Friday, April 6, 2012

The Evening Offering of Incense

The Copts still maintain, as an important part of their daily liturgy, the offering of incense at morning and evening; indeed, their Eucharistic Liturgy cannot be celebrated if the offering of incense is omitted, if I recall correctly.  Just so, the idea of a Byzantine Rite Divine Liturgy without incense is almost a contradiction in terms, and is rightly reprobated when Romanizing Uniates attempt such practices – let them conserve their own tradition.

How unfortunate, then, that nearly all Masses, OF and even EF, are celebrated without incense.  Here in Australia (apart, strangely, from the censing of the coffin at funerals), the use of incense at the ordinary Sunday Mass in parishes would be very rare, almost a prerogative of cathedrals; liturgical minimalism and the strange modern mental problem of pretended allergy to incense (never mentioned during the Reformation debates about its use in worship) have driven holy smoke from our sanctuaries.

Very fortunately, then, at my parish church of St Francis, Father determined to pull out all stops for Holy Thursday, and to have incense – and, thanks be to God, when I was called upon to be the thurifer all went very well (since I have a fear of doing so, owing to general clumsiness and the strange ability to extinguish the smoking censer all too rapidly).

In the lead-up to the erection of the Australian Ordinariate, Bp Robarts of the TAC attended our Mass in choir (hence this was the first time I've ever censed an Anglican, as was the courteous thing to do).  As well as that uniquely unexpected detail, it being Holy Thursday there was the final procession to the altar of repose, for which I walked backwards at the head of the procession, censing the Blessed Sacrament all the while.

Carrying in the swinging thurible, assisting as the priest puts on incense again and then censes the altar, taking the thurible back to the sacristy (affording a nice vantage-point for the Mass), adding an extra coal to the three lit before Mass, bringing the censer back to the sanctuary that Father may cense the Gospel ere he read it, again returning to the sacristy and adding another coal, assisting in the sanctuary for the blessing of incense and subsequent censing of oblations, altar, priest, those in the sanctuary and all the faithful, then remaining at the lowest step during the Roman Canon to offer incense in adoration at the Elevation – it was marvellous to be thurifer, and gave a special delight to one of the best Holy Thursdays I can recall.

(The Mozarabic series for Lent has now ended; Holy Thursday in that Rite has a similar fourfold series of readings, true, but I was defeated by the Gospel, which is a combination of all four Gospel accounts of the Passion.  It's translation must remain for next year...)


Matthias said...

when is the Ordinariate to be ushered in Joshua ?

Joshua said...

No information, sorry - hopefully this year, or next, or...