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Author Topic: Stick incense vs. Frankincense?  (Read 22837 times) Average Rating: 0
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« on: September 19, 2007, 06:15:41 PM »

Hey all,

 Forgive me if this question seems silly but here goes. I was wondering about the different types of incense available and if it matters which ones we (EO's) use during our Morning/Evening prayers? I found some stick insense that has a wonderful floral scent, and because it's faster than charcoal burning incense, I was hoping I could use it from time to time. I phoned my priest, and he thought it was a no-no, but that he would find out for me. Of coarse, I will accept his counsel, but I was wondering what y'all thought?
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« Reply #1 on: September 19, 2007, 06:24:36 PM »

I don't know, but I've never used incense for my private prayers. That would be unusual, at least in Romania,
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« Reply #2 on: September 19, 2007, 06:25:07 PM »

Of coarse, I will accept his counsel, but I was wondering what y'all thought?

Well, personally, I don't much see the point of using incense in private devotions, since doing so divorces the incense from its liturgical context. However, were I to use it, I would want to maintain as much continuity and similarity as possible to Orthodox liturgical practice. Thus, stick incense is right out. Only incense made specifically for liturgical worship will do.

P.S. How is this a "Faith" issue?
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« Reply #3 on: September 19, 2007, 07:03:59 PM »

I was always told stick inscence was "weed be gone" inscence, or something used to cover up the smell of a spent blunt.  So it kinda was a no no from the get go.

Also, I see stick inscence used in devotion to Hindu gods, Chinese deities and Buhdda alot.  So, personally, I wouldn't use it.

But best thing to do would be to consult your priest.  If he gives you the OK, then OK.

Still, I'd prefer a hand censer.  I don't want to be mistaken for someone who will have the munchies later.  And anyway, it'd be too much of a tempetation to get one  of those cool dragon headed insence stands, which dont look good in a prayr corner.
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« Reply #4 on: September 19, 2007, 07:05:04 PM »

Well, personally, I don't much see the point of using incense in private devotions, since doing so divorces the incense from its liturgical context.
I was under the impression that our private devotions, esp the Morning and Evening prayers, are 'mini'-Liturgies minus the Eucharist. And I was also under the impression that we were supposed to use incense at home. Why else would Orthodox suppliers sell incense, charcoal, and mini cencers for the home altar? My priest encourages us to use incense at home. I'm OCA, but I've heard the Antiochians do likewise.

P.S. How is this a "Faith" issue?
I guess the Mods, Cleveland in this case, thought it fit better here. Who am I to disagree?  Wink

 
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« Reply #5 on: September 19, 2007, 07:11:08 PM »

I was under the impression that our private devotions, esp the Morning and Evening prayers, are 'mini'-Liturgies minus the Eucharist. And I was also under the impression that we were supposed to use incense at home. Why else would Orthodox suppliers sell incense, charcoal, and mini cencers for the home altar? My priest encourages us to use incense at home. I'm OCA, but I've heard the Antiochians do likewise.

As do we Greeks.
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« Reply #6 on: September 19, 2007, 07:46:06 PM »

Ya the last time I used incense at home (many many years ago) was to cover up the smell of those funny cigarettes. But if it helps you in prayer i am for it. For me stick incense would bring back to much negative karma.
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« Reply #7 on: September 19, 2007, 07:49:48 PM »

I think half the dorm rooms in U of H need weedscence even to this day.  It's not a wonder that I felt lightheaded coming out of my room, and I was on the first floor! Grin
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« Reply #8 on: September 19, 2007, 07:52:52 PM »

Ya the last time I used incense at home (many many years ago) was to cover up the smell of those funny cigarettes. But if it helps you in prayer i am for it. For me stick incense would bring back to much negative karma.
I think a lot of folks [experimented] with [herbs]. But the incense I found has a really nice floral scent, not patchouli. Also, I break them into 1" mini-sticks and close the lid to my hand censer. Like that, no one would suspect recreational drug use. Plus all the prayin' goin' on.  Wink 
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« Reply #9 on: September 19, 2007, 08:41:34 PM »

I honestly don't think it matters. I mean, does it really matter what SHAPE it is? I don't know about most people, but were I to use incense, the stick kind seem much more easy to deal with in a home setting. Not to mention, you're putting it inside the censer, so it's not like you're having a hippy-fest.
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« Reply #10 on: September 19, 2007, 08:58:06 PM »

I was under the impression that our private devotions, esp the Morning and Evening prayers, are 'mini'-Liturgies minus the Eucharist.

Impossible. Liturgy, by its very definition, cannot be private.

Quote
And I was also under the impression that we were supposed to use incense at home. Why else would Orthodox suppliers sell incense, charcoal, and mini cencers for the home altar? My priest encourages us to use incense at home. I'm OCA, but I've heard the Antiochians do likewise.

Home censers are now very common.
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« Reply #11 on: September 19, 2007, 10:04:16 PM »

Also, I break them into 1" mini-sticks and close the lid to my hand censer.

That is a great idea, I think the way you are using it seems very acceptable. I know my mom gets the little incense cones that seem to work the same way as the sticks to put in her hand censer.
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« Reply #12 on: September 19, 2007, 10:07:36 PM »

Impossible. Liturgy, by its very definition, cannot be private.
With a technical definition, yes. Yet Liturgy, 'work of the people' or 'public work', is understood that not only do we meet at church to pray and worship together, but also, the home is a mini-church in which the family, or in my case roommates, pray and worship together. The 'home' atmosphere is often private in the sense that it involves a family or roommates, but we're still 'working' together for each's salvation.
But regardless of the language, and we can continue discussing that, it seems that most people use incense in the home.

Home censers are now very common.
And we put incense in them. Wink
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« Reply #13 on: September 19, 2007, 10:18:08 PM »

If you want to use stick incense and not feel like a pothead, Christ of the Desert Monastery (RC- Benedictine) makes stick incense for Christian use.

http://christdesert.org/Visit_Our_Store/Incense/index.html

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« Reply #14 on: September 19, 2007, 10:46:52 PM »

With a technical definition, yes. Yet Liturgy, 'work of the people' or 'public work', is understood that not only do we meet at church to pray and worship together, but also, the home is a mini-church in which the family, or in my case roommates, pray and worship together. The 'home' atmosphere is often private in the sense that it involves a family or roommates, but we're still 'working' together for each's salvation.
But regardless of the language, and we can continue discussing that, it seems that most people use incense in the home.   

Oh - see I had the impression (and maybe pensateomnia did as well) that when you said "private devotions" you meant one (1) person praying alone; if you're talking about praying as a family, then I would qualify that as a liturgical act (of course I probably have a more liberal usage of the word).
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« Reply #15 on: September 19, 2007, 10:57:15 PM »

One could say that anytime a person prays the prayers of the Church: the prescribed morning and evening prayers or vespers or matins as reader services, even privately, one is praying liturgically because you are joining your prays to those of others praying the same prayers corporately in churches.

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« Reply #16 on: September 19, 2007, 11:48:28 PM »

One could say that anytime a person prays the prayers of the Church: the prescribed morning and evening prayers or vespers or matins as reader services, even privately, one is praying liturgically because you are joining your prays to those of others praying the same prayers corporately in churches. 

Eh, but then it seems to water down the word a little too much for my liking.  I don't want to bog this thread down with that debate, though.
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« Reply #17 on: September 20, 2007, 07:32:46 AM »

I was always taught that one never prays alone (even if you are literally alone) because at some point around the world someone somewhere, as well as the saints in heaven, are praying with you the same prayers.
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« Reply #18 on: September 20, 2007, 09:05:29 AM »

The use of stick incense is allowed, according to my spiritual father, if the source is Christian. Sadly most stick incense comes from the far east India, China, Southest Asia, and Japan---it is made traditionally by placing animal manure impermeated with sented oils on a stick for burning before idols.  The use of the manure makes it unacceptable for Orthodox use.  In the last ten years some monasteries (primarily schismatic, Vacante, and Roman Catholic) have started to use a compressed sawdust punk that can be impermeated with scent that are acceptable as incense for use in the home.  I have even given a sample of one in which frankinsense poweder was mixed with the sawdust and I could not tell a difference in scent.  I used these with my children and grandchildren when they were too small to handle the censer with the charcoal but switched back to charcoal  and  regular frankincense when it was safe for them to handle the censer.

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« Reply #19 on: September 20, 2007, 09:59:07 AM »

Quote
But regardless of the language, and we can continue discussing that, it seems that most people use incense in the home.

I would seriously doubt that. There is no way the majority of the world's Orthodox Christians use incense at home -- not now, not in the medieval period and certainly not in antiquity. There are pockets of Orthodox that do so now in the post-Industrial age, since products like hand censers and incense are inexpensive compared to average disposable income and easy to obtain.
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« Reply #20 on: September 20, 2007, 11:17:18 AM »

Of course I may be mistaken but I understand the only incense we actually use in church and at home is "livani" burned with special charcoal "karvounakia". In Greece at least. At home, I have seen it placed in a "thymiaterion" or "livanistiri"(censer) a bit different than that of the church as it does not have chains, only a handle.

I found this information online: http://www.orthodoxonline.com/censer-secondary.htm
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« Reply #21 on: September 20, 2007, 11:48:57 AM »

I bought a tiny little censer at an Antiochian Orthodox churches' festival a few weeks ago because I received incense from the middle east as a gift. I bought the charcoal at the same time and my ten year old altar boy son is going to show me how to light it. I figure we can use it on feast days when we light the candles in front of the icons and when our priest comes to bless our home.
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« Reply #22 on: September 20, 2007, 03:35:36 PM »

I was always taught that one never prays alone (even if you are literally alone) because at some point around the world someone somewhere, as well as the saints in heaven, are praying with you the same prayers.

Bravo!!!

The "Church" to us sometimes is the building down the street where the Alter and the vestry is. Of course this is the church in one sense. But we must remind ourselves that the Holy Church reaches from one end of the earth to the other and is 'to be' the same on earth as it is in heaven.

In heaven the saints, martyrs the angels and arch angles, Seraphim and Cherubim, the elect and all the hosts, principalities and dominions of the etenal kingdom to come are all worshipping and praising Christ without ceasing.

So when we pray we are NEVER alone.

We are earth bound and waiting for the second advent and while we are waiting we are singing and praising with all our minds, hearts our whole being. This is what the apostles teach. As such every aspect of our lives are in the church. WE are never outside the church at any time in this sense.

Our homes are an extension of the church. Our homes are spiritual places of worship. In fact anywhere an orthodox christian who keeps the way of the true faith stands by virtue of the grace of the holy spirit it is a spiritual place of worship.

This is not to say the eucharistic rites or any of the holy sacraments are to be performed. Such is to done in a 'consecrated' structure by an ordained clergyman; of course this is the 'church' in the more common sense.

Incense is good for the home for prayer and worship.

Some communions prefer to keep incense in the sacaramental pratice of the church only and not for prayer outside of this. I do not object to that. This does not mean that communions that do insist that the layman use incense in prayeer is doing anything wrong. It is a choice

It is important to me that the layman understand that he/she is an instrument of the faith of Christ and not just a spectator with no power or purpose. At baptism we recieve the gift of the holy spirit which permits us to be workers and vessels of the faith, followers of Christ. This is the most important gift in the holy church. No one can become a deacon, priest, or patriarch without first recieving 'baptism'.

It used to be a time where the faithful would even wear clothing only use for worship ("sunday best") a "holy garment" like we read about in scripture. This is similar to a vestment of sorts. Not a clergical vestment but similarly "vesting" in a way that when in the sactuary we appear before God as His people; humble and with humility....penitant. This has changed radically; particularly with orthodox women today with all the hair does, make-up, jewelry not to mention the fit of the clothing I see these days. I am not trying to sneak in a hidden topic or agenda here I am just trying to show that the laymen has somehow been left to his/her own devices today and thus has little 'sense' of connectivity and purpose withing the faith and the church. Burning incense may help with prividing a centeredness with the holiness of the faith and church practice. This will also allow the whole family to share in the the richness of prayer especially non-believers. Of course it is a good intro to potential converts

I find that incense used in a burner with coals are the only way to go. If the stick or other types are the best a person can do than by all means.

Ask your priest for prayers fitting to be done over the incense as you place them on the coals. This is not a must but it wil add to your spiritual intention and raise the circumstances of "burning incense" above common.

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« Reply #23 on: September 20, 2007, 10:38:05 PM »

I would seriously doubt that. There is no way the majority of the world's Orthodox Christians use incense at home -- not now, not in the medieval period and certainly not in antiquity. There are pockets of Orthodox that do so now in the post-Industrial age, since products like hand censers and incense are inexpensive compared to average disposable income and easy to obtain.
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It seems as if my words have really troubled/ hurt you. Please accept my apologies. I did not mean to step on any toes.
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« Reply #24 on: September 20, 2007, 11:00:49 PM »

It seems as if my words have really troubled/ hurt you.

Not at all. No need to read any emotion into straight-forward statements.
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« Reply #25 on: September 21, 2007, 12:49:16 PM »

The use of stick incense is allowed, according to my spiritual father, if the source is Christian. Sadly most stick incense comes from the far east India, China, Southest Asia, and Japan---it is made traditionally by placing animal manure impermeated with sented oils on a stick for burning before idols.  The use of the manure makes it unacceptable for Orthodox use. 
Thomas

I beg your pardon for interjecting, but in the case of Japan at least (I would have to research China, but it doesn't sound familiar for that culture either) that is not the case. Japanese incense is based on such things as aloeswood, sandalwood, and such things.  While I'm not an expert on Shinto, the use of manure would not fit in the Shinto idea of purity.  The diaries and fiction from 1000 years ago have recipes for incense which was pounded together, shaped into balls and ripened before putting it on coals. The only animal ingredient that I remember is "Ground Shell" which is from mollusks I gather.  There is a tradition of the Incense Ceremony (rather like the Tea Ceremony).  Modern Japanese stick incense (which can be very nice "Shoyeido" is the maker I'm familiar with and they do make a Frankincense) follows in that tradition with emphasis on the purity and naturalness of the ingredients used.

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« Reply #26 on: December 03, 2007, 05:51:43 AM »

The use of stick incense is allowed, according to my spiritual father, if the source is Christian. Sadly most stick incense comes from the far east India, China, Southest Asia, and Japan---it is made traditionally by placing animal manure impermeated with sented oils on a stick for burning before idols.  The use of the manure makes it unacceptable for Orthodox use.

Begging your pardon, stick incense does not contain manure. The mixture is sandalwood paste.
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« Reply #27 on: December 03, 2007, 07:37:07 PM »

Lots of people use incense at home, with the little hand censer.  I wouldn't use stick incense.  Incense is connected with prayer.  There isn't anything I know of that would "prohibit" individual usage and only condone liturgica/work of the people/communal prayer.  The only thing I can think of that may have been the agent of prohibition in personal incense usage is if people can find and afford charcoal and incense.  Even today incense and charcoal aren't cheap, but they are easily to find in the USA.  Think about the three gifts, frankincense, gold and myrrh.  My one friend who is a priest from the middle east said when he was growing up if the priest gave you a piece of charcoal and some incense to use at home you felt like the luckiest kid in the world. 
Maybe the same reason Slavs use willow branches instead of palms is the same reason personal incense usage for home prayer isn't widespread:  the key ingredients for incense don't grow in Slavic countries!
But today with the global economy I can get frankincense shipped to my house from 6000 miles away.
Anyway, I wouldn't use stick incense.
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« Reply #28 on: December 03, 2007, 08:21:48 PM »

Many Orthodox use incense in front of their icons, particularly on major feast days.  You can buy the brass mini censers for home use from any Orthodox bookshop.

Greek women seem to have a habit of going through the rooms of the house with incense once a week.

Stick incense?   I've never been happy with it because of its non-Christian "feel" and also, when you get raided by the Police, they think you have been smoking marijuana.   Shocked
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« Reply #29 on: December 03, 2007, 08:48:34 PM »

Many Orthodox use incense in front of their icons, particularly on major feast days.  You can buy the brass mini censers for home use from any Orthodox bookshop.

Greek women seem to have a habit of going through the rooms of the house with incense once a week.

Stick incense?   I've never been happy with it because of its non-Christian "feel" and also, when you get raided by the Police, they think you have been smoking marijuana.   Shocked

Ummm... how often do you get raided by the police?
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« Reply #30 on: December 03, 2007, 08:55:34 PM »

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« Reply #31 on: January 28, 2009, 10:39:31 AM »

Monastery Icons, also makes a stick version of their regular incense. 
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« Reply #32 on: January 28, 2009, 11:55:36 AM »

The only animal ingredient that I remember is "Ground Shell" which is from mollusks I gather. 
Wow! I just noticed this Ebor! I didn't realize you had cornered the market on mollusks! It must take you quite a while to gather enough mollusks to satisfy the Japanese market though! Cheesy
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« Reply #33 on: January 28, 2009, 11:58:30 AM »

The use of stick incense is allowed, according to my spiritual father, if the source is Christian. Sadly most stick incense comes from the far east India, China, Southest Asia, and Japan---it is made traditionally by placing animal manure impermeated with sented oils on a stick for burning before idols.  The use of the manure makes it unacceptable for Orthodox use. 
Thomas

I beg your pardon for interjecting, but in the case of Japan at least (I would have to research China, but it doesn't sound familiar for that culture either) that is not the case. Japanese incense is based on such things as aloeswood, sandalwood, and such things.  While I'm not an expert on Shinto, the use of manure would not fit in the Shinto idea of purity.  The diaries and fiction from 1000 years ago have recipes for incense which was pounded together, shaped into balls and ripened before putting it on coals. The only animal ingredient that I remember is "Ground Shell" which is from mollusks I gather.  There is a tradition of the Incense Ceremony (rather like the Tea Ceremony).  Modern Japanese stick incense (which can be very nice "Shoyeido" is the maker I'm familiar with and they do make a Frankincense) follows in that tradition with emphasis on the purity and naturalness of the ingredients used.

Ebor

Yeah Thomas is way off base here for China too. From Wikipedia:

There are many forms of Chinese incense and its use and formulation theory is strongly tied to Traditional Chinese medicine and are still referred today as "fragrant medicines" (香藥). Use of incense in dynastic times was as much for promotion of bodily wellbeing as much as for veneration and religious ceremonies. As with Japanese incense, agarwood (沈香, chenxiang) and sandalwood (檀香, tanxiang) are the two most important ingredients in Chinese incense. Calibrated incense sticks and powders were used in both secular and religious Chinese culture for keeping time.
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« Reply #34 on: January 28, 2009, 02:04:40 PM »

Interesting picture of a Catholic shrine in Vietnam:

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« Reply #35 on: January 28, 2009, 02:07:34 PM »



My thoughts exactly, I agree.  Post of the year nominee!!
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« Reply #36 on: January 28, 2009, 03:38:14 PM »

Why can't people stick with the incense that is mentioned in Scripture
that was presented to the Holy Christ Child...This way God Doesn't consider it
strange incense ,Like in the old testement were two people caught fire...just a thought..
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« Reply #37 on: January 28, 2009, 05:31:02 PM »

Why can't people stick with the incense that is mentioned in Scripture
that was presented to the Holy Christ Child...This way God Doesn't consider it
strange incense ,Like in the old testement were two people caught fire...just a thought..

I agree. I think it is best to stick with insense that is used by the Church.
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« Reply #38 on: January 28, 2009, 05:41:04 PM »

Quote
Even today incense and charcoal aren't cheap,


WHAT?? Our local supermarket has both, imported from Greece, at less than three dollars a box for the incense (rose and jasmine, as well as the generic livani), and a bit less for the charcoal. The "ethnic" warehouse 10-15 minutes away has it even cheaper.

I can tell you that both the various Greek churches, and the Russian church in my town use this stuff. Of course, they bring out the really gorgeous (and more expensive) incense at major feasts, but the "mainstream" stuff is quite affordable.
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« Reply #39 on: January 28, 2009, 05:52:51 PM »

Ok,in China, Stick incense be used by everyone(Buddhists Taoists Musilims Jews...).I also know some orthodox use it all times...
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« Reply #40 on: January 28, 2009, 06:11:04 PM »

Why can't people stick with the incense that is mentioned in Scripture
that was presented to the Holy Christ Child...This way God Doesn't consider it
strange incense ,Like in the old testement were two people caught fire...just a thought..

Nadab and Abihu offered strange fire.
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« Reply #41 on: January 28, 2009, 07:00:58 PM »

They had to start the strange fire to offer the strange incense,,and then they went poof, up in a blaze...
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« Reply #42 on: January 29, 2009, 02:13:56 PM »

The only animal ingredient that I remember is "Ground Shell" which is from mollusks I gather. 
Wow! I just noticed this Ebor! I didn't realize you had cornered the market on mollusks! It must take you quite a while to gather enough mollusks to satisfy the Japanese market though! Cheesy
Cheesy Cheesy Cheesy

Lucky for me that I wasn't taking a drink of coffee when I read that, OzGeorge!    Ah the hazards of the English language.  heheheh

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« Reply #43 on: January 29, 2009, 02:20:23 PM »

Why can't people stick with the incense that is mentioned in Scripture
that was presented to the Holy Christ Child...This way God Doesn't consider it
strange incense ,Like in the old testement were two people caught fire...just a thought..

Frankincense *is* an ingredient used in incense in Japan and China and other countries.  What does the form (lump/powder vs. stick) have to do with anything please?  And as has been noted, powdered incense is also used in different situations.  I'm sorry, but I don't understand why the shape/form matters.  Huh

Ebor
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« Reply #44 on: January 29, 2009, 04:40:45 PM »

What difference does it make! Good Lord this is like that one thread where a catechumen was worried they couldn't eat at an Indian restaurant. While we're at it we can't study karate, kung fu, yoga, Reflexology or a whole host of massage treatments. I swear some of you folks wouldn't change your underwear if you didn't have to. It's no wonder people don't want to join us because I can't stand this "I'm more Orthodox than thou" mentality either.
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