A thurifer's question


As an altar server, two Sundays ago I was assigned as the thurifer. Now, I was to cense Father as one of my duties, but my censing skills were deficient and the thurible kept going every which way instead of a straight line. How do you swing the thruible in a straight line ahead of you? Tips?


I am a thurifer at my parish. What I typically do when incensing Father and the assembly is hold the thurible as close to the top of it as I can without burning myself. This “guides” the thurible and prevents it from moving every which way. I hold the majority of the chain in my left hand and then swing the thurible with my right hand by holding it a few inches from the top. It will probably be the other way around if you are left-handed.


I haven’t had extensive experience - although I bet being less ‘timid’ and just swinging it with more certainty would ensure a straighter line. As well: is there a lot of slack in the chain?? Less is better for it.


Agreed. Hold it closer to the top of the thurible. Let out less chain. When you let out more chain you have to swing it slower and will have less control.

The altar server/acolyte at 7:00 in **this vide**o does not hold it close enough but is elegant and dignified about it anyway. I like to hold it higher in the air so the faithful can see it and so will hold it closer, but sometimes it is roasting hot!

The best way to learn is to watch someone do it. Ask an experienced thurifer to show you and imitate him.



I don’t know how it’s done, but we had a guy here in Mexico who was quite an expert with one. He’d actually swing it completely up and over. It’d be sort of like someone on the swings who went completely around the bar!

Again, don’t know how he did this, but it was done in such a way that it was really showy, for really big occasions.


It also depends on whether the thurible has one chain or three. It might be best to go into the sacristy and practice a little. It’s actually quite easy. Well, in the Roman Rite, that is.

Not so easy in the Ambrosian Rite, where the thurible has no cover and is often swung in a circle rather than clinked against the chain as in the Roman. There are a number of vids that show this, and it’s really quite remarkable.

In the Oriental and Eastern Churches, the censer is not normally swung by a server, but more likely by an ordained lector or subdeacon, if not a deacon or the priest himself.


Grab the ring at the end of the chain in your left hand (I’m right handed, so I do this; I’m not sure if someone who is left handed switches and uses their right hand to hold the ring). Hold the ring in the center of your chest. This hand won’t move for the censing.

Next, grab the chain above the bowl of the thurible. If it only has one chain, leave two inches or so of chain before the bowl.

If the thurible has three (or more) chains, it’ll be easier to grab the chains if they’re all hanging down straight. Hold an inch or so above the “lock” that keeps the cover down.

When censing, while your left hand is holding the ring at the center of your chest, bring your right hand to eye level. Flick your wrist forward for a single swing. To separate “sets” of swings, lower the thurible to waist level, while keeping your left hand at your chest, and immediately raise it again to eye level.

Don’t forget different objects get different amounts of swings.


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