From the earliest days of Christianity, incense has been used in liturgical worship. It continued a Jewish tradition that was commanded in the Bible.
The Book of Revelation references the use of incense, showing an angel holding a gold censer offering incense before the Lamb. The smoke from this symbolizes the prayers of the saints ascending to God.
In ancient times burning incense was a part of many rites of prayer, worship and purification. It was used by the Egyptians, Babylonians, Greeks and Romans. Recipes for making incense are found in many ancient texts.
The Bible gives detailed instructions for preparing and burning incense. The Hebrews were instructed to burn incense before the LORD as a special offering (Exodus 30:34). When the tabernacle was replaced by the Temple in Jerusalem, incense continued to be offered.
In the Book of Revelation, incense is seen as part of the worship of the saints in heaven. It is the golden vials of incense, and not the odors of the incense itself that are said to be the prayers of the saints. In the modern practice of the Church, incense is used for solemn Masses and other solemn blessings or functions as well as processions and choral offices and at the Benedictus and Magnificat of the canonical hours.
In modern Pagan rituals, incense is used for two basic purposes – to create an atmosphere of magic and for evocation. It is often associated with specific botanical materials that have magical associations, although these vary from tradition to tradition. For example, frankincense is burned to invoke prosperity and healing, myrrh for love and attraction, and copal for purification and protection.
A server called a thurifer, assisted sometimes by a “boat bearer”, approaches the person conducting the service with a thurible (a type of censer) filled with burning charcoals and incense. The incense is taken from the thurible with a spoon and sprinkled on the coals.
Incense is burned during rites for the Eucharist, solemn celebrations of the Divine Office and the exposition and benediction of the altar. It is also used at funerals and other services. It is used atop new altars during their consecration and is also burned at the Mass of the Epiphany to commemorate the gifts given by the Biblical Magi.
Incense is used as a symbol of worship in the Christian Church. It is a reminder of Jesus Christ, who sacrificed himself for us on the Cross, and it also represents our prayers rising to God like smoke.
Burning incense has been associated with prayer and worship since ancient times. In the Old Testament, the priest Zechariah burned incense when an angel appeared to him to announce the birth of his son John (Luke 1:8-22).
Later, the Book of Revelation records a vision of heaven that shows four living creatures and 24 elders worshipping Christ on his throne with harps and golden bowls full of incense, which are “the prayers of the saints” (Revelation 8:3-5). This symbolizes how Jesus has fulfilled Jewish worship as the true Lamb of God. During Mass, the priest incenses the gifts he offers to God and also himself and his body. He then holds his hands above a bowl of incense smoke to purify them before receiving Holy Communion.
Incense is a popular part of many Christian worship services, but it is also used in some other religions. It can be a great way to create a spiritual atmosphere and connect with the divine. It can also be a symbol of culture and tradition.
Frankincense is often used in Christian worship, as it symbolizes the gifts given to Jesus by the Magi. Myrrh is another common incense, as it symbolizes the suffering and sacrifice of Christ. By using different types of incense, Christians can create a multi-sensory experience that connects them with various aspects of their faith.
However, it is important to note that incense can be dangerous if not used properly. It can release toxic fumes into the air if it is burned in a poorly ventilated area, and it can cause breathing problems for people with asthma or other lung conditions. It is best to burn incense in a well-ventilated room and only for a short time.