Using Incense in a Eucharistic Procession

Hi there. Tomorrow, in celebration of Divine Mercy Sunday, my college community will have a eucharistic procession throughout the campus. As an acolyte, I’ll be directly in front of the monstrance holding the incense. In previous processions, I’ve seen this acolyte turn around from time to time to cense the monstrance. I’m wondering how often to turn around and do this, as well as how many times to “swing” the censer when doing so. Thanks for your answers!

John, I am no expert, and it has been a very long time since I have been in a procession, but when I used to attend all night vigils at a New York City church, the acolyte used to walk backwards and continually incense the Blessed Sacrament. Normally, if I recall, you would swing the censer three times.

No one is expecting you to walk backwards as this gentlemen did, but if you turned around every minute or so, I think that would be appropriate.

Hopefully, an expert here on this can help you more than I have. I think it is wonderful you are having that on Divine Mercy Sunday. :slight_smile:

I’d think, whenever you stop would be appropriate.

Many years ago, my fellow altar boys used to just carry the sensor around, without swinging it any further embellishments.

The smoke has been found to be toxic. I wonder if nowadays there is a warning label on the incense.

So, I’m not a big-cloud incense guy and never was. I saw Pope Francis incense an altar at this one Mass and I couldn’t even see the smoke of the burning incense. I could be wrong, but at least this one time he seemed to take a minimalist approach towards using it. Of course, he only has one lung to breath with. This may be the reason he goes incense-lite at Mass.

What I have seen is two with incense; as one turns around to walk forward, the other turns back to incense the Eucharist. the Eucharist is incensed with three sets - Up, 1,2 3 down, Up, 1,2,3… Up being bringing your hand up to eye level, then swinging it out three times.

Simplest answer - ask the priest before the Mass, or if it is not occurring right after a Mass, ask before the procession starts.

Do what the priest says, but what I have always seen from those who are precise in liturgical matters is three doubles - up, swing, swing, down; up, swing, swing, down; up, swing, swing, down. Then turn around and the other thurifer does the same.

The Blessed Sacrament is usually incensed with three double swings though I don’t think there’s such a rubric anymore.

What year of seminary are you in?

We used to do it Maundy Thursday’s but that practice went long ago when servers dwindled etc…

Then yes the thruifer would incense all the way around not stopping though I think the priest walked backwards being guided by two other servers as such so that the thruifer walked forwards in my own memory but that is the Anglican version anyway. Or it may have been the thruifer walking backwards being guided by servers…

hopefully you will ask before the procession starts what the priest wants you to do on that :thumbsup:

Corpus Christi is May 30 this year, or June 2 if it’s Sunday where you are.

This is correct. Ideally there are two thurifers who alternate, so that the Most Holy is always being censed. A thurifer should never walk backwards.

I think thurifers walking backwards is up to local customs because I have seen a blessed sacrament and the thurifer was walk backwards.

As has been mentioned I believe the old rule was that the Blessed Sacrament was incensed with three double swings of the thurible. The rule for single/double swings is no longer in the GIRM (England & Wales and Scotland), but the rule of using three swings still is, so in practice this has become three triples (i.e., up, swing, swing, swing, down three times over).

As to when the Blessed Sacrament should be incensed during the procession I don’t think there is any rule. As soon as the monstrance is collected (from the tabernacle/altar) would be standard, perhaps the priest would do this before recieving the humeral veil if the monstrance was on the altar. Also, if the monstrance is put down at any time (for adoration, or before reposition), but again the priest would do this. If there are stopping points along the route for scripture readings, etc, then they would be logical places too.

Any suggestion of walking backwards, in an alb, with a lit thurible, over potentially uneven ground, whilst constantly incensing a moving monstrance is just asking for trouble in my opinion.

As usual, the best answer is ask the priest what he wants you to do; good organisation (and preferably practice) before any liturgical event adds to the sense of reverence - anything out of line breaks the meditative prayer of those watching.

All the best


Last week I saw the thurifer occasionally doing a 360-degree spin of the thurible while incensing the monstrance during the Corpus Christi procession. Has anyone else experienced this in the Latin rite of the Catholic Church?

From Ceremonies of the Modern Roman Rite by Bishop Peter J Elliot

*218. The customary rules governing these different forms of incensation are as as follow: (a) three double swings are made to incense the Blessed Sacrament, a relic of the Cross, images of Our Lord set up for eneration, the offerings on the altar (unless the traditional signs of the cross are made), the altar cross, the Book of the Gospels, the Easter candle, the celebrant, (bishop or priest), a representative of the civil authority officially present at a celebration, the choir, the people and the body of a deceased person; (b) two double swrtings are made to incense relics or images of Our Lady and the saints set up for eneration. The altar is incensed by single swings. In procession, the thurifer swings the thurible at full length from his right hand. In hiss left hand he carries the boat against his breast, but his left hand rests flat on the breast if there is a boat bearer. *


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