Fr. George Rutler today, plucked out of his column even before reading the rest: “After the Protestant schism, the pulpit replaced the altar, and churches became more like lecture halls with comfortable pews for listeners.”
And unfortunately, the same happens sometimes in Catholic churches.
I read further, of course, and this came at me:
Puritan influences abandoned what was redolent of sacrifice, and in particular the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, which fulfills the symbolic sacrifices within the Temple in Jerusalem, with Christ himself becoming the perfect Sacrifice and the indestructible Temple.
Ah, from places of sacrifice to lecture halls. Incense mattered.
Even after the rejection of the Mass by order of the Tudors, the use of incense lingered in the cathedrals of Ely and York. Incense from the Sarum form of the Latin Rite, which was developed in the eleventh century in Salisbury, continued by force of custom well into the eighteenth century. A canon of the Salisbury cathedral chapter finally eliminated it because he said it affected his breathing, which many considered a poor excuse inasmuch as he took liberal doses of snuff while seated in choir.
Heh. The canons I know would never do either of those things.
However, in this our day,
Ironically, considering the way flaccid celebrants used post-Vatican II liturgical changes as an excuse for neglecting incense, the Novus Ordo rubrics provide unlimited use of incense, while the Extraordinary Form limited it to solemn celebrations.
So it’s all-systems-go.
The incense used in church may be pure frankincense or a combination of it with other aromatics, but its base comes from the sap of an arboreal bark, which recent science has discovered has properties that relieve anxiety and depression by activating ion channels in the brain.
It’s good for you.
More importantly, one study at the Jena Friedrich Schiller University in Germany claims that frankincense contains anti-inflammatory substances produced by Boswellic acid, principally the enzyme 5-lipoxygenase, which can alleviate the symptoms of asthma and rheumatoid arthritis.
Whether its anti-inflammatory properties can thwart the Covid-19 Wuhan Coronavirus is not yet established, mindful of the cautions of the Food and Drug Administration. But burning frankincense reduces airborne bacterial counts by 68%.
Last, not least,
More important is the office of incense as an earthly hint of worship in heaven, where there are “harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints” (Revelation 5:8).
Bring on the incense.