intentions of the Holy Father for April

Ecology and Justice. That governments may foster the protection of creation and the just distribution of natural resources.
Hope for the Sick. That the Risen Lord may fill with hope the hearts of those who are being tested by pain and sickness.

Mary, Latreia, Dulia, and Hyperdulia

Responding to a recent post on InsideCatholic, a commenter identified what he believed to be a failure of logic among Catholics and in our doctrine.  He wrote to the extent that Catholics have reserved worship for God not in practice, but merely in definition.  We treat Mary as we do God, but that we call the acts of reverence to her hyperdulia, and to Him, latreia.  He said that we define hyperdulia as whatever we do to honor Mary, and latreia as whatever we do to honor God.  It seems appropriate on the day before a great Marian holy day to consider such things, so I have decided to gussy my response up a bit and reprint it below:

Latreia has a very specific meaning. Latreia is not just "whatever is higher than hyperdulia." It is very clearly, specifically "ministerial service," (see any Greek lexicon) and it refers to the service of the altar - to sacrificial worship.

For Protestants, who have ejected the concept of sacrifice from their acts of worship, one act of reverence and devotion blends with another - prayers, catechesis, song. It is not so among us Catholics, because we have the Eucharist - not merely a memorial, but a re-presentation, a re-manifestation, a re-engagement - of Christ's self-sacrificial oblation. The Eucharistic Sacrifice is the act by which Christ worshiped the Father, and it is the act by which Catholics and the Orthodox worship the Father, because it is the way that he instructed us to do so (Mt 26:26-29; Mk 14:22-25; Lk 22:19-22; 1 Cor 11:23-26). That is latreia, and it is reserved for God the Father alone, in Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Singing, prayers, preaching - those are nice, but they aren't what we mean by latreia. At the Mass and in the rest of our lives, they build up to the latreia. That's what they are for, but they are not the "source and summit" of our life - rather, they draw us closer to God. That is why we can devote them safely to the saints - because the saints draw us closer to God as well. It is impossible to learn about their lives and to attempt to imitate them without growing closer to God... because the saints are saints precisely because of their closeness with God.

Mary is the greatest saint because she is the closest to God. She was so close to him that she bore him nine months in her womb, and many more in her arms. He surely followed her example as a child, and she followed his as an adult. She restrained him when adolescent exuberance would have launched his ministry too early, and prodded him before it was too late. She followed him around as he preached, and she met him on the Way of the Cross as he died. She alone among women is named as among those present in the Upper Room at Pentecost - surely not at the periphery of the Apostles, but at their center as the one who knew Him best. The Holy Spirit descended upon her to conceive in her the Messiah of Israel, and descended upon her and the Apostles to bring the Messiah out to the world.

Whoever would denigrate such a relationship has either not thought it through. She is not one among many Christians or saints - she is absolutely unique among God's creatures. If we honor our mothers with dulia (devotion), surely something higher is owed the Mother of God.  And that is what is hyperdulia means: higher devotion.

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