You want incense? You got it…

We used incense at two of our later services on Easter Day. As with anytime we use incense as an aid to prayer, there are some who find it helpful and some who find it a distraction.

Which is why we list one of our main choral services as “smoking” and the other as “non-smoking”. Just to make it clear to those who have strong feelings either way.

For me, assuming the thurifer is using quality charcoal so that we smell the incense and not the gunpowder used to keep the charcoal alight, I’ve always found the memories triggered by the smell of the incense to a be powerful tool in focusing my spirit to an attitude of prayer. My wife feels the same way. We’ve both made it clear in our funeral plans that we would like a great deal of incense to be added to the faithful Rite I prayers of the gathered people.

But this is a little over the top, even for me…

Thanks to Deacon Ormonde Platter for the pointer.

Author: Nick Knisely

Episcopal bishop, dad, astronomer, erstwhile dancer...

10 thoughts on “You want incense? You got it…”

  1. good one. For me, my opinion on incense depends on the church building itself. If the building is not conducive to spreading incense, I wouldn’t do it because the odor could be too strong for people who can’t take it.
    My former church was an example of this… the roof is neither tall, long, or wide. So, the incense became too concentrated. In other words, the incense had become a distraction. As a consequence, a lot of people had to go outside for a few breaths of fresh air.
    – Bill Wong

  2. I totally agree with you Bill. Luckily the Cathedral in Phoenix is both long, tall and has a well ventilated roof.
    And we have nothing nearly the size of this particular thurible…

  3. I agree with Mike! Let’s get one and incense the whole of downtown Phoenix! What a glorious sight that was – though I’m not sure I’d want to be sitting under it!

  4. Although the arguments of neuroscientists are legion, it seems clear that olfactory inputs are potent stimulators of both memory and emotion, possibly through connection to hippocampus and amygdala portions of the so-called “limbic system” felt to have a role in both emotion and memory. In a world that is often all-too-ordinary, the incense in church liturgies can help transport us into a state of mind and being that is uniquely “religious” in character. “It smells like church” is the verbalization that I often make. The tastes, smells, postures and gestures of high liturgical rites has, I believe, a transformative or even numenous effect that is a needed antidote to the often-overly-intellectual or social approach to religion that has gained such a high place among us “NPR demographic” Episcopalians. From my point of view, “more is better” when it comes to incense.
    “When nothing else subsists from the past, after the people are dead, after the things are broken and scattered, the smell and taste of things remain poised a long time, like souls bearing resiliently, on tiny and almost impalpable drops of their essence, the immense edifice of memory” -Marcel Proust, The Remembrance of Things Past

  5. pardon my grammar! “tastes, smells, postures and gestures HAVE, …..”

  6. I think I would be running out of the nave in fear of getting a holy smacking.
    Hey, we could just attach it to the belltower – now THAT’S smells and bells!

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