6 October 2022

Censing the Elements at the Offertory

Few liturgical ceremonies seem to me more appropriate than the way the Offering of the munera is immediately followed by the sight of smoke rising above the Altar ... just as smoke went up from the great Altar in the Temple at Jerusalem. It is, surely the the moment when it most obvious that we are the True Israel.

 Let this incense, blessed by Thee, ascend unto Thee, O Lord; and may Thy Mercy come down upon us. The priest says this as he swirls the incense all over and all round the munera which have been set upon the Altar of the Christian Oblation. The words come from Psalm 140/141.

"The incense was offered morning and evening on its own special golden altar in the Holy Place, in front of the veil, at first by the High Priest only, but under the Second Temple, by the inferior priests also, chosen daily by lot for the office, as was Zachariah the father of John Baptist. Besides this separate burning of incense as an independent offering, it was joined to all the other oblations "of a sweet savour", as something which gave them acceptance; and similarly in the Apocalypse the Angel who stands at the altar with a golden censer, offers the incense 'with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne'. To the Temple sacrifice is added the perpetual intercession of CHRIST, as the Great Angel of the Covenant (compare the prayer Supplices te rogamus), that is, Christ presents His petition amidst the smoke which rises from off the altar of gold."

From the writings of one of our Tractarian Fathers.


Albertus said...

Beautifully written, Father. Indeed, the incensing of the Altar and Oblation is one of the happiest borrowings, or continuations, of the Old Covenant worship into that of the New Covenant, both of which reflect the Heavenly Worship: the first less perfectly, as a shadow, the second more perfectly, as fulfillment, containing the Reality, albeit sacramentally. There are many such continuations from the Old Cult into the New, in all the traditional apostolic rites. It is always helpful to read these things now and again, in order to ponder and bewonder the bond between Temple Worship, the Church's Worship, and the Heavenly Liturgy. Thankyou!

Prayerful said...

The Second Temple was similarly evoked, I think, by the altar rails and before that (in many places) the rood or jubé screen marked the new Holy of Holies where now the most perfect sacrifice, the Sacrifice of Calvary took and takes place, or rather the priest joins to it. Now the sense of the sanctuary has vanished in the typical suburban parish which can seem nothing more than some nice suburban people honouring each other and their comfortable, enlightened views. Nothing of sacrifice and the Redemption of the World, nothing of the Temple and the Holy of Holies of the New Israel.