engaging all the senses during liturgy, a new look at incense…

engaging all the senses during liturgy, a new look at incense… January 9, 2012

… The use of incense in mass is more than pomp and meaningless ritual, as you may already be aware. Let your prayers rise up the smoke to the Heavens. Incense is also more than something that just smells nice and serves the more practical purpose of masking the stench of unwashed peasantry – as some claim. It apparently can also alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety.

“An international team of scientists, including researchers from Johns Hopkins University and the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, describe how burning frankincense (resin from the Boswellia plant) activates poorly understood ion channels in the brain to alleviate anxiety or depression. This suggests that an entirely new class of depression and anxiety drugs might be right under our noses.” Full story from Science Daily here.

Is this why reformed masses that are liturgically lax leave so many feeling blah? One of my favorite things about liturgy is leaving church with the smell of incense still clinging in my hair. Also, you rarely smell incense outside of mass so the scent automatically becomes associated with church. Even a burnt match reminds me of votive candles and I smile a bit. The association with church is so strong.

Scent is powerful. Women can smell a cologne and recall to mind an old boyfriend decades later. Fresh cut grass smells like summer. Incense smells like Heaven and if you’re lucky enough you can smell Heaven every time you step into church. Who wouldn’t be spiritually uplifted and instantly happier by the scent?

So if your church doesn’t use incense during mass perhaps now is the time to make the case for it’s use to your priest.

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