Adoration or Veneration of the Cross?


My future son-in-law was brought into the Church last year. He asked a few days ago about adoration of the cross. He couldn’t remember how it was done. I corrected him by saying that we have VENERATION of the cross, not ADORATION. I guess I was wrong, 'cause there it was, right in the missal (as he pointed out to me.) But how do I explain this? Are adoration and veneration the same thing? Is it WORSHIP that we mustn’t give anyone but God?

I know that the words worship and bow were used interchangeably in the Old Testament. Actually, I believe they are the same word in Hebrew, or something. :shrug:

Any thoughts or suggestions?


In part it is a matter of language. “Adoration,” “veneration,” and “worship” can be used interchangeably depending on context. That is why the Latin terms latria, hyperdulia, and dulia are useful–they maintain distinctions between what we owe to God and what we owe to the Blessed Virgin and the Saints.

Theologians have debated whether images of Christ receive the worship of *latria *or not. St. Thomas Aquinas argued that they do, instrumentally of course. Whichever position one takes, the worship is ultimately directed not to the image but to God. For a short discussion on this, see the Catholic Encyclopedia article The True Cross, under the heading “Catholic doctrine on the veneration of the Cross.” The article is about the true cross, but the principles apply also to crucifixes.


Adoration as latria is reserved by the Church to God. Only the Eucharist, in which God is really present, is offered adoration or latria in the visible realm. Everything else receives dulia or veneration - exception made for the greatest of all creatures, the mother of Christ and thus of God, whom we honor with hyperdulia…a major honor, but infinitely less than latria.


Those (latria, hyperdula, dulia) are Greek terms. Latin lacks words to express those concepts clearly.


Thanks for all your replies. :slight_smile: As I thought, it seems to be a matter of language usage and translation. What I need to say to him (my future son-in-law) is that worship is a matter of your heart. Where your heart is, there will your treasure lie…

Of course I’ll explain the differences in terms as well.


All of the responses above are absolutely correct. It is the nature of what we are doing that should be emphasized and that is looking at the cross as the salvific action of Christ. So when we give adoration to the cross it is not the cross that we adore but instead we give adoration to Christ who endured the cross for the redemption of mankind. While all of the translations mentioned above do apply here, I would offer this explanation to remove all doubt as to whether or not we are giving worship to an item rather than to God. The only reason why we adore/venerate the cross is because of the Person of Jesus Christ. The cross in and of itself is of no avail and only receives this attention because it is through the crucifixion that we receive eternal life.

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