Question 045

What is Adoration?

In persevering chastity one draws his strength from you and then, in no way shows himself to be changeable. For you are always present to him and he ever makes you the object of his affection, thus keeping himself (in a permanent present) with no future to look forward to or past to remember, undergoing no change or worldly distraction. O blessed is he, if such a one exists, who cleaves to your blessedness.

from St. Augustine Answers 101 Questions on Prayer by Fr. Ermatinger

When man looks out upon the world, he perceives the things of the world and their goodness, their beauty, and their truth, yet these things of the world do not possess goodness, truth, or beauty in equity but have variance amongst themselves, according to their nature, their ends, and their participation in them at any given instance of time. Even when man looks at himself in comparison to the things of the world, he too is at variance and further he finds that his will may choose the degree to which it participates in the good, the beautiful, and the true. In this disparity amongst unequal possessors, man finds the twins justice and righteousness. Righteousness corresponds to the individual’s degree of participation in the good, the beautiful, and the true, and justice corresponds to interactions between individuals so that not only do individuals possess degrees of goodness, beauty, and truth, but so do interactions between individuals. Justice is what is owed so that the interactions are good, beautiful, and true, and just is what the state of a righteous action is.

Man may thus speak of the honor and praise that is owed in justice from individuals possessing lesser degrees of goodness, beauty, and truth to individuals possessing greater. However, these individuals are not goodness, beauty, or truth, but only possess them. Justice would have man praise and honor goodness, beauty, and truth themselves. Man’s eyes gaze upward away from created things towards the heavens to where goodness, beauty, and truth reside amongst the gods.

This is the rudimentary concept of the virtue of religion – justice owed to the gods. If man, in justice, owes honor and praise to created individuals who possess, but are not, goodness, beauty, and truth, he owes a greater honor and praise to that which resides with goodness, beauty, and truth. This is adoration – the honor and praise owed to the gods alone. It forms the fundamental building block of the activity of worship, and, when taken as a whole, is religion and, when fulfilled according to justice so that the individual stands in righteousness, is the corresponding virtue.

Through Faith, man knows that the True God does not reside with, nor has as component parts, but is goodness, beauty, and truth because He is charity. Man perceives and speaks of God as being this or that, due to man’s finitude and cognitive limitations, and of the internal economy of the Holy Trinity as an eternal sharing and fullness of the Divine Persons in goodness, beauty, and truth, though the totality of this life, and the simplicity of its nature, is best expressed as charity – the self-gift for the sake of the beloved.

It is in contemplation of this eternal life of the Holy Trinity, this life, these Trinue Persons, that the fullness of adoration is found in a finite sense – only the eternal God can truly give what is owed in justice, but not the justice of unequals but the justice of equals, of friendship. The internal eternal adoration of the Divine Persons of the Holy Trinity in friendship achieves the fullness of righteousness, of justice, of goodness, of beauty, of truth.

Yet man is called to give this eternal adoration; adoration that is proper to God alone and which God alone can fulfill in justice. If the Holy Spirit dwells within man, he should too be a friend of God, and in this friendship, he shall draw upon the strength of charity and render perfect praise. This perfect adoration will not be according to man’s finitude but according to the the unchangeable eternity of the Spirit. He shall be like the Son and, like the Son, an image of the Father. In this participation, man shall cleave to God and adore, rendering to Him the perfect adoration of eternity, of friendship, of charity.


The Holy Trinity, Sir Nicolas Dorigny, After Guido Reni, 1702