Saturday, May 26, 2012

Burning Incense in Church

“The fragrance of incense in church or in our homes reminds us by analogy of the fragrance of virtue and by contrast of the evil odor of sins, and teaches those who are inattentive to inward feelings to avoid the stench of the passions, of intemperance, fornication, malice, envy, pride, despair and to adorn ourselves with every Christian virtue; the incense reminds us of the Apostle’s words: ‘For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ in them that are saved, and in them that perish; to the one we are the savour of death unto death and to the other the savour of life unto life’ (2 Cor. 2:15-16)
 -- St. John of Kronstadt, My Life in Christ

And Aaron shall burn fragrant incense on it. Every morning when he dresses the lamps he shall burn it, and when Aaron sets up the lamps at twilight, he shall burn it, a regular incense offering before the Lord throughout your generations. (Exodus 30:7-8)

For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same my name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering: for my name shall be great among the heathen, saith the LORD of hosts. (Malachi 1:11)

“When the Lamb opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. 2 Then I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them. 3 And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer, and he was given much incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne, 4 and the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel.” (Revelation 8:1-4)

In the last year, I can only recall my parish burning incense once, and that was for the Easter Vigil.

Why is this? Is it because the pastors are being politically correct? I understand this beautiful fragrance might be bothersome to some. Perhaps they have an allergy. So does the majority have to be deprived of this? There is an easy solution - just announce it ahead of time.

In the post-Vatican II world there seems to be an effort to make Catholicism more Protestant  looking - just look at some of our new churches - easily mistaken for a theater in the round. I, for one, think it is time we reclaim our traditions.

Incense reminds us that we are in a sacred place. It reminds us, assures us, of the Holy Presence. It is a sign that our prayers rise to heaven as does the incense smoke. The smoke forms a cloud and this is a symbol of God's presence, ref. Exodus 13:22, 40:34.

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