Potpourri and Popery

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.

10 thoughts on “Potpourri and Popery

  1. Ok, how’s this for shameless marketing? Mention AKMA’s Random thoughts– and you get a 10% discount on incense purchases between now and Candlemass.

  2. Okay, I have to admit that that was Micah’s wit.

    However, since then I have serendipitously discovered that prayer and other interesting ones in print. The answer to my “I’m pretty sure THAT’s not in the BCP” is indeed “No, it’s in the Anglican Missal.”

  3. David: Now that’s what online church marketing is all about. Maybe we can inspire a run on Angelus; is there any risk of an [artificial] shortage? Maybe people should order soon, in quantity, to make sure they get their jars before it’s too late!

    Laura: Phooey! My memory failed me on that — I should have figured it for the Missal, and (since we have a copy conveniently in reach at home) I could have found the prayer for you. For the record, the official Missal version is,

    By the intercession of blessed Michael the Archangel, who standeth at the right hand of the altar of incense, of all the Elect, may the Lord vouchsafe to bless this incense, and accept it as a sweet-smelling savour. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

    I’d quibble about punctuation and the anglicized “u” of “savour,” but I do love to say “vouchsafe.” I’ll try to work it into a lecture sometime.

  4. No problem on the run; when we had to let go our full time sexton this fall, the deepest, most closely held secret this side of the DaVinci Code was placed in my hands– in the absence of a sexton, the forumla was placed in my hands, I’m not sure any rector before me saw it. At some point, we’ll have to have someone take it on as a responsiblity, but for the time being, angelus is being hand mixed by the rector. Or his sons. But not by seminarians, can’t trust them not to set up shop on their own as soon as they’re off to their first cure.

  5. Laura,

    Those prayers also appear in “The Priest’s Handbook”, which I think is now in its third edition. That book also shows the proper forms for using incense in a liturgy.


  6. See Ryan, that was my original guess!
    AKMA’s answer, understandably, was (shrug) “That’s how I learned to do it”.

    I’d also like to stipulate that the dresser drawer in question was not in my household. 🙂

  7. Actually, Laura, I should stipulate (for David’s benefit) that I believe what I said was, “That’s how I learned to do it at Christ Church.” At BDSY, we didn’t learn any of the insider stuff; it was assumed that we’d learn most of that in our first parishes (and I certainly did learn a ton that way) (at Christ Church).

  8. I thought I could hear someone in this corner of cyberspace mention the Anglican Missal…in the American Edition of course.

  9. I think stashing incense in one’s drawers is a witness to God’s sanctification of the daily–one of those quotidian mysteries of which Kathleen Norris is so fond. And we could indeed create a run on the Bookshelf’s supply, which would be rather amusing in the grayness we are currently having here on the South Side of the North Shore.

  10. Now I am, no doubt pushing this too far– but the Bookshelf, God bless it, has a supply of one of our cds (the Compline one) but I haven’t been able to get them to bite on either the incense or the Christmas CD. So, either encourage the Bookshelf folks to put in an order, or order direct.

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