From Fr. Dan+Like many Christian liturgical practices, the use of incense goes back to the Old Testament where it figured regularly in the worship of God. The books of Exodus and Leviticus establish what might be called the “theology of incense” and give details of the use of incense at the altar. In Jewish practice a brazier was located in the tabernacle for the specific purpose of burning incense and incense was offered in the morning and in the evening. On the Day of Atonement the cloud of incense served as a sign of God’s real yet mysterious presence. In the Book of Revelation incense 1s a sign of the prayers of God’s people ascending to him, which is why the Early Church continued the practice found in Judaism. Incense still carries all these meanings when used in the church today and has less to do with “high” or “low” church, than with theology that the worship of the Church maintains continuity with that of Israel.
“There is no liturgical practice more firmly rooted in scripture than the use of incense; the image of fire and smoke is a common one in the Bible, constantly reminding the reader of scripture of the exodus of Israel from Egypt”” (Clayton Morris, in As We Gather to Pray, p.142).The Rev. Dan Brown is a priest at The Church of the Holy Trinity, North Augusta.