Expert Answer Forum

Incense QUESTION from Kathy April 20, 2000
Who decides when and what to use incense on? Are there rules, or is just up to the individual priest? This is fun!! Thanks and God bless.
ANSWER by Mr. John Miskell on April 21, 2000 Dear Kathy,
Using incense is optional. The choice is left up to the priest. It could be used every day of the year, but is generally reserve it for special occasions. There's a reluctance to use it frequently and liberally because of the high incidence of asthma in young people, which has reached epidemic proportions in the past 20 years or so.
The General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) gives guidelines on its usage.

Incensation 234. The use of incense is optional in any form of Mass: a) during the entrance procession; b) at the beginning of Mass, to incense the altar; c) at the procession and proclamation of the gospel; d) at the preparation of the gifts, to incense them, as well as the altar, priest, and people; e) at the showing of the eucharistic bread and chalice after the consecration.
Other occasions invite incense too. At a funeral, the priest incenses the remains of the faithful departed. At exposition of the Blessed Sacrament he incenses the monstrance. During solemn processions, incense takes the lead.
In the Scriptures, incense symbolizes prayer. Psalm 141:2 says,
Let my prayer be counted as incense before you.
Revelation 8:3-4 says,
Another angel with a golden censer came and stood at the altar; he was given a great quantity of incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar that is before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel.
Happy Easter,
John Miskell
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