Incense and the alter

When the priest swings the incense at the alter on all sides, what does this do? Im planning on bringing my Baptist dad to mass and want to be prepared for this question

Incense is a symbol of our prayers rising up to God, just like smoke from sacrifices rose up to God in the Old Testament.

catholic.com/encyclopedia/incense

“Incense, with its sweet-smelling perfume and high-ascending smoke, is typical of the good Christian’s prayer, which, enkindled in the heart by the fire of God’s love and exhaling the odor of Christ, rises up a pleasing offering in His sight”

Also, From the book of Revelation:

CHAPTER 8: 1When the Lamb broke the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. 2 And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them.

3 Another angel came and stood at the altar, holding a golden censer; and much incense was given to him, so that he might add it to the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar which was before the throne. 4 And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, went up before God out of the angel’s hand. 5 Then the angel took the censer and filled it with the fire of the altar, and threw it to the earth; and there followed peals of thunder and sounds and flashes of lightning and an earthquake.

Bonus: The same scripture passage can be used to explain why we ask for the intercession of saints! We don’t pray TO them, we pray WITH them.

Being a Protestant, your friend will appreciate the scripture references by the above poster. Incense is used for both the alter and to incense people. The smoke symbolizes purification and sanctification and of prayers wafting up to heaven.

The offering of incense is like Mary’s anointing (of Jesus) at Bethany. It is as free and objectless as beauty. It burns and is consumed like love that lasts through death. And the arid soul still takes his stand and asks the same question: What is the good of it? It is the offering of a sweet savor which Scripture itself tells us is the prayers of the Saints. Incense is the symbol of prayer. Like pure prayer it has in view no object of its own; it asks nothing for itself. It rises like the Gloria at the end of a psalm in adoration and thanksgiving to God for his great glory.
~Monsignor Romano Guardini~ (Sacred Signs)

As beautiful as the use of incense is, it still makes me sneeze! :slight_smile:

And it is in fulfillment of Scripture

My name will be great among the nations, from where the sun rises to where it sets. In every place incense and pure offerings will be brought to me, because my name will be great among the nations,” says the Lord Almighty.

(Mal. 1:11) NIV

Thank everyone for the info. This will really help. I like the incense as well but it gives mr headaches sometimes lol

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.