The word "worship" means to adore, venerate, revere and honour; and it is a word that was used and, to some extent is used to this day, in both secular and sacred situations. In the true meaning of the word, there are various modes of worship. In the religious sense, the highest mode of worship is adoration.
I have always found it interesting that American Orthodox go to great lengths to say that they don't worship Icons or the Mother of God. This little article I picked up on the net, might help explain that this is because American Orthodox continue to understand the word in a Protestant sense. Unfortunately, I can't find the url, but it is from an English Orthodox site.
It might help clarify some issues - it might not, but I, for one, am all for reclaiming my language from Protestant bondage.
Christian communities formed in the Reformation rejected the worship of the Mother of God, of the saints and angels and of icons and relics. Indeed, the Reformation was accompanied in many places by a widespread outbreak of iconoclasm. Sculptures, paintings, relics all made their way to the flames. Sacred images which had been worshipped for centuries by devout Christians came to be seen as idols. They were not merely removed, they were treated as abominations, shattered, hacked in pieces, or burned. Not surprisingly, communities which resisted the Reformation often hid their sacred images, and restored them to use when the opportunity arose, as it did, for example, during the reign of Mary Tudor in England.
The Reformers deployed the same biblical texts to justify their destruction of images as the Eastern iconoclasts had done centuries before.
The Reformation rejection of worship of the Theotokos, the saints and angels, the icons and relics, had an odd consequence for the Protestant use of the English language. Since God was now for Protestants the sole object of Christian worship, the word "worship" gradually began to be treated as a synonym of "adore."
The English word "adoration" translates the Greek word "latreia" or the Latin "adoratio" or "adoratio latriae". Adoration is due to God and to God alone. But adoration is a mode of worship; one that springs from the acknowledgement of our absolute dependency on God and on our mere contingency as created beings.
The Reformation rejection of the cult of the saints and of their relics and of the sacred images left no other mode of worship in Protestant and Reformed communities. No distinction came to be made by Protestants between adoration and the other lesser, relative modes of worship, since none of them survived in their religious practice.
Nonetheless, the older, broader concept of worship still survived and survives. In England we call the mayor "your Worship," without any suggestion we are acknowledging her or him as the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe. In the Anglican Marriage service the bride and bridegroom exchange rings with the vow, "with my body I thee worship,". *(Interestingly, these words have been removed from the Episcopalian Marriage ceremony. Which could explain why American English speakers have fallen into a more narrow usage of the word "worship" than the English. At least the English of the older generation.)
The pledge of allegiance made by a lord declared himself the monarch's "man of earthly worship." Neither monarch nor bride nor bridegroom was expected to interpret this as an act of adoration, of latreia. And whatever objections there may be to Christians joining Masonic lodges, it would be utter silliness to argue that reference to a senior officer of the Lodge as the "Worshipful Master" is idolatrous.
Roman Catholic communities in Great Britain both retained the pre-Reformation cult of the Blessed Virgin, the saints, their relics and the sacred images, and kept alive the older use of the word "worship" as the generic term of which adoration is the supreme mode, but not the only mode.
Worship has a variety of modes. All forms of worship have a cognitive aspect - a recognition that reverence and honour are due to the object of our worship by reason of its relation to God - as well as a practical aspect, the words, gestures and postures that represent the honour and reverence we pay to the object of our worship.
Adoration is the unique mode of worship offered to God alone. We adore none other. Adoration involves acknowledgement of God as Creator and Sustainer of all that is, as our ruler and shepherd and as the sole source of our salvation. It involves more than mere acknowledgement of the reality of our relation to the Almighty: adoration involves praise and thanksgiving, celebration and petition.
A unique degree of veneration and reverence is due to the Theotokos. We worship her as the Mother of God, as uniquely close to him and as sharing in the work of God in a unique way and to a unique degree. Whenever we think of her we are drawn to think of her Son. Worship of the Mother of God, far from being an obstacle to worship of God, places us before the Signpost that points the way to Him who is the way, the truth and the life. It is her unique relation to God as the Theotokos that makes her the worthy object of our worship. It is her relation to God as His creature that absolutely forbids us to adore her.
We worship the Mother of God, but we do not adore her.
We prostrate ourselves before the Theotokos in prayer, kiss her icon, offer incense, flowers and lights, celebrate festivals and sing offices in her honour, but we do not adore her, since she is no less a creature than are we. She shows us human nature as fully deified as is possible to us, but she remains a creature. We love, venerate, celebrate, reverence, honour and serve her; all modes of worship. But we do not adore her.
We worship the angels as beings above us in the order of nature, as servants and messengers of God and as our powerful protectors and helpers. Our worship begins from acknowledgement of what they are in relation to Him and in relation to us.
We worship the saints as members of our own human family who have truly "put on Christ," as icons of Christ, as exemplars of deified humanity. We worship them with profound reverence and respect.
We worship the saints and angels not for their own sake, but in virtue of their relationship to God.
We worship icons and relics not as painted wood, skilfully assembled chips of stone, and collections of ancient bones. Far from it. Even the wood of the Cross and the Life-Receiving Tomb are worshipped only because of their role in Christ's saving work. The images and the relics of the saints are worshipped as modes of their presence to us and ours to them. They are worshipped not for their own sake, but as a means of worshipping the person whose icon or relic each is, and that holy person in turn is worshipped because of her or his relationship to God.
All acts of worship draw us ultimately to the worship of God. We begin by venerating the icon of a saint, and are drawn eventually to the adoration of the God whose work the saint is, and in Whom the saint is glorified.
We revere and venerate a dead parent's photograph, we bring flowers to the grave. We treat the photographs of those we love with reverence and respect. We may place them in a special place, even put flowers before them. But the worship we offer the sacred images is rather different.