incense

meaning of incensing: gerund or present participle of incense (verb)
1. to perfume with incense
2. to make very angry

I received an interesting question during Lent. A bishop had visited a community during Lent, and, at a service with this community, they had used incense. The bishop strongly criticised the community. Incense, according to the bishop, is not to be used during Lent. Question: what the heck?!

This was a new one to me. No “Alleluia”; no “Glory to God in the highest…”; yes, those I was aware of. But, no incense in Lent was a new one. I had to research and found: some communities only used incense in Lent; some communities stopped using incense in Lent; some communities changed how they used incense in Lent; some communities, during Lent, changed the type of incense they used…

So I checked the ruliest of the rule books, the General Instruction Of The Roman Missal. There is a lot there about incense. But not a hint that it might not be used during Lent. Its regular refrain is

if incense is being used [repeated 12 times in Chapter 4]


As far as I can tell – there is no requirement to stop, start, or alter a community’s incense tradition during a season.

Bishops can come up with rulings on vesture, when and how to wear what; on gesture, when to bow; on practices, forbidding intinction or accepted ways of doing things in a service – but these are all beyond a bishop’s reach. If a bishop has a particular issue with a church practice and wants it altered to what they would like to insist on, they can follow the church’s processes to alter the rules just like anyone else.

Bishops who overreach their authority and call out communities and individuals need themselves to be called out.

I hope this post does not incense too many bishops.

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