The Significance of Incense

The priest at midnight mass used incense over the bible, altar and parishioners.
What is the significance of those incense-using acts?

Read Psalm 140 (141), verse 2.

Also, in the Revelation to John, in 5:8 and 8:3, it talks about the smoke rising as symbolizing the prayer that is the mass being offered up to God.

Exodus 30 Mentions there word Incense at least 7 times, you can try reading it because thats when the Israelites started using it because God commanded them to do so.
Its significance comes in the book Revelations though.

I think it is a symbol of purification when the altar etc is incensed - perhaps not so much the altar or the bible, but the space within which they reside. I agree also that there is a meaning of carrying our prayers to heaven - to God. I have seen it used in that way in penitential ceremonies where prayers of sorrow for sins and prayers of petition are offered up.

Also, during the consecration, a symbolism of a burnt sacrifice.

The incense primarily represents our prayers rising into Heaven.

Additionally, I heard somewhere that Pope Benedict said that the incense is also meant to obscure our eyes because none of us has a full understanding of the beauty of the Mass. Our understanding of what is happening at the altar is obscured by the limits of the human mind. After all, as St. Augustine said, “If you can understand it, it’s not God.”

Once upon a time I read an article that described this huge incense container that was
suspended from the ceiling in the middle of the church, an eastern church. It was so big that a child could sit in it. They loaded it up with incense and swung it over the crown of people in the church. The reason being, that the people didn’t take many baths in that area and this provided a better atmosphere if you know what I mean. And that is the truth.

I wonder if maybe that might be the other reason for the popularity of incense.

Just a different kind of thought.

I think that is at St James Compostela in Spain. It is the destination of a several day pilgrimage on foot.

Incense is from our Hebrew tradition and passed down and still an active part of some Catholic services in the Eastern rite. To be honest culturally it simply was standard to use a lot of incense in any aspect of gatherings, and clothing was incensed as it still is in the middle east. The reason it left practice in the Roman rite was because of it’s primary use was practical and common to the times. In the mass our forefathers attended say a thousand years ago, incense was used to mask the smell of the crowd, it was also on a chain (sorry for lack of proper terminology) which was adorned with bells to create sound at times of silence to mask static and background noises like babies and children. I find that once you get used to the incense it really enhances the mass and makes it more child friendly (but that’s my personal opinion).

As the practical need for incense was removed only left was any spiritual reference that it contained in some celebrations of mass.

Christ is present on the altar of sacrifice, in the priest (who in persona Christi offers the sacrifice of the Mass) in the Word (the Gospel) and in all the people who together make up the body of Christ, the Church. I believe that this is the reason that all of these things/people are incensed.

Which is still a good reason to use it today! Smother the stench of the world (perfumes, soaps, cigarettes, breath mints, etc) with incense. The inside of a Church should smell like God, not the world. :wink:

My ministry within the church is singing. We have a new priest in our church who has been asked several times to tone down the incense that he uses during Mass. Many of us experience medical problems as a direct use of incense. I know is he is able to use incense during certain times within the Mass, but many people are leaving our parish because of his total diregard for our right to be able to breathe. Now is he is new and his days are numbered within our parish but can priests be taught that incense does cause an elderly or sickly congregation distress? Our parish used to be thriving. Now people are being driven away with its use. Please help.:frowning:

=TheSpiritHeals;8738127]The priest at midnight mass used incense over the bible, altar and parishioners.
What is the significance of those incense-using acts?

RE-Present AND represents the OT Burn Offerings as do candles:D

Since my parish will not divulge when incense will be burned, my husband and I have to drive to the church to find out if there will be incense and then leave when we find out there will be incense. We have tried to make the powers that be realize that not everyone is enamored with incense. My father was a fireman so burning inside a building rubs me the wrong way besides the coughing, sneezing and hacking that occurs when incense is burned. The parish refuses to let us have one mass, incense free, for those who cannot stand the stuff. There are always suggestions, sit in the back (yeah, where they start to burn the incense), try and get used to it, suffer through it, etc. Oh by the way, I have fought inflammatory breast cancer this past year, but no sympathy from the parish. Just go and sit there and suck in the incense, even though no one knows the health effects. That’s why I don’t smoke because I don’t want to smell something burning. I guess all we can do is what we are doing, drive to the church, find out if they will burn incense, leave if they are going to.???

I think incense should be used at every Mass. Coming from the Eastern Orthodox Church i might be a little bit biased. :smiley: I’m a paid firefighter and don’t have a problem with incense.

I love incense and it’s not church to me without it. We always use it every Sunday.

I have asthma and the type of incense Orthodox churches use is “choke free” I never have resperatory distress. This incense is made by monks and nuns. And comes in small rock type particles and not powder of bits of leaves and petals.

I was originally Episcopal where lots of people complained of allergies, nonsense they were Protestant converts who were “allergic” to Catholic ritual. When mass was over they would instantly fill the narthex with cigarette smoke. Allercic indeed.

In addition to what everyone is saying about incense, it is also a blessed sacramental and carries with it the prayer of the Church.

So, yes it’s a very symbolic thing, but it is also very efficacious for the people who put their trust in the prayer of the Church.

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