In Christianity, veneration (Latin veneratio, Greek δουλια dulia), or veneration of saints, is a special act of honoring a saint: a dead person who has been identified as singular in the traditions of the religion, and through them honoring God who made them and in whose image they are made. It is practiced by the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Roman Catholic Church, and some members of the Anglican Communion, Veneration is often shown outwardly by respectfully bowing or making the sign of the cross before a saint's icon, relics, or statue. These items may also be kissed.
In Roman Catholic, Orthodox, and Anglo Catholic theology, veneration is a type of honor distinct from the worship due to God alone. Church theologians have long adopted the terms latria for the sacrificial worship due to God alone, and dulia for the veneration given to saints and icons. Catholic theology also includes the term hyperdulia for the type of veneration specifically paid to Mary, mother of Jesus, in Catholic tradition. This distinction is spelled out in the dogmatic conclusions of the Seventh Ecumenical Council (787), which also decreed that iconoclasm (forbidding icons and their veneration) is a heresy that amounts to a denial of the incarnation of Jesus.
Now, the Roman Catholic tradition has a well established philosophy for the veneration of the Virgin Mary via the field of Mariology with Pontifical schools such as the Marianum specifically devoted to this task.
In Hebrew the word for honoring a person such as a king or prophet is שׁחה, which is the same word for worship of God. Examples of such worship of or honoring men are demonstrated in 1 Kings 1:23 where the Prophet Nathan bowed (שָׁחָה) to King David:
And they told the king saying, "Behold, Nathan the prophet." And he came in before the king and he prostrated himself unto the king upon his face, to the ground.
This word is also used in Genesis 23:7, 27:29, 33:3, 2 Kings 2:15, 1 Samuel 25:41 to refer to honoring men by bowing to them or falling prostrate.
Possible veneration of an angel, which is identified as the Archangel Michael in rabbinical commentary, can be found in Joshua 5:14:
And he said, "Nay, but as captain of the host of the LORD have I now come." And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped, and said unto him, "What saith my lord unto his servant?" (21st Century KJV)
Other religious traditions
In Protestantism, as well as monotheistic religions such as Islam and Judaism, veneration is sometimes considered to amount to the heresy of idolatry, and the related practice of canonization amounts to the heresy of apotheosis. Protestant theology usually denies that any real distinction between veneration and worship can be made, and claims that the practice of veneration distracts the Christian soul from its true object, the worship of God. In his Institutes of the Christian Religion, John Calvin writes that "(t)he distinction of what is called dulia and latria was invented for the very purpose of permitting divine honours to be paid to angels and dead men with apparent impunity." Likewise, Islam also condemns any veneration of icons. The Hindu honoring of icons and murtis, often seen as idolatry, may also be looked upon as a kind of veneration.
In the tradition of Green theology (or Creation-centered theology) animals, plants, and other parts of nature may be said to be venerated simply by taking good care of them, thereby showing honor and respect for God who made them. Creation, being regarded as an icon of the Creator, is a valid object of veneration.
Philologically, to venerate derives from the Latin verb, venerare, meaning to regard with reverence and respect. This word derives from the same root as the name Venus, the goddess of love of the ancient Roman pantheon.
- ON THE INVOCATION, VENERATION, AND RELICS, OF SAlNTS, AND ON SACRED IMAGES. Roman Catholic teaching from the Council of Trent (1545–63)
- "Dulia" from the Catholic Encyclopedia (1911)
dulia in German: Heiligenverehrung
dulia in Spanish: Veneración de santos
dulia in Interlingua (International Auxiliary Language Association): Veneration de sanctos
dulia in Italian: Venerazione
dulia in Portuguese: Veneração de imagens
dulia in Swedish: Vördnad