Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Great Clouds of Incense

The actual incense itself is grown from the ooze that comes out of a Boswellia sacra. This little shrub/tree is only grown in the sultanate of Oman. After waiting a few days this turns into a little nugget, which is the raw pieces of incense that has burned in temples, and at Mass for the past two thousand years.

Incense was used as a suitable sacrifce worthy of God, and in a crude way, as a sort of odor cover-up back when they would sacrifice animals. They would use incense merely to mask the stench.
Both the Old and the New Testaments tell us that incense is pleasing to God. There is no evidence that Christians during the first three hundreds of the Church used incense at Mass. Many believe they refused because it was related to pagan rituals and they were worried about creating attention for unwanted people.

The purpose of incensing and the symbolic value of the smoke is that of purification and sanctification. In the General Instruction of the Roman Missal incense may be used during the entrance procession; at the beginning of Mass, to incense the altar; at the procession and proclamation of the Gospel; at the offertory, to incense the offerings, altar, priest and people; and at the elevation of the Sacred Host and chalice of Precious Blood after the consecration. The priest may also incense the Crucifix and the Paschal Candle. During funeral Masses, the priest at the final commendation may incense the coffin, both as a sign of honor to the body of the deceased which became the temple of the Holy Spirit at Baptism and as a sign of the faithful’s prayers for the deceased rising to God.

Today incense serves the same purpose as it did when Moses burned it in the desert—it pays homage to all that is holy, and symbolizes our prayers ascending to God.