Last night, as I prepared some official Angelus incense from Christ Church New Haven, Laura asked about the theological status of incense, of how and when it is blessed, and so on. I noted the times in the service at which incense is blessed, and the various prayers appropriate to those occasions (I was taught to bless the incense before the procession with the prayer, “Be thou blessed by Him in whose honor thou art to be burned,” and at the offertory, when the gifts and people are censed, with the prayer, “By the intercession of blessed Michael the Archangel, who stands at the right hand of the altar of incense, together with all the saints, may the Lord bless this incense and accept it as a sweet smelling aroma; through Christ Our Lord” — but I always forget the latter when I’m not standing in front of a loaded thurible).
She pressed me for details about the sacramental status of incense prepared for the liturgy, but not blessed. It turns out that she had in mind somebody in particular who (evidently) has a stash of liturgical incense stashed in his bureau drawer. Laura was probing the difference to which I allude in the title, using her words, between potpourri and popery.