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Incensation

What does the incense signifies? 

Incense when burned is characterized by 
(1) sweet-smelling odor and 
(2) high-ascending smoke. 

Thurification or incensation is the act of incensing which is an expression of reverence and prayer. The visual imagery of the smoke and the smell remind us of the transcendence of the Mass which links heaven with earth, and allow us to enter into the presence of God. 

The purpose of incensing is purification and sanctification


What are the Biblical references for incensation? 

Let my prayer be incense before you; my uplifted hands an evening sacrifice.” (Psalm 141:2) 

When he took it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each of the elders held a harp and gold bowls filled with incense, which are the prayers of the holy ones.”(Revelation 5:8) 

Another angel came and stood at the altar, holding a gold censer. He was given a great quantity of incense to offer, along with the prayers of all the holy ones, on the gold altar that was before the throne.” (Revelation 8:3) 


Terminology 
Thurible - is the liturgical vessel that is used to burn incense.

Incense Boat – is the vessel used to hold the incense.

Thurifer - is a server who takes care of the Thurible and incense during the Liturgy. 


How should a thurifer or priest execute incensation? 
1. The censer is held in the right hand at the height of the breast, and grasped by the chain near the cover. 

2. The left hand, holding the top of the chain, is placed on the breast. 

3. The censer is then raised upwards to the height of the eyes (at most), given an outward motion and slightly ascending towards the object to be incensed, and at once brought back to the starting point. 

3. Before and after an incensation, a profound bow is made to the person or object that is incensed, except for the incensation of the altar and the offerings for the Sacrifice of the Mass.


When does incensation happens in the mass? 

1. During the Entrance procession. 

2. At the beginning of Mass, to incense the cross and the altar. 

3. At the Gospel procession and the proclamation of the Gospel itself. 

4. During the preparation of gifts, the following are incensed: bread on paten and ciboria and the wine in the chalice; the cross; the altar; the priest; the concelebrants; and the people. 

5. At the showing of the host and the chalice after the consecration.



Three Swings 
The following are incensed with three swings of the thurible after the incensation of the altar at the beginning of the mass: 

1. The Most Blessed Sacrament 
2. The Relic of the Holy Cross 
3. The images of the Lord exposed for public veneration 
4. The offerings for the sacrifice of the Mass 
5. The Altar Cross 
6. The Book of the Gospels 
7. The Paschal Candle 
8. The priest and concelebrants 
9. The people. 


Two Swings 
The following are incensed with two swings of the thurible after the incensation of the altar at the beginning of the mass: 

1. The relics and images of the Saints exposed for public veneration. This should be done, however, only at the beginning of the celebration, after the incensation of the altar.


Incensation outside the Mass


Incensation can be used for the following occasions:

1. The Rite of the dedication of a Church or Altar. 

2. The Rite of blessing of oils and consecrating the chrism as the blessed oils and consecrated chrism are being taken away. 

3. The exposition of the Blessed Sacrament when the monstrance is used. 

4. At funerals

5. During solemn processions such as the feast of the Presentation, Palm Sunday and Corpus Christi. 

6. During the singing of the Gospel canticle at solemn Morning or Evening Prayers.




SOURCES:
General Instruction on the Roman Missal (2005). nos. 276 and 277.
Ceremonials of Bishops,
New American Bible

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