Blogging Day 20 Incense


“Let my prayer rise like incense, the lifting up of my hands as an evening sacrifice.” Psalm 140:2

These words from Psalm 140 are used during the celebration of Vespers in the Orthodox Church.  The priest, standing before the altar, raises the censer up as the cantor, or choir, sings these words.  He then proceeds to use the incense around the altar, the Icons on the Iconostasis, and then people who are also Icons.  The Incense is used as a blessing for the holy objects.

It has been said that Orthodoxy Liturgy is a sensory experience and that all of your senses are used during the services in the Orthodox Church.  I have often said that if you can see the altar you did not use enough Incense.  It is hard to think of Orthodox Liturgy separate from Incense.

As some of you reading this might know, I spent several years in an Evangelical Church, in fact I say that if it was not for those years in that Church I never would have found Orthodoxy.  When I think back on those days I think how sterile the “liturgies” were.  No vestments, no color, certainly no incense, just the preacher standing there preaching.  Now if the preaching is good, cool, but there is still something lacking.  In an effort to reform some of the abuses in the historical Church, the reformers threw out the baby with the bath water and have lost the sense of worship.  All of the mystery is gone, and that is what drove me away from Evangelicalism and back towards a liturgical Church.

Orthodox Liturgy is designed not to be a spectator sport, this is why I detest the invasion of the Western Pew into Orthodox Liturgy.  When I was in Romania, the people coming to Liturgy moved around, venerating Icons, lighting candles, praying, going to confession, all the while Liturgy was going on.  Liturgy washes over us and becomes part of us; it is hard to do that when you are corralled in a pew like sheep and goats.  Time for the heresy of the pew to end!

Like the Psalm I quoted above states, let my prayer rise like incense!



  1. “Liturgy washes over us and becomes part of us; it is hard to do that when you are corralled in a pew like sheep and goats. Time for the heresy of the pew to end!”
    I’m with you on the pews and yet there have been a great many moments I have wished for those pew when I’m trying to keep my boys penned up so to speak. It’s become easier over the last year or so but when I first began to bring them along what felt like a beautiful immersive sensory experience to me was overwhelming for them, I think.

  2. Maybe not all the pews gone, but more standing yes. It feels too casual sometimes. And then I’m thankful they provide structure for the kids.

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