The Verger's Voice The Verger’s Voice: Incense

The Verger’s Voice: Incense

For over 3,000 years incense has been used in Jewish and Christian worship. INCENSE, symbolizing our prayers rising to heaven, is an offering to our Lord mentioned in the Bible 136 times.  Our Lord Jesus went to the temple where incense was a normal part of worship. In the Book of Revelation St. John sees heaven as a place where an “…angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer: and he was given much incense…and the smoke of the incense rose with the prayers of the saints…before God.” (Rev. 8:3-4). We find that incense is mentioned in 20 different books of the Bible.

The container used for incense is called a ”thurible”, from the Greek “thuos”, meaning “to sacrifice”. The person carrying a thurible is known as a thurifer.

At Trinity we use incense during “high holy days” – Christmas, Palm Sunday, Good Friday and Easter. It is used in the procession; to cense the people before worship, the gospel book before reading, the altar before setting apart our gifts to the Lord, and, on Good Friday, to cense the cross during the place in the reading of the passion of our Lord in which Christ is crucified and is pouring out his life for the forgiveness of our sins (Matt 26:28, Mark 10:45).  Along with the Sanctus Bells (see blog article June 9, 2023) the use of incense in Anglican worship is often lightly characterized as “smells and bells.”

Courtney B. Wilson, Head Verger

Stained glass window of a thurible at St. Ignatius Church in Massachusetts.