The incense is a substance with high aroma, made from resins gotten from certain trees.
When burnt over hot charcoal it produces a smoke that has a sweet fragrance.
The word incense is gotten from the Latin word “Incendere” which means to burn. Incense is a noun which is name of the fragrant substance and also a verb which means process of distributing smoke from the incense.
Incense was a valuable substance in the ancient world with a high prize, the same with other spices and myrrh that produces sweet fragrance.
Before the existence of Christianity, incense has been in use for religious purposes.
The Egyptian, Babylonians and Assyrians use it to keep demons away. In Judaism it was used for sacrifice to the Lord (Numbers 7:13-17, Exodus 30:1-10). The Bible mention incense 170 times.
History of incense in Catholic Church
No body certainly knows when Catholics started using the incense in catholic church. It’s believe that in the early church, the jews still use the incense in their temple and the Catholic Church adapted the use of it for their own rituals.
The earliest documented history of the use of incense in Catholic Church is from the Eastern branch of the Catholic Church. The liturgy of Saint James and St Mark dating from the 5th century.
In the western church the first mention of incense in the region was during the procession of bishop to the altar on Good Friday in the 7th century .
Why do we use the incense doing mass
The incense is used for sanctification,veneration and purification . It also represents our prayers and petitions rising to God just like in Psalm 141:2 which says “May my prayers be set before you like incense, may lifting up my hands be like the evening sacrifice.”
It also reminds us of the sweet fragrance of God’s presence. It also creates aura of heaven, just like in Revelation 8:3-4 “Another angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all the saints, on the golden altar before the throne. The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of the saints, went up before God from the angel’s hand.”
When do Catholics use the incense
The incense can be used during the entrance procession before the mass begins.
At the beginning of mass the priest incense the altar ,the incense purify all it touches . It can also be used at the proclamation of the gospel; then after the offertory when the bread and chalice is placed at the altar table , it’s used to sanctify the offering, priest and people.
The incense is also used doing the consecration, at the elevation of the Host and chalice .
The Pascal candle, the crucifix, the blessed sacrament during adoration can be incensed.
Doing church dedication the incense is used to sanctify the Church.
Lay Catholic nowadays can use the incense for their family or private prayer.
How the incense is used during the mass
When the priest puts incense into the Thurible, he blesses it with a sign of the cross, without saying a word.
Before or after incensation, a bow is made to the object or person incensed except for the incensation of the altar and offerings.
The Thurible is swung three times when the Most blessed sacrament, the cross, image of the Lord ,the altar cross, the gospel, pascal candle ,priest and people are incensed. The offering is incensed with three swings of the Thurible or use of the Thurible to do sign of the cross over it.
The Thurible is swung two times when the images or statue of the Saints are incensed.
The Thurible is swung one time at the altar. If the altar is detached from the wall ,the priest incense it by walking around it, but if it’s attached to the wall, the priest incense it by walking to the right side follow by the left side.
If the cross is on the altar or near it, the priest first incense it before incesing the altar, else he incense the cross if he passes in front of it.
Can the incense be used to chase away demons in catholic church
The main symbolic use of incense is to purify and sanctify a place or thing, also it represents our prayers rising to God and lastly it represents the sweet fragrance of God’s presence. All these are not good environment or condition for demons to dwell, because demons can not dwell in a place that is blessed and sanctified, you can as well say it does chase demon away.