Expert Answer Forum

Incense QUESTION from Susan Szoke March 1, 1999
Dear John Miskell, I could not find the meaning of burning incense during Mass in the new Catechism. I understand it to represent the uplifting of our hearts and prayers to God. As it is a very prominent part of some Masses, I would like to know if there are any reasons why we add it to some, but not all, Masses. Thank you, Sue Szoke ANSWER by Mr. John Miskell on March 1, 1999
Dear Sue, Your understanding is quite correct. Incense is not used as frequently as it once was. I attribute much of the decline to an almost epidemic increase in asthma. The following rubrics concerning incense are from the Ceremonial of Bishops. At the stational Mass of a bishop incense should be used: during the entrance procession;
at the beginning of Mass to incense the altar;
at the gospel, in the procession and at the proclamation of the gospel reading;
at the presentation of the gifts, to incense the gifts, the altar, the cross, the bishop, the concelebrants, and the people;
at the elevation of the consecrated bread and cup after their consecration.
At other Masses incense may be used as circumstances suggest. Incense is also to be used as indicated in the liturgical books: in the rite of dedication of a church or altar;
in the rite of blessing of oils and consecrating the chrism, as the blessed oils and consecrated chrism are being taken;
at exposition of the blessed sacrament when the monstrance is used;
at funerals.
In addition, incense should as a rule be used during the processions for the feast of the Presentation of the Lord, Passion Sunday (Palm Sunday), the Mass of the Lord's Supper, the Easter Vigil, the solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi), and the solemn translation of relics and, in general, in any procession of some solemnity. At the solemn celebration of morning or evening prayer the altar, the bishop, and the people may be incensed during the singing of the gospel canticle. I hope this helps. In Christ, John Miskell Back to Index Page

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