Tag: Reasons

Holy Smokes: Why Catholics Use Incense In Worship 

Holy Smokes: Why Catholics Use Incense In Worship 

Holy Smokes: Why Catholics Use Incense in Worship.

At Mass and other liturgical services, we see priests and altar servers swinging censers, sending clouds of incense wafting through the air..

In Catholic liturgy, everything symbolizes a theological truth..

So, what does incense symbolize..?

Incense has been used in Christian liturgy from its earliest centuries..

In fact, it was a part of the Jewish tradition that came before it, a use that was commanded by God himself and recorded in Sacred Scripture..

Incense In The Old Testament.

God commanded Moses to make an Altar of Incense for worship in the Tabernacle:

“You shall make an altar to burn incense upon; of acacia wood shall you make it and Aaron shall burn fragrant incense on it; every morning when he dresses the lamps, he shall burn it, and when Aaron sets up the lamps in the evening, he shall burn it, a perpetual incense before the Lord throughout your generations.. (Exodus 30:1-10).

God also commanded how the incense should be made, a “Holy Recipe”:

And the Lord said to Moses:

“Take sweet spices, stacte, and onycha, and galbanum, sweet spices with pure frankincense (of each shall there be an equal part), and make an incense blended as by the perfumer, seasoned with salt, pure and holy; and you shall beat some of it very small, and put part of it before the testimony in the tent of meeting where I shall meet with you; it shall be for you most holy and the incense which you shall make according to its composition, you shall not make for yourselves; it shall be for you holy to the Lord..

Whoever makes any like it to use as perfume shall be cut off from his people”. (Exodus 30:34-38).

From these passages and others, we infer that incense was part of a ritual cleansing and purification of the sacred space of the Tabernacle, making it a worthy place for the worship of God according to His terms.

In fact, frankincense, mentioned in the Bible, is now known to have antiseptic and disinfectant properties.

God gave these specific instructions to Moses because worship of God by Israel in His earthly Tabernacle was a pattern of the worship of God by the angels in His heavenly throne; that is, worship on earth was to be unified with the worship in heaven..

Incense In The New Testament.

The use of incense is also recorded in the New Testament..

Frankincense was one of the precious gifts that the Three Kings brought in homage to the Baby Jesus, which was a sign of his role as priest in addition to prophet and king.

In his apocalyptic visions of heaven, St. John the Apostle recorded that he saw incense being used in God’s heavenly throne:

“And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders, I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth; and he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne and when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and with golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints”. (Revelation 5:6-8).

In the above passage, incense is identified with the prayers of the saints.

In the one below, incense is added to the prayers of the saints by an angel, highlighting the mediation of the angels in our worship of God:

“And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer; and he was given much incense to mingle with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar before the throne; and the smoke of the incense rose with the prayers of the saints from the hand of the angel before God”. (Revelation 8:3-4).


Incense In Christian Liturgy.

From the Catholic Bible passages above in both the Old and the New Testaments, we can see that incense is an important part of the worship of God on earth, first by the Jews, and continued by the Christians.
The smoke of the incense is symbolic of sanctification and purification, as well as symbolic of the prayers of the faithful.

It is one of the outward signs of spiritual realities, and that is why it has its place in Christian liturgy.

These two purposes reveal a deeper truth that prayer itself purifies and sanctifies us, making us worthy of worshiping God in heaven for eternity with all the angels and saints.

Many Bible commentators show how the Tabernacle in the Old Testament is a pattern of us, human beings, as temples or dwelling places of the Holy Spirit.

Before we can dwell with God in eternity, there is a need for our purification and sanctification, the removal of sin. One of the ways this happens is through prayer.

This spiritual meaning is evident in the Wisdom books of the Old Testament, where prayer is connected with purification, making our prayer a sweet aroma rising up to God:

“Let my prayer be counted as incense before thee, and the lifting up of my hands as an evening sacrifice!“(Psalm 141:2).

“Listen to me, O you holy sons, and bud like a rose growing by a stream of water, send forth fragrance like frankincense, and put forth blossoms like a lily.

Scatter the fragrance, and sing a hymn of praise, bless the Lord for all his works”. (Sirach 39: 13-14).


Incense Calls Us To Prayer.

When we see incense being used in our churches, it is meant to remind us of heaven, and that our worship of God in the Christian liturgy is Divine in origin.

It also reminds us to pray, and that our prayer rises to God like the smoke from the censer, purifying our worship of God, and allowing his Holy Spirit to work in us to make us holy.

“The usage of incense adds a sense of solemnity and mystery to the Mass. The visual imagery of the smoke and the smell remind us of the transcendence of the Mass which links Heaven with earth, and allow us to enter into the presence of God”.

– Father William Saunders.

The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass transcends space and time, and the use of incense helps the worshiper to enter into this eternal reality through the use of the external senses.

Catholic Devotions With Promises Of Salvation – The First Saturday Devotion To The Immaculate Heart 

Catholic Devotions With Promises Of Salvation – The First Saturday Devotion To The Immaculate Heart 

The First Saturday’s Devotion to the Immaculate Heart.

During her July 1917 apparition at Fatima, Our Lady said to Lucy: 

“I shall come to ask… that on the First Saturday of every month, Communions of reparation be made in atonement for the sins of the world.”

Request of the Two Hearts

On December 10, 1925, our Blessed Mother again appeared to Lucy at Pontevedra, Spain. Sr. Lucy, while a Dorothean postulant, was in her cell when Our Lady appeared to her, placing one hand on Sr. Lucy’s shoulder and in the other hand showing her a heart surrounded by thorns. Next to the Blessed Virgin was the Child Jesus borne by a luminous cloud and He said to her:

“Have compassion on the Heart of your Most Holy Mother, covered with thorns with which ungrateful men pierce it at every moment, and there is no one to make an act of reparation to remove them.”

Then the Most Blessed Virgin said:

“Look, my daughter, at my Heart, surrounded with thorns with which ungrateful men pierce me at very moment by their blasphemies and ingratitude. You at least try to console me and say that I promise to assist at the hour of death, with the graces necessary for salvation, all those who, on the first Saturday of five consecutive months, shall confess, receive Holy Communion, recite five decades of the rosary, and keep me company for 15 minutes while meditating on the 15 mysteries of the rosary, with the intention of making reparation to me.”

Five parts of the request


1
. Spirit of reparation

The spirit of reparation is a loving desire to make reparation to and console the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Our Mother. It considers the offenses which the Immaculate Heart of Mary now receives from those who reject her maternal intervention and despise her prerogatives. One should make this intention before carrying out Our Lady’s requests. A renewal of the actual intention at the time is best.

2. Confession in the spirit of reparation

If one cannot go to confession the first Saturday of the month, one can go within eight days. Even one’s monthly confession would be sufficient, which would need the intention of making reparation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

3. Reparatory Communion

This is the essential act of this devotion. If a just reason prevents the Communion on a First Saturday, with the priest’s permission it may be received the following Sunday.

4. Recitation of the rosary

The rosary is a vocal prayer said while meditating upon the mysteries of Our Lord’s and Our Lady’s lives. To comply with the request of our Blessed Mother, it must be offered in reparation for the offenses committed against her Immaculate Heart and said properly while meditating.

5. 15minute meditation

Also offered in reparation, the meditation may embrace one or more mysteries; it may include all, taken together or separately. This meditation should be the richest of any meditation, because Our Lady promised to be present when she said “…those who keep me company….”

Five types of offenses

One could wonder: why five Saturdays? Our Lord answered that question when He appeared to Sr. Lucy May 29, 1930.

“My daughter, the reason is simple. There are five types of offenses and blasphemies committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary:

1. Blasphemies against the Immaculate Conception.

2. Blasphemies against her virginity.

3. Blasphemies against her divine maternity, in refusing at the same time to recognize her as the Mother of men.

4. Blasphemies of those who publicly seek to sow in the hearts of children, indifference or scorn or even hatred of this Immaculate Mother.

5. Offenses of those who outrage her directly in her holy images.

Here, my daughter, is the reason the Immaculate Heart of Mary inspired Me to ask for this little act of reparation…”

Why Do Catholics Honour Their Saints? 

Why Do Catholics Honour Their Saints? 

During a preparation session for Baptism, a parish team describes the Litany of the Saints that will be said at the ceremony: “We are recalling the men and women of the parish and of our families who have gone before us, who stand with us as we baptize these children.” People may add to the litany the names of holy persons special to their families.

Circles of women encouraging each other in the struggle for their dignity in the church and society include in their prayers a remembrance of women whose witness supports them: Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Susanna, Phoebe, Catherine of Siena, Mary Ward, Marjorie Tuite.

In San Salvador, steady streams of poor people keep vigil at the tomb of Archbishop Oscar Romero; they find strength and consolation in the living memory of his love for them and are inspired to continue the fight for justice.

What is going on in these easy times—which in their endless repetitions around the world reveal something of the essence of Catholic Christianity? In these moments we see the living practice of the communion of saints. Belief in the communion of saints is confessed in the Apostles’ Creed in connection with other beliefs that support it: “I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. Amen.”

What does this aspect of our faith mean? How does comprehending and exercising it lead to a richer Christian life today? A superb clue is found when we trace how this belief started.

ONE PEOPLE OF GOD

The early Christians thought of themselves as a community of disciples of Jesus Christ, filled with his Spirit, assembled around his table, following his Way. Because of this, they were all called saints, a word taken from the root word for holy. They were all touched by the holiness of God.

Saint Paul starts almost all of his letters thus: “To the church of God which is at Corinth, with all the saints who are in the whole of Achaia” (2 Cor. 1:1); “To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi” (Phil. 1:1); and “To all God’s beloved in Rome who are called to be saints” (Rom. 1:7). The communion of saints was a reality then. It was the vital community of people who, in as much as their challenges and their sinfulness, were redeemed by Christ and sealed with the one Spirit. They were the branches with the vine, one people of God.

A new question came up when members of the community started to die, some of them at the hands of persecutors. The logic of faith led the early Christians to see that even death was not strong enough to break their bond with Christ. Paul is clear on this: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? … I know that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus, our Lord” (Rom. 8:35-39).

Since those who died were still joined with Christ, they still belong to the community of saints. The community started increasing including both those living on earth and, as the Eucharistic Prayer tells us, “those who have died and have gone before us marked with the sign of faith.”

This development received a major boost when persecution against the church broke out in earnest. From the second to the fourth centuries, many martyrs gave up their lives instead of denouncing their faith. Their instance inspired the community to a deep living of discipleship.

Christians loved these martyrs, appreciated their memory, and found ways to show respect and esteem. When possible, the bodies of martyrs were retrieved and carefully buried. Their graves became places of prayer in pilgrimage. On the yearly anniversaries of their deaths, nightlong vigils would be held at their graves, culminating in a Eucharist at dawn. In time, the stories of particular martyrs spread beyond their own locales, and they were venerated by the church in other places.

SAINTS KNOWN AND UNKNOWN

The community of saints in heaven is a largely inclusive group, made up of persons both known and unknown. In addition to the martyrs who are known by name, the Christian roll call involves persons whose lives are known from the biblical text, such as Mary the mother of Jesus, Peter and Paul, and Mary Magdalene. Other specific persons whose lives have special relevance for the community because of their great love, learning, pastoral ministry, or spirituality are also recognized as special and recalled by name.

In the church’s first 1,000 years, this acknowledgment happened in a rather informal way by the people and bishops of each local church. Saints were identified thanks to the spiritual intuition of the communities whose lives they had touched. Much the same process is now at work in devotions to the poignantly new generation of martyrs, such as Archbishop Romero or the four North American churchwomen killed in El Salvador. Their impact is already popular among the faithful who clearly recognize their holiness.

The feast of All Saints exalts this ever-widening circle. At first, it was celebrated on the Sunday after Pentecost, a date it still holds in the Byzantine Rite. If Easter marks Jesus’ victory over death and Pentecost marks Christ’s sharing of new life with the pilgrim church on earth through the outpouring of the Spirit, then the next Sunday’s feast of All Saints marks the accomplishment of the mystery of salvation as the church begins to be harvested into heaven. Even though it’s different timing on the calendar of the western churches, the feast of All Saints still honors the lives of all good people who have died and are now with God and in living communion with the church on earth. Someday it will be the feast of those who celebrate it now—we hope. Future generations will celebrate the fruitfulness of God’s grace in us as the great earth rolls around the sun.

Why Do Catholics Honour Their Saints? 

Why Do Catholics Honour Their Saints? 

During a preparation session for Baptism, a parish team describes the Litany of the Saints that will be said at the ceremony: “We are recalling the men and women of the parish and of our families who have gone before us, who stand with us as we baptize these children.” People may add to the litany the names of holy persons special to their families.

Circles of women encouraging each other in the struggle for their dignity in the church and society include in their prayers a remembrance of women whose witness supports them: Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Susanna, Phoebe, Catherine of Siena, Mary Ward, Marjorie Tuite.

In San Salvador, steady streams of poor people keep vigil at the tomb of Archbishop Oscar Romero; they find strength and consolation in the living memory of his love for them and are inspired to continue the fight for justice.

What is going on in these easy times—which in their endless repetitions around the world reveal something of the essence of Catholic Christianity? In these moments we see the living practice of the communion of saints. Belief in the communion of saints is confessed in the Apostles’ Creed in connection with other beliefs that support it: “I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. Amen.”

What does this aspect of our faith mean? How does comprehending and exercising it lead to a richer Christian life today? A superb clue is found when we trace how this belief started.

ONE PEOPLE OF GOD

The early Christians thought of themselves as a community of disciples of Jesus Christ, filled with his Spirit, assembled around his table, following his Way. Because of this, they were all called saints, a word taken from the root word for holy. They were all touched by the holiness of God.

Saint Paul starts almost all of his letters thus: “To the church of God which is at Corinth, with all the saints who are in the whole of Achaia” (2 Cor. 1:1); “To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi” (Phil. 1:1); and “To all God’s beloved in Rome who are called to be saints” (Rom. 1:7). The communion of saints was a reality then. It was the vital community of people who, in as much as their challenges and their sinfulness, were redeemed by Christ and sealed with the one Spirit. They were the branches with the vine, one people of God.

A new question came up when members of the community started to die, some of them at the hands of persecutors. The logic of faith led the early Christians to see that even death was not strong enough to break their bond with Christ. Paul is clear on this: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? … I know that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus, our Lord” (Rom. 8:35-39).

Since those who died were still joined with Christ, they still belong to the community of saints. The community started increasing including both those living on earth and, as the Eucharistic Prayer tells us, “those who have died and have gone before us marked with the sign of faith.”

This development received a major boost when persecution against the church broke out in earnest. From the second to the fourth centuries, many martyrs gave up their lives instead of denouncing their faith. Their instance inspired the community to a deep living of discipleship.

Christians loved these martyrs, appreciated their memory, and found ways to show respect and esteem. When possible, the bodies of martyrs were retrieved and carefully buried. Their graves became places of prayer in pilgrimage. On the yearly anniversaries of their deaths, nightlong vigils would be held at their graves, culminating in a Eucharist at dawn. In time, the stories of particular martyrs spread beyond their own locales, and they were venerated by the church in other places.

SAINTS KNOWN AND UNKNOWN

The community of saints in heaven is a largely inclusive group, made up of persons both known and unknown. In addition to the martyrs who are known by name, the Christian roll call involves persons whose lives are known from the biblical text, such as Mary the mother of Jesus, Peter and Paul, and Mary Magdalene. Other specific persons whose lives have special relevance for the community because of their great love, learning, pastoral ministry, or spirituality are also recognized as special and recalled by name.

In the church’s first 1,000 years, this acknowledgment happened in a rather informal way by the people and bishops of each local church. Saints were identified thanks to the spiritual intuition of the communities whose lives they had touched. Much the same process is now at work in devotions to the poignantly new generation of martyrs, such as Archbishop Romero or the four North American churchwomen killed in El Salvador. Their impact is already popular among the faithful who clearly recognize their holiness.

The feast of All Saints exalts this ever-widening circle. At first, it was celebrated on the Sunday after Pentecost, a date it still holds in the Byzantine Rite. If Easter marks Jesus’ victory over death and Pentecost marks Christ’s sharing of new life with the pilgrim church on earth through the outpouring of the Spirit, then the next Sunday’s feast of All Saints marks the accomplishment of the mystery of salvation as the church begins to be harvested into heaven. Even though it’s different timing on the calendar of the western churches, the feast of All Saints still honors the lives of all good people who have died and are now with God and in living communion with the church on earth. Someday it will be the feast of those who celebrate it now—we hope. Future generations will celebrate the fruitfulness of God’s grace in us as the great earth rolls around the sun.

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