27 Aug 2016 Uncategorized No comments

Should Catholics attend parties celebrating the dead?

Full Question Are parties for the deceased appropriate? In keeping with his wishes, the widow of a friend is holding a big bash to celebrate his life. She …

Read more

06 Jun 2015 Articles No comments

How is my job holy?

I grew up in the era of the Baltimore Catechism, and I learned that my purpose in life is to “know, love, and serve God." Now, at 63, these simple teachings are…

Read more

16 Mar 2015 Q&A Comments (12)

What is the historical evidence for Jesus?

Full Question What is the historical evidence for Jesus? Answer First, the nearly 2,000-year existence of Christianity, which has undeniably been…

Read more

26 Nov 2015 News USA Comments (1)

Priest Finds Newborn Baby in a manger in Queens Church

A newborn baby boy was found laid in a manger at a church in Queesn, in New York City. The baby was said to still have his umblical cord attached and was well c…

Read more

05 Aug 2016 News No comments

Dublin judge rules that the rights of the unborn extend ‘well beyond the right to life’

The landmark ruling has ramifications for the abortion debate in Ireland An Irish High Court judge has ruled that the rights of the unborn extend “well beyond …

Read more

18 Jul 2015 Articles Q&A No comments

Was Saint Peter Married?

St. Matthew recorded in the Gospel, “Jesus entered Peter’s house and found Peter’s mother-in-law in bed with a fever. He took her by the hand and the fever left…

Read more

02 Jun 2016 News No comments

Catholic charity that feeds a million children wins Queen’s Award

The charity provides a daily meal in school to more than 1.1 million children in 12 countries Mary’s Meals has been given the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Servi…

Read more

02 Feb 2016 Europe News USA Comments (2)

British Church leaders condemn the "far-right" group's campaign against Islam

The Church leaders of the Britain have all condemned the march against islam by the "Far-Right" group following their recent march and campaign through a Muslim…

Read more

14 Oct 2014 Articles Comments (1)

Church Fathers on the Necessity of Baptism

Is baptism necessary for salvation? Yes, the Church teaches it is. Christ himself says no one can be saved if they're not born of water and spirit. However, it …

Read more
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Why Catholics use incense at Mass?

Incense is an aromatic substance which is the resin from certain trees. When burned over charcoal, the incense produces a sweet smelling aroma. Too make the smoke thicker and to enhance the fragrance, sometimes other perfumes are blended with the incense.

The use of incense in the ancient world was common, especially in religious rites where it was used to keep demons away. Herodotus (c. 500 BC), the Greek historian, recorded that it was popular among the Assyrians, Babylonians, and Egyptians. In Judaism, incense was included in the thanksgiving offerings of oil, grain, fruits, and wine (cf. Numbers 7:13-17). The Lord instructed Moses to build a golden altar for the burning of incense (cf. Exodus 30:1-10), which was placed in front of the veil to the entrance of the meeting tent where the ark of the convenant was kept.

We do not know exactly when the use of incense was introduced into our Mass or other liturgical rites. At the time of the early Church, the Jews continued to use incense in their own Temple rituals, so it would be safe to conclude that the Christians would have adapted its usage for their own rituals.

In the liturgies of Sts. James and Mark, which in their present form originate in the fifth century, the use of incense was prescribed. A Roman Ritual of the seventh century marked its usage in the procession of a Bishop to the altar and on Good Friday. Moreover, in the Mass, an incensation at the Gospel appeared very early; at the offertory, in the eleventh century; and at the Introit, in the twelfth century. About the thirteenth century, incense was also used at the Benedictus during Lauds and at the Magnificat during Vespers, and for the exposition and benediction of the Blessed Sacrament about the fourteenth century. Gradually, its usage was extended to the incensing of the celebrant and assisting clergy.

The purpose of incensing and the symbolic value of the smoke is that of purification and sanctification. For example, in the Eastern Rites at the beginning of Mass, the altar and sanctuary area are incensed while Psalm 50, the “Miserere," was chanted invoking the mercy of God. The smoke symbolizes the prayers of the faithful drifting up to heaven: The Psalmist prays, “Let my prayer come like incense before you; the lifting up of my hands, like the evening sacrifice" (Psalm 141).

Incense also creates the ambiance of heaven: The Book of Revelation describes the heavenly worship as follows: “Another angel came in holding a censer of gold. He took his place at the altar of incense and was given large amounts of incense to deposit on the altar of gold in front of the throne, together with the prayers of all God’s holy ones. From the angel’s hand, the smoke of the incense went up before God, and with it the prayers of God’s people" (Revelation 8:3-4).

In the General Instruction of the Roman Missal incense may be used during the entrance procession; at the beginning of Mass, to incense the altar; at the procession and proclamation of the gospel; at the offertory, to incense the offerings, altar, priest, and people; and at the elevation of the Sacred Host and chalice of Precious Blood after the consecration. The priest may also incense the Crucifix and the Paschal Candle. During funeral Masses, the priest at the final commendation may incense the coffin, both as a sign of honor to the body of the deceased which became the temple of the Holy Spirit at Baptism and as a sign of the people’s prayers for the deceased rising to God.

The usage of incense adds a sense of solemnity and mystery to the Mass. The visual imagery of the smoke and the smell remind us of the transcendence of the Mass which links heaven with earth, and allows us to enter into the presence of God.



  1. Franklin P. Uroda Reply

    From my childhood days as an altarboy I’ve always disliked incense: it smells bad to me and I frequently get coughing jags when it wafts out into nave of our church. I guess there’s some mystical significance involved, borrowing poetic images from the Old Testament and sacrifice and burning things. It seems to have some honorific meaning: the priest gets censored, the people too, and then the altar after the consecration. My mom used to shush me up with “You have to take the bad things with the good, sometimes.”

  2. LRC Reply

    I love incense, it seems to take the service to another level.

  3. Cleo Garsula Reply

    When I smell incense during Holy Mass I feel good and secured.

  4. Catherine Reply

    I recently for some incense and for them blessed.I would to use it at my house once in awhile

  5. rocky Joseph Reply

    Very useful information about the catholic faith. Every the which is done in the mass has a meaning.

Leave a Reply

  1. most read post
  2. Most Commented
  3. Choose Categories