So far I have listed negative reasons for worshipping God: namely, the evils we avoid by doing so. But the overwhelming reason to worship God erupts in majesty from the words of Scripture itself:
“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all therein, saying, “To him who sits upon the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might for ever and ever!” (Revelation 5:12-13)
Why do we worship God? Because God is God: Love himself, Beauty himself, Goodness himself, Mercy himself. He is the Source of all that is, the Joy who holds all things in being. He is the Desire who is at the heart of every good thing we have ever sought. And he has leapt the gulf between Heaven and Earth and endured unimaginable torments at the hands of us rebels, not in order to punish us, but in order to make us sharers in his eternal ecstasy. To worship him is, as the liturgy puts it simply, “right and just.” It is to give to him what he, in fact, deserves. For all these reasons, and above all for our own eternal happiness, God commands us to learn to worship him with the help of the Holy Spirit, so that we can be where Jesus is and do what Jesus does.
What Does Worship Look Like?
To begin with, the New Testament knows nothing of a purely disembodied or merely mental worship. On the contrary, Paul tells us:
I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. (Romans 12:1)
Once again, what is notable is how incarnational the Catholic vision of worship is. We sometimes hear in popular songs that love means to give yourself “body and soul”. This captures perfectly what worship and adoration is and, by no coincidence, it reflects exactly what Jesus did for us in his self-offering on the Cross. As sinners, we have all fallen short of the glory of God (cf. Romans 3:23). So the Son has assumed our humanity and offered for us the perfect act of worship by giving himself completely to his Father in his Passion and Death. Indeed, as he died, he said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 23:46). And just as he handed himself over body and soul on the Cross, so on the third day, Jesus was likewise raised in his fully glorified humanity. It is this very Jesus–risen, glorified, and seated at the Father’s right hand–who eternally worships the Father by the power of the Holy Spirit. To do the same, we must be joined with him in that act of worship somehow.
When we enter into the sacramental rites of worship celebrated by the ancient apostolic Churches, we are, so to speak, going to Heaven. We are entering into the great sacramental act whereby the Son worships the Father as one of us and ushers us into the Father’s presence by making us part of his own self-offering. We are, as it were, riding his coattails as he perpetually worships his Father. We are made “holy and acceptable to God” because he makes us so through the sacraments. We learn to offer our bodies to God in union with the Son who offers his body. We receive him who says “Take and eat, for this is my body” so that we can share in his divinized humanity and do what we could otherwise never do: share in the life of the Blessed Trinity. In a word, to worship and adore is to participate, however imperfectly, in the Divine Liturgy led by the Son himself.