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incense (part 2)

I’m starting off that doctoral thesis on incense mentioned in the previous post. Please complete the following poll and encourage others to fill it in. My first degree is in Science, especially Mathematics – so trust me: I know what I’m doing 😉

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22 thoughts on “incense (part 2)”

  1. We never go a week without incense and I would miss it terribly if we did. The absence would leave one of the senses unstimulated- I don’t think that is insignificant.

  2. Christian worship is the work of our whole lives; rather than just what we do in a Church building. I’ve voted on the presumption that you mean that part of our Christian worship which takes place in Church.

  3. I voted for the first option (OK in principle no adverse effects), but I would add the caveat, provided it is done properly. I remember one Christmas service I went to with my mother at a church where incense was only used for the Christmas midnight service and on Easter Sunday. This meant they didn’t really have much experience or skill in its use and the officiating clergy soon disappeared in the haze and the service was interrupted by hacking and coughing from the congregation.

  4. I like incense and love the symbolism, BUT it has to be incense that does not affect the breathing of asthmatics or others. I do not worship where it is used on a weekly basis at the moment, but I have done in the past and there were times when I could not sing because of the ‘brand’ of incense.

  5. I use incense maybe three or four times a year (rwmg, I _do_ know how to do it even though infrequently). I would like to do so more often, but in the “low church” region where my parish is located that would be unacceptable to most congregants – who claim an allergy (a “liturgical allergy” I believe).

  6. Inadequate range of choices! I am not adversely affected physically UNLESS I am also singing in the choir. I find the smoke (regardless of what incense is used – this isn’t an allergy effect) is a strong lung irritant, making it hard to sing. Let’s face it, singers are breathing deeper than folks just standing there, and one’s body has strong, adverse responses to smoke, from any source.

  7. I am usually very sensitive to smoke of any kind as are my two daughters. I have actually sat next to the thurible and and had no reaction to the incense. As with most issues, we have a few people who insist that the incense is so bad for their health that we haven’t used them in several years. We will use them this year only on All Saint’s Day. It really is a shame since the youth really are interested in learning about it and want to learn to serve as a thurifer. Having my background in history, I dearly love the symbolism of incense during the service.

  8. AMEN to RWMG! Incense can add to the dramatic effect of the liturgy and provide an additional sense experience, but it needs to be done well. Too much is uncomfortable, but too little makes it seem like an affectation. A well trained thurifer is vital.

  9. Father, I’m afraid I must take issue with the way that you’ve phrased the question…

    I don’t have health problems with incense; my mother does. However far more people who have actual health issues when the thurible lights up are *not* allergic to the incense. Far and away the two biggest health hazards are a) an improperly or entirely uncleaned thurible and b) the type and quality of the *charcoal* used.

    That self-igniting charcoal stuff is foul and has any number of nasty chemicals to give it its self-igniting properties. I’m not even a fan of regular charcoal bricquets due to the fact that, like the self-igniting stuff, they’re processed sawdust held together with chemical binders.

    The best practice that I know is to use lump hardwood charcoal that is ignited with a gas burner in the sacristy/smoke-room, then put into the thurible with tongs. In this way quite a number of health issues can be avoided that are associated with incense but which have nothing to do with the actual incense itself!

  10. I dislike incense because it kills my sinuses. I’ve never felt I needed to smell God in order to feel closer to Him. Besides, I doubt God smells like the potpourri and dryer lint most churches tend to use.

    On a practical note, the theological reasoning behind swinging a burning metal ball at the end of a long chain in a crowded room filled with flammable material escapes me. It has never seemed like the most intelligent thing to do.

  11. I think there may be a bias considering who visit here… LOL! A lot depends on the quality of the incense. Some incense is very “dry” and smoky, while others are more gentle. Much also depends on the quantity used, temperature of the charcoal, if the thurible is well maintained, etc.

  12. We use incense all the time and I love the smell and I love its use in worship. Unfortunately it does not like me and makes me sneeze about 10 times in succession and upsets my throat when speaking or singing which is unfortunate as I am a priest.

  13. Severe smoke/fragrance allergies here, I’m afraid. But I’ve no objections to incense in principle as long as I’m not in the room or expected to sing.

  14. In my (Lutheran) tradition incense is not used. When I attended some Eastern Orthodox services in Jerusalem or other services anywhere else where incense was used, I did like it as long as it was used properly and didn´t affect the breathing (cf.Dot).
    Couldn´t vote for this option. (Not my tradition, but I´m ok if its used properly).
    Good luck with your research!

    P.S. Have been following your blog for a while. Greetings from Germany!

  15. Maria Procaccino

    GREETINGS: i also voted for number 1 with a caveat: i have gagged on the altar and in the pews many times from either too much smoke or sometimes a foul smelling incense………the symbolism let’s you get thru it…. for me, i would incense more often : the clouds of prayer rising to the Lord…………AH!
    Pax et Bonum…..


  16. David Allen |dah•veed|

    I too have experience that the issue is not so much the incense, but the charcoal. Natural charcoal and learning the right amount of incense for the thurible in question can make for a pleasing use of incense in my experience.

    Jim DeLa, are you being humorous, or are you really of the idea that the incense in some way represents the presence of God? If our use of incense is liturgically related to the use of incense in the Tabernacle and Temple worship of the Hebrews, then the incense represents our prayers continually offered up to God. Although I am of a mind that that is the genius rationalization of a great Hebrew liturgist who had actually sought out something to mask the smell of the fact that the Tabernacle and Temple were ritual slaughter houses!

  17. I think it is just wonderful how many people feel their worship is enhanced and deepened by incense. Properly handled it’s a very powerful part of a connected liturgy, as well as a great way to capture the attention of the congregation. Provided it is not used in such a way that it suggests a doctrine other than the historic doctrines of the Church, I’d love to see it more frequently 🙂

  18. Paul Gene Tweed

    My link to the 1992 Qumran excavation photos on Twitpic is http://www.twitpic.com/photos/BossTweed01 Also you can google October 1995 Qumran Excavation Report on http://www.4forums.com/political/religion-debates/7986-october-1995-qumran-excavation-report.html Click on the link to a pdf file of Vendyl’s excavation report. Google Rabbi Avraham Sutton The Spiritual Significance of the Qetorit (Incense). http://www.bnainoah.net click on Researcher link.

  19. David:
    Coming from a Lutheran background where it was never used, I was really not aware why incense is used. So it’s supposed to represent prayers rising to heaven? I never would have guessed that. Perhaps it’s the thick air in Florida, but incense here doesn’t really rise … it just hangs around at eye level until it dissipates. In effect, it creates a barrier between the altar and the people, which I don’t think is a good thing.

    It’s a symbol that’s lost on me, I’m afraid. It’s a distraction more than an enhancement. I’d enjoy church more without it.

    1. Thanks Jim for your points (it’s a little unclear how often and regularly you are basing your physical observations on). I am interested that as the Director of Communications for a diocese you wouldn’t have reflected on the use of incense in the Temple, nor previously in your Lutheran experience.

      You highlight one of the problems with allegorising a symbol and reducing it to a sign. I write more about this in my book Celebrating Eucharist. Also I’m fascinated by a criterion for worship being enjoyment. I will have to think more about what happens if we make that a criterion, and how different people who “enjoy” different things might agree to common worship.

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