Instructions for Censing

Preparation Before Service

Before doing anything be sure to fill the bucket with water in case you need to extinguish a coal. Pick up a coal with the tongs and light the coal using a lighter. The coals are self-lighting, which means they are coated with gun powder. Expect sparks. Be sure to light both sides of the coal. Wait for the coal to turn gray on both sides to ensure the whole coal is burning. You may blow lightly on the coal to speed up this process. Do not drop the coal. While lighting the coal hold it over the thurible so any lit pieces fall safely within. Once burning, place the coal in the thurible.

Bring the thurible and the boat with you to meet the celebrant in the back of the church. Hand the Celebrant the boat and raise the top of the thurible with the second chain. The Celebrant will bless the incense saying, “Be blessed + by Him in Whose honor thou art burnt. Amen,” and put in three spoonfuls of incense. Then lower the top of the thurible and receive the boat from the Celebrant.

Processional

The processional is led by the thurifer followed by the cross, the gospel, deacon, and the Celebrant. The thurifer swings the thurible on his or her right side. Upon reaching foot of the stairs before the altar the thurifer will step to the left and wait for the crucifer, gospeler, deacon and celebrant to join you at the altar. Place your left arm under the chain and slide your arm to the left to hold the thurible away from yourself. Bow with the Celebrant.

Follow the Celebrant up the stairs and behind the altar. Next hand the thurible to the Celebrant to cense the altar. While the Celebrant censes the altar place the boat on the credence table and return to your position behind the altar. Once the Celebrant censes the altar he will return the thurible to you. You may now cense the clergy. Always bow to the person before censing them. Bishops receive three double swings, priests receives two double swings, and deacons and laity receive single swings. You may now descend the stairs and cense the people. Bow and then cense with a single swing down the middle, a single swing to the right, and a single swing to the left, then bow again. Then return the thurible to its stand to the right of the Sacristy door and join the Crucifer in the front right row.

Preparation Before Eucharist

Immediately following the sermon go into the sacristy, remove the coal from the thurible and place it in the water bucket. Light another coal, following the same procedure prescribed above. Once the coal is burning, stand in front of the front row on the right side while holding the thurible. During Confession, place your left arm under the chain and slide your arm to the left to hold the thurible away from yourself and kneel on one knee. Stand following the Absolution and during the Peace follow the Celebrant behind the altar, standing back as before. After the bread and wine are brought to the altar by the LEMs the Gospeler will bring you the boat. After the Celebrant has washed his hands approach the Celebrant on his left side with the thurible and boat. The Celebrant will once again bless the incense saying, “Be blessed + by Him in Whose Honor thou art burnt. Amen.” Hand the Celebrant the boat and then lift the top of the thurible. After Celebrant adds three spoonfuls of incense lower the lid and receive the boat. Give the Celebrant the thurible and return the boat to the credence table while he censes the altar. When the Celebrant returns receive the thurible.

You may now cense the clergy. Always bow before the person before sensing. Bishops receive three double swings, priests receives two double sings, and deacons and laity receive single swing.

After censing the clergy move down to the bottom of the steps before the altar to cense the people. Bow, then cense center, left, and right with single swings, then bow again. Then return the thurible to its stand.

Recessional

After receiving communion take the thurible from its stand and stand in front of the front row. The Celebrant will lead the Post-Communion Prayer and bless the people. Once the recessional song begins the Crucifer will take the cross and stand in the center before the altar. When the Celebrant approaches the altar join him and the other LEMs and stand to the left of the Celebrant and the right of the Gospeler. Bow with the Celebrant and then turn to the right to lead the recessional. Once again swing the thurible on your right side. Wait with the Celebrant and LEMs for the recessional song to conclude. Once the recessional concludes return the thurible to its stand.

Verses for Meditation

As you prepare the thurible before the service you may want to meditate on some verses about incense. Here are some recommendations:

Psalm 141:2 Let my prayer be counted as incense before you, and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice!

Malachi 1:11 For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense will be offered to my name, and a pure offering. For my name will be great among the nations, says the Lord of hosts.

2 Corinthians 2:14-16 But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. 

Revelation 8:3-4 And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer, and he was given much incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne, and the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel.