Incense can have a remarkable effect on personal Christian meditation and prayer.
Incense has been part of the Catholic Church’s public liturgy since the very beginning, but can also aid a person’s personal prayer life as well.
Many health and wellness experts point to frankincense and its innate ability to heighten our senses during meditation and prayer. It appears the Creator may have had this intention all along, as numerous religions and spiritualities turn to incense for a more prayerful experience.
For example, according to Mary Elizabeth Wakefield, highlighted on ScienceDirect, “Frankincense lifts the spirit, thus it is good for meditation, and treating mental distraction or the feeling of being overwhelmed. It strengthens the immune system, addresses insomnia, irritability, restlessness and supports spiritual freedom and expressiveness. It connects us to our higher selves.”
This shouldn’t be surprising, as we are humans and what we do with our body does have a direct impact upon our soul. This unity of body and soul allows all of our senses to be engaged in prayer (sight, hearing, taste, sound, touch) and assists our soul in being raised up to God.
In a particular way, incense possesses deep symbolism in the Christian tradition.
Nikolaus Gihr details in his book The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass how incense is first of all a symbol of sacrifice.
It symbolizes, first, man’s spirit of sacrifice or his life of sacrifice, for he consumes himself with all his faculties in the fire of love for the honor and service of God.
Furthermore, incense is meant to represent our prayers rising to God.
Then the odor of incense which arises from the burning grains and ascends in its fragrance, also symbolizes prayer. Prayer is the surrender of the soul to God, the elevation of the mind and spirit to Heaven, the aspiration of the heart toward goods invisible and eternal. If the grains of incense be cast on burning coals, a pleasant odor will arise; if the heart, like unto a glowing coal, is set on fire with the flames of divine love and ardent devotion, then our prayer will free itself from all that is earthly, and will ascend to the Lord as a sweet and precious perfume, that is to say, our prayer will be received with favor and pleasure and will be answered by Him.
When it is blessed by a priest, incense is even believed to drive out evil spirits.
As a Sacramental incense is, then, a means to secure the divine protection and blessing. By virtue of the sign of the Cross and the blessing of the Church incense is especially made efficacious for expelling or keeping at a distance Satan from the soul, and for affording us a powerful protection against the deceit and malice, the snares and the attacks of evil spirits.
If you are looking for something to sanctify your time of meditation and prayer, try incense. It may help you and by its sweet-smelling fragrance, bring a rich aroma into your home for all to experience.
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The history of incense and why it’s used at Mass