Latreia is the Greek word for worship devoted to God. Augustine begins book 10 by asking what kind of latreia belongs to God and whether any other beings might be proper objects of latreia. (He also spends a chapter looking at other Greek and Latin words that might express worship that belongs to God – religio, pius, cultus.) The Platonists – he mentions Plotinus, Apuleius, and Porphyry – suggest that worship can be offered to good demons as well as to the one true God. Augustine argues that latreia offered to anyone other than the one true God is unnecessary and counterproductive because it does not lead to blessedness. Any demon or angel who is truly good would want the best for humans, which is to receive blessedness through offering true latreia to the one God. Any demon who accepts latreia from humans cannot be properly called good. Augustine goes on to talk about sacrifices that are proper latreia. Sacrifices are good as they remind us of the true sacrifices of the heart; the sacrificial system is a sacrament or sign of true worship.
My favorite part of the discussion in book 10 so far is in chapter 6. In it, Augustine talks about Christ as the true sacrifice and our best worship as sacrifices that participate in Christ’s life and sacrifice:
“Since, therefore, true sacrifices are works of mercy shown to ourselves or to our neighbors, and does with reference to God; and since works of mercy have no object other than to setup free from misery and thereby make us blessed; and since this cannot be done other than through that good of which it is said, ‘It is good for me to be very near to God’: it surely follows that the whole of the redeemed City – that is, the congregation and fellowship of the saints – is offered to God as a universal sacrifice for us through the great High Priest Who, in His Passion, offered even Himself for us in the form of a servant, so that we might be the body of so great a Head. For it was this form that He offered, and in it that He was offered, because it is according to it that He is our Mediator. In this form He is our Priest; in it, He is our sacrifice. Thus, when the apostle has exhorted us to present our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, our reasonable service, and not to be conformed to the world, but to be transformed in the renewing of our mind, that we might prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God, that is, the true sacrifice of ourselves, he says: ‘[…] For, as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members of one another […].’ This is the sacrifice of Christians: ‘We, being many, are one body in Christ.’ And this also, as the faithful know, is the sacrifice which the Church continually celebrates in the sacrament of the altar, by which she demonstrates that she herself is offered in the offering that she makes to God.”
Christian worship participates in and reflects the sacrificial life and death of our High Priest; His body participates in the sacrifice of the Head; the City of God is a sacrifice in and through the King. Christian worship and freedom is in sacrifice, our sacrifices as they participate in Christ’s sacrifice. We’ve talked about some of the idols of our culture, and Freedom is a big one. For the Christian, freedom is a gift that results from participating in the Truth and from sacrificing ourselves for the sake of God’s Kingdom. Freedom comes to us because we are properly submitted to the One who knows and loves us more than we can know and love ourselves and He provides for us. Also, our freedom is used to pursue true righteousness – because we are well-cared for, we can freely serve the Kingdom and faithfully love others. Freedom, then, is not an end, but a means. In American culture, Freedom is the ultimate goal of humanity. Our heroes cry out for Freedom, our politicians fight for Freedom, our cultural myths are built around the pursuit of Freedom. Freedom is the end of humanity and with Freedom, we become most authentically who we are. Freedom is the pursuit, and there is no higher goal or end; it is a means with no end. Without Freedom – under coercion or authority – we cannot really know who we are or of what we are capable. In Scripture, the Truth will make you free; in culture, Freedom will make you true.
Thank God for our High Priest, Who is also our sacrifice, Who died of us, Whom God raised to new life and Whom God raised above every other being in creation. May we submit our lives and our latreia to Him and gain freedom and life and blessing from God.