02 December 2009

Neglected Rubric

The use of incense is appropriate as Psalm 141 is sung. -- LSB Altar Book, p. 338

Yes, there are people who will balk and protest. And I knew there would be. I had folks who told me how much they DISLIKED it as they left church. But of course, I had folks that told me how much they ENJOYED it. But as with all the Church's liturgy, personal dislike and enjoyment is utterly beside the point. UTTERLY! Sooner or later, we will figure out that worship is not about what we like or dislike. Couldn't matter less!!!

It is appropriate because of what it confesses. It totally matches WHAT WE'RE SINGING ("Let my prayer rise before you as incense" - Psalm 141) and because in Revelation (and more than once!) we find it in a description of worship in the heavenly sanctuary for the presentation of the saints' prayers to God (as we see, for example in chapter 5:8; 8:4). Not to mention how it permeated the Gospel reading tonight from Luke 1.

What we all need to do is to think not about "what I like" but learn to ask "what does this confess?" It's amazing what it will do for a soul to begin thinking away from the ego and with the Church. The "aha's" then are joyful and we are delivered from negativity or a false enthusiasm that "our" preference is being stroked. Even when you personally dislike what you're experiencing; you'll be rejoicing in the truth that it confesses! "Ah, incense. So our prayers rise to the throne of God and are accepted by Him in Jesus Christ for a sweet smelling aroma." BINGO! - whether you're wrinkling your nose and coughing or drinking in the smell of heaven...

22 comments:

Scott Larkins said...

I inhaled loads of incense as a RC altar boy. I miss it. I think we used it one Christmas at our Lutheran Parish. I would love to see it used often.

Karl said...

So, you used incense, and hated every moment of it, but like what it confesses?

Larry Luder said...

One has to wonder about Lutherans that go berserk with anything the remotely smell Catholic in their MIND (pun intended; sad when it late at night and I'm lol at ...). Isn't it odd that some overlook that the OT and NT mentions that worshipers offered incense to God as both prayer and worship? It also seems like it best that we pattern our worship like Heaven. Nice that my parish use incense, despite needing to continuously need to teach why.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

May I ask a question. What rubrics do you use or have have you introduced into usage that you yourself dislike?

I find that when I try to make this point to folks, I often get a "well, you just pick out things you like." Then I generally point to things that I do that I don't generally like (often with hymns that are favorites of the congregation but . . . eh. . . to me). Are there things that you do that you really, from a ascetic point of view, don't like?

Jeremy Loesch said...

Will, when do you light the incense for Psalm 141? (We use Evening Prayer during Advent and Lent. I'd like to use incense too.) Do you have a censer?

I have a few 'smokers' in my office. (Those German things that burn incense cones. One actually is wearing clergy clothes!) I thought I could use an incense cone which is easy to light. But the amount of smoke given off is rather meager for our sanctuary.

But it's not the amount of smoke that is given off, I suppose.

How does your congregation do it?

Jeremy

William Weedon said...

Karl, no, I am - believe it or not - rather ambivalent personally about the stuff. I do not find the smell offensive; I find what it does to my throat offensive. It's hard to sing when it's filling the chancel. Maybe folks get used to that over time? I'm not sure. I never have, but we use it quite seldom.

Pastor Brown, what a great question! As I said to Karl, I'm rather ambivalent about the incense from a personal standpoint. My commitment is to follow the rubrics of our rite, and to submit to them even when I think they could have been done better. Hence, even though I strongly favor Eucharistic Prayer, I abide by what is in LSB (I know that one doesn't make sense to many of you; but it is one of the sadnesses of my life not to have persuaded the COW and LSB working group toward including at least one such prayer with the classic anaphora structure in the book - even as I've learned to appreciate and value in its own right the Verba alone). I think it is silly that we put white on the altar for Thanksgiving, but we do it. I personally dislike praying the Creed and singing the hymn of the day BEFORE the sermon and think that it makes infinitely more sense to put them both after the homily and to go directly from the Gospel to the homily; nevertheless, I do not follow this order that makes sense to me, but observe what is in the book. I HATE speaking the Verba, but DS 4 calls for that to be done, so when that service is used, that is the practice I follow. There are several more such things, but the principle I seek to follow is always the same: at a minimum, follow what is in our book.

William Weedon said...

Pastor Loesch,

I have a borrowed censor (like for the last four years - wonder when Dr. Maxwell is going to ask for it back?). I just set it upon the altar with the coals burning before service and as Psalm 141 began added the frankincense.

Pastor Peters said...

I gave a thurible to Redeemer Ft. Wayne in 1977 and have had my own since 1979. I have introduced the use of incense during Psalm 141 in both congregations I have served. I did it rather low key. I place the thurible on a stand behind the freestanding altar (in part so that it is not center stage and in part so that the smell and smoke of the incense is the focus. As the organist introduces Psalm 141 from LSB Evening Prayer (or HS98 or LW before that), I walk up and place several spoons of high quality frankincense upon the coals and then walk back to my place. We use cantors for the two parts of 141 in LSB so it works rather well. When I introduced it I made a few jokes about it to lighten the load a bit (how the ushers would now have to ask people before they seated them "Smoking or non-smoking") but I had only a few people radically complain -- incidentally they were all smokers themselves.

J.G.F. said...

Will, your overall point is simply marvelous. It is the cure for all liturgical issues and the end of the worship wars. Simply stated, worship is not about us. It's about God. Period. I'm sure Isaiah didn't necessarily like that coal searing his lips. But it was necessary. It was of God.

A funny anecdote-- at a pastor's conference about ten years ago, incense was used during Evening Prayer. Several of the pastors objected to it. The pastor leading it made the comment to one of the complainers, "take a decongestant and get over it!" Priceless!

One other thing that always gets me, particularly where people say "that's Catholic" as if somehow it will damn to hell.

The minute that Lutherans begin to see themselves as a "stand-alone, Protestant Church" they've ceased to be Church. Lutherans, rightly (and ritely) speaking, according to the Confessions, are Catholics in Statu Confessiones.

That means that if Rome ever recanted their false doctrine that there would be no need for a Lutheran Church anymore. My guess is that even if this truly happened, (which I don't believe will, by the way), there would still be Lutherans. At that point it would be schismatic.

Somehow, Lutheran history seems to have been rewritten over the ages and we've been made into something we were never intended to be. Our only reason for existence is to stand against the false doctrine of Rome and be the Church so that the Blessed Gospel might have free course. That's lost on most Lutherans that I know.

exegete77 said...

I appreciate the symbolism of incense and the rich history behind it. I had occasionally attended seminary chapel when incense was used (remember the days, Bill?). But for me, my throat, eyes, nose, sinus cavities, etc. all are negatively affected by incense. Yeah, I wish that were not the case. But for me to use incense would mean that I couldn’t do much else during the service, except sneeze, cough, eyes water, and wait for the headaches to begin, and then hope I had nothing afterward for a few hours or a day.

Caleb said...

I'm new to this kind of thing, but it seems to be a strange point to complain that incense is "Roman Catholic." I think that I would tell any such parishioner that they are henceforth banned from ever singing the following:
Kyrie
Gloria
Agnus Dei
Speaking the Credo
Any multitude of hymns that we take from the blessed fathers.

William Weedon said...

Just a guess, Caleb, but I don't think that most folks who dislike incense dislike it because of "catholic" association. I think it is a physical reaction that they find unpleasant. Like Rick pointed out (and Hummel DID seem to use incense that smelled like burning dirty socks!).

The smokers complained, though, Larry? That's TOO funny!!!

Thanks, John, and what a great line: "Get some decongestant and get over it." LOL!!!

Karl said...

Is that the same one we used for my ordination? Perhaps Lee would pick one up for me next time he went over to dig. Of course I was only joking with you about hating it. It's always good when the church smells like Church! ;-)

William Weedon said...

That's the one. It's STILL here at St. Paul's. It's been here since the pastoral conference when you were a vicar! And how many years has that been???

I too love the smell; but not the smoke. If that makes any sense.

J.G.F. said...

I always love going into an Orthodox Church and smelling that "baked into the wall" incense smell. Mmmmmmmmmmm.

Paul McCain said...

"Let my prayers rise before as incense" ... so we use incense.

Seems to make a lot of cense to me.

: )

Of course, it is always funny to watch a congregation of Lutherans sing "Stand up, stand up for Jesus" while seated.

Or, sad that we stand and sing, "Oh come let worship and bow down and kneel before the Lord" in congregations that tore out their kneelers long ago.

Past Elder said...

Judas H Priest, what's gonna happen if you blackbirds catch on to praying the old prayer before reading the Gospel --

Munda cor meum ac labia mea omnipotens Deus qui labia Isaiae Prophaete calculo mundasti ignito --

Since I'm in a bit of a mood I ain't gonna translate, get out your Wheelock or Cassell's and have at if you don't know it.

Or maybe my buddy Chris will so it for you --

Anybody got a bag of Kingsford?

Deacon Latif Haki Gaba, SSP said...

Believe it or not, the Munda cor meum is prayed at St. Stephen's, on Sundays by the deacon, and on weekdays by the priest.

Past Elder said...

Sie sind ein Wunder, Herr Diakon.

To be in Milwaukee, ridden with the unknowing pawns of the Whore of Babylon, not to mention WELS, yet still be who you are.

Das Wunder ist des Glaubens liebstest Kind.

And I ain't translating any of that either, dammit.

Karl said...

Cool! Ah, wow, 5 years now.

>I too love the smell; but not the smoke. If that makes any sense.

I've got that one figured out on the small scale, but not quite for the nave at StP. Still working on it! And yes, the "smoke" can be irritating on the throat. But if you just have the smell, and not the visual of the smoke, would it have the same effect? Reading Leviticus indicates the visual of the smoke is important.

christl242 said...

My first exposure to the smell of incense was when my Catholic dad took his little Lutheran girl to his parish church in Germany. I have to admit, to this day I love the smell of the stuff.

Ironically, in my ten years as a Novus Ordo Catholic they only trotted it out at the Easter Vigil, Christmas, funerals and Corpus Christi. Course, few Catholic parishes have Matins or Vespers either, although I used to be able to get my incense "fix" (terrible description, yes?) at the diocesan cathedral where they did have Vespers on Thursdays after the Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament.

Sigh.

From what I understand there are now several brands of incense that aren't quite as irritating to the eyes or nose.

Heh, I remember back in the 70's when the Hari Krishnas used to wander about downtown Cleveland, trying to get people to offer a "donation" for the incense sticks they were hawking.

Christine

Past Elder said...

Double heh -- having stoked more thuribles than I'd bet any three or four Lutheran pastors combined, I'd say incense is more common for, uh, residential use, shall we say, than liturgical at Catholic institutions.