From the Greek δουλεία (slavery, bondage) has been taken in a general sense in Christian theology to signify both the honor rendered to those whose excellence is deserving of respect and also the virtue disposing a person to render such honor (St. Thomas Aquinas, ST 2a2ae, 103.4). In a narrower sense, more in keeping with the etymology of the term, it is concerned with the reverence a slave owes to his master, and, by extension, with the reverence owed by a subject to a superior (ibid. ). However, the offering of reverence of this kind is the function of the virtue St. Thomas called observantia [see reverence (observantia)], and it is not commonly referred to as dulia. In the other and more general sense, dulia has different species according to the various kinds and degrees of excellence to which honor is due. Spiritual excellence is, absolutely speaking, greater than any other, and is therefore deserving of a special honor. Usage has come to restrict the term to the honor given to the saints, whose spiritual excellence is clearly established and not subject to loss, as distinguished from latria, or the honor given to God alone, and hyperdulia, or the honor given to the Blessed Virgin because of her unique excellence as the Mother of God.
See Also: saints, devotion to the.
[a. v. veszelovszky]