We’ve sped at a breakneck pace through the GIRM the past few days. Let’s slow down and take it easy for a bit. Sections 273 through 287 cover “Some General Norms for
All Forms of Mass.” Yesterday we looked at bodily gestures. Today and tomorrow, we’ll ponder the use of incense.
276. Thurification or incensation is an expression of reverence and of prayer, as is signified in Sacred Scripture (cf. Ps 141 :2; Rev 8:3).
Incense may be used optionally in any form of Mass:
- a) during the Entrance Procession;
- b) at the beginning of Mass, to incense the cross and the altar;
- c) at the procession before the Gospel and the proclamation of the
- d) after the bread and the chalice have been placed on the altar, to incense the offerings, the cross, and the altar, as well as the Priest and the people;
- e) at the elevation of the host and the chalice after the Consecration.
Every liturgist knows these five moments, even if we also know the parishioners who object to the use of incense for physical reasons. It’s a scientific and medical curiosity that human beings seem more afflicted with ailments of the respiratory system these days, and are affected adversely by the use of incense in churches. My only suggestion is to avoid the use of charcoal. Some incense vendors tout their product is hypoallergenic. And they may well be right. The bigger problem, in my view, is the charcoal used to burn the incense.
My suggestion is dispense with the charcoal. Use a culinary torch, maybe like this one, and a small piece of heat-resistant ceramic. Torch the ceramic–it’s got to be more dignified than wrestling with a small piece of charcoal. Then use the hypo-allergenic incense and see what that does for people.