Incense – it is this euphonious name that we call the aromatic resin with an unique aroma and sacred properties, which is obtained from Boswellia sacra. This tree has a dense crown and tiny gentle colors. It is extremely rare and it’s only to be found in East Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, India and Iran. The English word frankincense is derived from the Old French expression “franc encens” – meaning high-quality incense. The word franc in Old French meant noble or pure.
Incense – ancient and sacred – has been known to mankind for millennia. Historical evidences indicate that it has been used in various ministries, both with idolatry pilgrims as well as with the Jews. In the Old Testament we read that the same Lord of Savaoth gives Moses directions on how to prepare incense (Exodus 30: 34-36) and commands him to offer the incense as sacrifice every morning and every evening (Exodus 307-8). That is the reason why Moses created the incense altar and placed it in the Tabernacle (Exodus 30.1-10).
According to the Christian Ecumenical Tradition, the incense that is offered during prayer symbolizes the resurrection of the soul to heaven. Just as incense is placed on burning charcoal and emanates a fragrance that rises up like smoke, so the soul of the pilgrim should burn with faith in God – set free from all life’s care and headed for Lord’s kingdom. Incense intensifies the sense of prayer and facilitates the calling of God’s Grace. Therefore, incense plays an important role in all worship services in the church or at home, accompanied by prayer.
What are the censer and the incense? Here are some of the more important things to mention:
- The base of the censer symbolizes the human nature of Christ, the fire – the Divine, and the smoke that is fragrant, the Holy Spirit.
- The censer also symbolizes the Virgin Mary, who has accepted the bodily fire of the Divine in her womb.
- Incense, rising up in the form of smoke, symbolizes our prayers that lift us up to the throne of God.
- Incense symbolizes the fiery tongues of Pentecost, which God sent to the Holy Apostles, and so the Holy Spirit descended upon them.
- Finally, the fire in the censer symbolizes the testing of Christians’ faith, while the fragrance that fills the God’s Temple symbolizes the Grace of Lord that fills the hearts of those who believe and is a pledge of the mercy of God, who gives us strength through prayer to overcome all temptations in the stormy sea of life.