1 November 2018


The much-admired Dr Peter Kwasniewski was in Oxford on Friday evening to give a lecture at the Church of SS Gregory and Augustine; he spoke with crisp and elegant decision about the dogmatic teaching of the Canon of the Mass. But that makes his lecture sound pompously dry. It was anything but. Don't miss the opportunity to go and hear him, if the chance presents itself to you during his lecture tour of Blighty. And buy the book!

The lecture was preceded by a High Mass. As the incense rose in generously thick clouds above the oblata at the Offertory, my mind wandered ... I'm afraid ... but I had said my own Mass, of course, earlier in the day, and in such circumstances I don't feel the same sort of necessity to discipline my distractions. And yesterday, on All Hallows' Day, images of the Whole Company of Heaven dimly seen through excessive clouds of incense seemed absolutely on message.

Evening Incense ... sicut incensum in conspectu tuo ... it ought to be commoner in our churches than it is. Long before Evening Masses became popular, we had Vespers, and the smoke rose above the Altar as we sang Mary's Song. And two millennia ago, incense rose in the Temple at Jerusalem from the Golden Altar by the curtain shielding the Holy of Holies.

I bet they were generous with it. Not spoonfulls, but shovels full. I picture sacks of the stuff on creaking wagons drawn by oxen up the Temple Hill. Did our ancestors look knowingly on as the wheels groaned on the cobbles?

How suitable, during Solemn Vespers, that incense accompanies the Canticle of the Daughter of Sion.

How appropriate, as we remember All Souls, that we should think of the great pillar of sacrificial smoke that rose from the Temple Mount, as our Fathers prayed for all the People, for all their kin.


Mick Jagger Gathers No Mosque said...

Dear Father. AMEN!!!

ABS has always loved Priests who are heavy-handed with incense.

Absolutely glorious

tradgardmastare said...

Encouraging words,thank you.

Mike Cliffson said...

Ever been in Santiago de compostella in Spain for a high day when they incense with a bin sized censer swungfrom the ceiling ? All the snide guides and guidebooks repeat how it will have covered up the damp air's reminder that the massed pilgrim's had made their way thither for months in the same rainment... I m with my late father in saying" What arrogant rubbish!" it's for the greater glory of God pullin all the stops out.

John Patrick said...

I think back to my days as a thurifer at a High Episcopal Church where the rule seemed to be "if you can still see the altar you didn't use enough incense". And 2 thurifers needed for the procession on Maundy Thursday to the Altar of Repose.

Alas in many Novus Ordo Churches today you are lucky if you see it briefly at Christmas and Easter.

Fortunately the Byzantine Greek Catholic Divine Liturgy we attend often still uses it liberally (and with bells) every week, so I still get my fix.