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Author Topic: The Use of a Hand Censer  (Read 6613 times) Average Rating: 0
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sohma_hatori
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« on: August 11, 2009, 09:08:19 AM »

Dear friends,

How is one to properly use a hand censer (the one's we use in our Icon corners at home). When or what part of our evening prayers do we use incense, and what are the things that we should and shouldn't cense? Are there certain prayers said while we are preparing the censer, and are their also prayers chanted or recited while censing? Also, is the hymn, "Katevthinthito" a priest-only hymn?

Humbly.
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« Reply #1 on: August 11, 2009, 01:37:53 PM »

I'm not sure I do things properly during my prayers at home, so take this with a grain of salt.  Hopefully, I'm doing things right and you'll be able to draw some answers from what I and many others on this thread do.

Dear friends,

How is one to properly use a hand censer (the one's we use in our Icon corners at home). When or what part of our evening prayers do we use incense,
I usually follow the example of the clergy on this.  Based on what I've seen done in my parish practice, I will burn a piece of incense at the start of Vespers and another during the Psalms at "Lord, I Have Cried...".

and what are the things that we should and shouldn't cense?
I cense my icons and my Bible, if my Bible is on my home reader's stand as I'm praying.

Are there certain prayers said while we are preparing the censer, and are their also prayers chanted or recited while censing?
While preparing the censer, I cannot say.  However, when I'm censing, one of my housemates is reading the Psalms, so I just focus on what he's reading as I cense.  I don't add my own inaudible prayers.

Also, is the hymn, "Katevthinthito" a priest-only hymn?
Can you give us an English translation of that title so we know what hymn you're talking about?  That would be very helpful to this discussion if you could.
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« Reply #2 on: August 11, 2009, 01:45:24 PM »

I usually just light a piece of charcoal and put a few pieces of incese on it right before I begin my prayers and let it burn as I am praying. I don't know if that's the "right" thing to do, but that's what I do. The censor I have gets too hot to handle, so I just let it sit on the dresser in my icon corner as I pray.
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« Reply #3 on: August 11, 2009, 01:53:24 PM »

Also, is the hymn, "Katevthinthito" a priest-only hymn?

No. It is merely a portion of Psalm 141. The choir/people chant that particular portion of the Psalm in every Vespers.

Perhaps you think it is priest-only because you heard the priest chanting a solemn-sounding version of it after the Old Testament readings during the Vesperal Pre-Sanctified Liturgies in Great Lent. Even then, the chanter responds antiphonally.

Anyway, it's just a Psalm.
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« Reply #4 on: August 11, 2009, 01:59:28 PM »

Also, is the hymn, "Katevthinthito" a priest-only hymn?

No. It is merely a portion of Psalm 141. The choir/people chant that particular portion of the Psalm in every Vespers.

Perhaps you think it is priest-only because you heard the priest chanting a solemn-sounding version of it after the Old Testament readings during the Vesperal Pre-Sanctified Liturgies in Great Lent. Even then, the chanter responds antiphonally.

Anyway, it's just a Psalm.

Okay.  I think this just gave me the English translation for which I sought.  "Katevthinthito" translates to English as "Let my prayer arise in Your sight as incense."  Correct?
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« Reply #5 on: August 11, 2009, 02:02:09 PM »

After prayers, I take the censer and walk through the house, censing the icons in each of the children's rooms as well as other icons we have in the house.  I also cense the doors of the house as I pass by, asking blessing on all who have passed or will pass through them.  Otherwise, I do what the others here have said, just let it stand on the shelf before the icons as we pray.

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« Reply #6 on: August 11, 2009, 02:03:49 PM »

Okay.  I think this just gave me the English translation for which I sought.  "Katevthinthito" translates to English as "Let my prayer arise in Your sight as incense."  Correct?

It's just the first word of that verse in Greek, an imperative, meaning "Let it arise".
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« Reply #7 on: August 11, 2009, 02:10:54 PM »

I must admit to seldom censing in our home. But on those rare occasions that I do, I generally walk through the house and cense every room, every icon, my wife and then in particular our icon corner. Then I let the censor stand on the fireplace hearth since it tends to become hot and fill the living room with incense. As for prayers, these are said later.
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« Reply #8 on: August 11, 2009, 06:00:47 PM »

I kind of doubt that there is a propriety laid out for the use of incense in private prayers.
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« Reply #9 on: August 12, 2009, 03:26:46 AM »

Also, is the hymn, "Katevthinthito" a priest-only hymn?

No. It is merely a portion of Psalm 141. The choir/people chant that particular portion of the Psalm in every Vespers.

Perhaps you think it is priest-only because you heard the priest chanting a solemn-sounding version of it after the Old Testament readings during the Vesperal Pre-Sanctified Liturgies in Great Lent. Even then, the chanter responds antiphonally.

Anyway, it's just a Psalm.


I've never been to Vesper's or Pre-sanctified Liturgy. I just heard it sung on a service I was watching on the net.
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« Reply #10 on: August 12, 2009, 03:33:10 AM »

I'm not sure I do things properly during my prayers at home, so take this with a grain of salt.  Hopefully, I'm doing things right and you'll be able to draw some answers from what I and many others on this thread do.

Dear friends,

How is one to properly use a hand censer (the one's we use in our Icon corners at home). When or what part of our evening prayers do we use incense,
I usually follow the example of the clergy on this.  Based on what I've seen done in my parish practice, I will burn a piece of incense at the start of Vespers and another during the Psalms at "Lord, I Have Cried...".

and what are the things that we should and shouldn't cense?
I cense my icons and my Bible, if my Bible is on my home reader's stand as I'm praying.

Are there certain prayers said while we are preparing the censer, and are their also prayers chanted or recited while censing?
While preparing the censer, I cannot say.  However, when I'm censing, one of my housemates is reading the Psalms, so I just focus on what he's reading as I cense.  I don't add my own inaudible prayers.

Also, is the hymn, "Katevthinthito" a priest-only hymn?
Can you give us an English translation of that title so we know what hymn you're talking about?  That would be very helpful to this discussion if you could.

Thanks! How long does a block of charcoal usually last? Since we don't swing a hand censer, how do we cense things around?
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« Reply #11 on: August 12, 2009, 03:46:04 AM »

Thanks! How long does a block of charcoal usually last? Since we don't swing a hand censer, how do we cense things around?

Censing with a hand censer is done by tracing out the shape of a cross.
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« Reply #12 on: August 12, 2009, 03:48:54 AM »

Are laity allowed to swing a hand censor in our private prayers at home, or simply to cense our house? If so, where can I find a hand censer? What about using a hand censer or simply burning incense outside of the abortion clinic I occasionally minister at?

By the way, what kind of incense do most EO use? In our Ethiopian Orthodox Church we use real Frankincense. I have a lot of it that has been blessed by my Priest. I also burn it on charcoal like most of you.

Thanks.

Selam
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« Reply #13 on: August 12, 2009, 03:58:15 AM »

Thanks! How long does a block of charcoal usually last? Since we don't swing a hand censer, how do we cense things around?

Censing with a hand censer is done by tracing out the shape of a cross.

Left to Right or other way around?
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« Reply #14 on: August 12, 2009, 04:01:48 AM »

Thanks! How long does a block of charcoal usually last? Since we don't swing a hand censer, how do we cense things around?

Censing with a hand censer is done by tracing out the shape of a cross.

Left to Right or other way around?

When facing the object or person being censed, up, down, then your left, then your right, the same way a priest crosses you when he gives you a blessing. The mirror image of how you would cross yourself.
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« Reply #15 on: August 12, 2009, 06:20:35 AM »

Are laity allowed to swing a hand censor in our private prayers at home, or simply to cense our house? If so, where can I find a hand censer? What about using a hand censer or simply burning incense outside of the abortion clinic I occasionally minister at?

By the way, what kind of incense do most EO use? In our Ethiopian Orthodox Church we use real Frankincense. I have a lot of it that has been blessed by my Priest. I also burn it on charcoal like most of you.

Thanks.

Selam

Dear brother, peace and grace be with your spirit,


I suggest checking with your priest, as I am not sure whether this EO/RC practice is followed by many OO in their homes. I know in the Coptic Church it is a no no and only priests raise incence, even in private homes during the blessing of homes. So I suggest before doing so you ask your father of confession. The same would go for all OO, ask first.

Pray for me.

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« Reply #16 on: August 12, 2009, 06:22:24 AM »

Are laity allowed to swing a hand censor in our private prayers at home, or simply to cense our house? If so, where can I find a hand censer? What about using a hand censer or simply burning incense outside of the abortion clinic I occasionally minister at?

By the way, what kind of incense do most EO use? In our Ethiopian Orthodox Church we use real Frankincense. I have a lot of it that has been blessed by my Priest. I also burn it on charcoal like most of you.

Thanks.

Selam

Dear brother, peace and grace be with your spirit,


I suggest checking with your priest, as I am not sure whether this EO/RC practice is followed by many OO in their homes. I know in the Coptic Church it is a no no and only priests raise incence, even in private homes during the blessing of homes. So I suggest before doing so you ask your father of confession. The same would go for all OO, ask first.

Pray for me.

James+
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Thank you very much. I will ask my Priest.

Peace to you.

Selam
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« Reply #17 on: August 12, 2009, 01:23:15 PM »

I suggest checking with your priest, as I am not sure whether this EO/RC practice is followed by many OO in their homes.

Just as an aside: I don't think it is all that common in EO practice either. Haven't personally seen any homes in native Orthodox lands that do so. My hunch is that this is a recent importation of monastic practices -- made possible by the mass production of ecclesiastical items. I've been to several hermitages and convents, none of which had a priest, so the hermit or abbess would cense the Holy Icons with a hand censer (not the full, hanging one) at the appointed times during Orthros, Vespers, etc, in the manner that LBK described.

I know in the Coptic Church it is a no no and only priests raise incence, even in private homes during the blessing of homes.

Certainly, when the priest comes to bless the home, he would be the one to cense. Although, in our tradition, his hands are busy sprinkling the holy water, so no censing occurs.
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« Reply #18 on: August 12, 2009, 02:50:35 PM »

I know that many of my Greek Orthodox friends use the hand censer or at least have one by their icon corners at home. I've seen them use it too during family prayers.

I usually light one piece of incense and cense in the shape of the cross the icons once or three times and then I cense the icons again during the reading of Tin Timioteran (More Honourable than the Cherubim) just as the icons in church are censed at this time during Orthros/matins.

Alternately, I just light a piece of incense at the beginning of prayer and let it burn out.

a Coptic priest once told me that only the elderly women light incense...interesting.

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« Reply #19 on: August 12, 2009, 06:47:14 PM »

My grandmother put some dried herbs in the metal bowl  and she is censing icons with it while she is praying.
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« Reply #20 on: August 13, 2009, 02:11:55 AM »

I suggest checking with your priest, as I am not sure whether this EO/RC practice is followed by many OO in their homes.

Just as an aside: I don't think it is all that common in EO practice either. Haven't personally seen any homes in native Orthodox lands that do so. My hunch is that this is a recent importation of monastic practices -- made possible by the mass production of ecclesiastical items. I've been to several hermitages and convents, none of which had a priest, so the hermit or abbess would cense the Holy Icons with a hand censer (not the full, hanging one) at the appointed times during Orthros, Vespers, etc, in the manner that LBK described.

I know in the Coptic Church it is a no no and only priests raise incence, even in private homes during the blessing of homes.

Certainly, when the priest comes to bless the home, he would be the one to cense. Although, in our tradition, his hands are busy sprinkling the holy water, so no censing occurs.

Which is the same of course with us as the majority of blessings of houses are with the shortened version using water, however, there is (isnt there always) a more formal service which is quite a bit longer, involves the house fasting and raising of incense.  Whilst less frequent it certainly is utilized, especially with new homes, changing rental homes etc.

Peace and grace.


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« Reply #21 on: August 13, 2009, 02:37:57 AM »

This is interesting.  The custom among Armenians is to burn incense in the home, as well as at the graves of loved ones.  Incense and charcoal are almost always to be found in local Armenian grocery stores.  It never occurred to me that other OO's didn't do this. 
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« Reply #22 on: August 13, 2009, 02:38:59 AM »

Interesting. Both of my grandmothers had a hand censer in their icon corner, but I never saw them in use other than once by my father's mother at the cemetery on Papou's nameday.
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« Reply #23 on: August 13, 2009, 04:58:25 AM »

How long does a block of charcoal usually last?
That depends.  I usually use round blocks of charcoal large enough (about 1 1/2" diameter) to cut into quarters so they last longer.  I only burn one quarter at a time.
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« Reply #24 on: August 13, 2009, 08:46:10 AM »

Which is the same of course with us as the majority of blessings of houses are with the shortened version using water, however, there is (isnt there always) a more formal service which is quite a bit longer, involves the house fasting and raising of incense.  Whilst less frequent it certainly is utilized, especially with new homes, changing rental homes etc.

Ah, yes. The Russians also have a special service, which is used when a house is blessed for the first time (right after purchase or moving in). Doesn't appear in all liturgical books, and I'm not even sure of its provenance. It's quite unlike the standard Byzantine practice, which is the Lesser Blessing of Water. In this Russian tradition, there are unique prayers, everything is sprinkled with holy water, then the outer walls are anointed with the sign of the cross with holy oil, then everything is censed, then there is a Gospel reading. It's kind of like a mini version of the consecration (thyranoixia) of a church.
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« Reply #25 on: August 13, 2009, 09:37:15 AM »


Ukrainians do this too.

When my sister and her family moved in to a new house, once it was furnished and ready to go, the priest came over and blessed it.

The whole family marched around behind him.  He censed the house and each room, the whole time singing prayers.  Each room has an icon in it (another Ukrainian tradition) except of course the bathrooms, etc.  Then he took out a toothpick and marked the walls with holy oil.

It's really a very nice tradition.

The toothpick which was used (and still has some oil on it) lies next to one of the icons. 

As for the hand censer, we also use it on occasion at home. 

We also burn incense at our grave sites.  My uncle who while living served in the Altar, loved the smell of incense and he always burned it at my grandfather's grave.  Now, that he has passed away, I have taken up the tradition (which my nephews are eagerly taking over), to burn the incense at my grandfather's, and now uncle's grave. 

Of course I don't use a hand censer, as it would be too hot to take home, and would get stolen if left behind.  Instead, I use a clean tin can with some holes punched in it.  I light the charcoal, drop it in to the can and then sprinkle the incense over it.  We place it on the granite and then just add incense as needed. 

As we leave it's nice to look back and see the white puffy smoke rising from the grave site.





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« Reply #26 on: August 13, 2009, 12:58:19 PM »

Are laity allowed to swing a hand censor in our private prayers at home, or simply to cense our house? If so, where can I find a hand censer? What about using a hand censer or simply burning incense outside of the abortion clinic I occasionally minister at?

I know quite a few EO who do use incense in their home including myself. Lay people can use hand censers at home but cannot use a swinging censer like the one at church since only the priest and deacon can cense with that.

Quote
By the way, what kind of incense do most EO use? In our Ethiopian Orthodox Church we use real Frankincense. I have a lot of it that has been blessed by my Priest. I also burn it on charcoal like most of you.

Thanks.

Selam

The incense that is used is made from frankincense smashed up into powder and mixed with scented oils and then rolled. I've made incense before but it's better to just buy it. I buy incense from Holy Transfiguration Monastery and Holy Cross Hermitage. They also sell frankincense too since some people like to just burn that and we use it sometimes in church as well. I think frankincense is better to use around people who have allergies to incense; that would make sense but I'm not sure about it.
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« Reply #27 on: August 13, 2009, 11:42:00 PM »

Are laity allowed to swing a hand censor in our private prayers at home, or simply to cense our house? If so, where can I find a hand censer? What about using a hand censer or simply burning incense outside of the abortion clinic I occasionally minister at?

I know quite a few EO who do use incense in their home including myself. Lay people can use hand censers at home but cannot use a swinging censer like the one at church since only the priest and deacon can cense with that.

Quote
By the way, what kind of incense do most EO use? In our Ethiopian Orthodox Church we use real Frankincense. I have a lot of it that has been blessed by my Priest. I also burn it on charcoal like most of you.

Thanks.

Selam

The incense that is used is made from frankincense smashed up into powder and mixed with scented oils and then rolled. I've made incense before but it's better to just buy it. I buy incense from Holy Transfiguration Monastery and Holy Cross Hermitage. They also sell frankincense too since some people like to just burn that and we use it sometimes in church as well. I think frankincense is better to use around people who have allergies to incense; that would make sense but I'm not sure about it.

Thank you.

I have always loved incense. I wonder how much my love for incense played a subconscious role in my becoming Orthodox? Wink

Selam
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« Reply #28 on: August 13, 2009, 11:43:38 PM »

My grandmother put some dried herbs in the metal bowl  and she is censing icons with it while she is praying.

THANK GOD FOR THE PRAYERS OF GRANDMOTHERS!!! Smiley

Selam
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« Reply #29 on: August 14, 2009, 08:26:56 AM »

My grandmother put some dried herbs in the metal bowl  and she is censing icons with it while she is praying.

What type of herbs did she use?  The reason I'm asking is I have problems with incense, scented candles, perfumes, etc, (causes headaches, eyes water, feel like my eyes and throat will will close up, light headedness.)  I don't react that way to wood fires, charcoal when grilling, cigar, pipe or cigarette smoke. Doc thinks it's the oils- went to him about it after starting to attend DL-have to go out the back several times during the service due to that- arrgghhhh!!!  Is the charcoal you burn the same as that used for outdoor grilling?
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« Reply #30 on: August 14, 2009, 09:43:44 AM »

I'll have to ask her about what kinds of the herb she uses, but I don't think they are some special. Just the dried flowers which were blessed on Dormition or on Nativity of St. John the Baptist.
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« Reply #31 on: July 10, 2014, 08:37:11 AM »

I bought two incense packs with charcoal in my parish church, both of them come from Mount Athos according to the instructions. There was a long text included inside how to prepare and cense correctly (prayers, movements) at home, although this obviously comes from the Russian tradition (the text is in Russian originally). I could translate it and post it here for those who would like that.
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« Reply #32 on: July 10, 2014, 10:56:51 AM »

I bought two incense packs with charcoal in my parish church, both of them come from Mount Athos according to the instructions. There was a long text included inside how to prepare and cense correctly (prayers, movements) at home, although this obviously comes from the Russian tradition (the text is in Russian originally). I could translate it and post it here for those who would like that.

That would be interesting to read.  Smiley
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« Reply #33 on: July 10, 2014, 11:02:00 AM »

I could translate it and post it here for those who would like that.


Please do.



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« Reply #34 on: July 10, 2014, 01:43:36 PM »

On the use of incense at home for laity

Censing (or burning frankincence) is part of the rites of the Orthodox Church and is performed at church during services. However, besides making the sign of the Cross which is also a compound part of services, after having prayed, chanted the canons or akathists a monk or a pious layperson may also cense his cell/home, the holy icons and his fellowmen who also participated in the prayer. It is an olden custom, an expression of piety. In this case, a type of an ancient hand censer without chains is used (called ‘кацея‘ in Russian – my note), and a piece of burning wood charcoal together with some incense is placed inside.

In ancient times, frankincence (‘ладан‘ in Russian – my note), the natural resin of the frankincence tree, was quite an expensive type of incense made in India and the southern part of the Arabian Peninsula, therefore churches sometimes used to collect money specifically for the purpose of buying it. As a matter of fact, burning frankincence/censing is first and foremost an offering to God, the same kind of gift the Magi brought to Bethlehem, near the manger, where the newly born Divine Infant, Jesus lay; amongst their other gifts frankincence is mentioned.

Thus burning frankincence is our offering and gift to God, an expression of our greatest worship and awe. This way we demonstrate our deepest devotion and prayer, the purity and sincerity of our faith which accompany us whilst we pray. It sanctifies that which the frankincence was burnt in front of; the grace of the Holy Spirit is sanctioned via it.

How does one burn frankincence properly at home (or in a cell)? It is deemed best that the most senior pious Christian of the house or the head of the household presides over the prayers and the burning of frankincence (in a monastery, if a monk-priest is not present, the most senior monk presides). Whilst placing frankincence into the censer, the Christian must recite the Jesus prayer, then, repeating the same prayer, make the sign of the Cross three times bowing to the waist in front of the holy icons, then start the censing itself. We must first observe the correct sequence of movements and always pray while performing them.

The burning of frankincence always begins with the Life-Creating Cross of our Lord. Whilst holding the censer in your hand, make the sign of the Cross in front of the Holy Cross and, at the same time, recite these words: ‘Glory be Lord to Thy Venerable Cross’. Then take the censer into your left hand and make the sign of the Cross with your right hand and bow to the waist in front of the Cross. Then turn to the icon of Our Saviour, recite the Jesus prayer whilst censing in front of it, praying and bowing to the waist. Cense the rest of the holy icons in a similar manner. An appropriate prayer has to be recited for every holy icon, e.g. for the Most Holy Mother of God – ‘Most Holy Theotokos, save  us’, for St. Nicholas – ‘O Holy Saint Nicholas, Pray to God for Us’, then the same movements are repeated as in censing before the Holy Cross – reciting the prayer, making the sign of Cross, then bowing. After censing each of the holy icons, make a single sign of the Cross in front of all of them (basically, the entire icon corner – my note), intoning the Jesus prayer, and recite afterwards: ‘All you holy Saints of God, pray for us!’, again making the sign of Cross and bowing. Then turn to your family members who prayed together with you, and cense each of them with the smoke of frankincence, making the sign of the Cross with the censer and reciting the Jesus prayer. It is customary to cense those who first helped in the prayers (read, chanted, lit the candles, lampadas and the censer), then the remaining family members. After returning to your original place (in front of the icon corner – my note), make a wide, large sign of the Cross sanctifying all those participating in the prayers, then bow to them. All those standing in front of you must all together bow to the waist, then stand up straight again and make the sign of the Cross (no need to bow after that). Somebody eldest in the group must then take the censer from you (you must both bow to each other whilst doing so) and now cense you in the same manner as described previously. After censing the residents of the house you may cense the entire premises except for the toilet(s). You must then use the censer to make the sign of the Cross over each wall, window and door. Whilst doing so you should recite the Jesus prayer or read the 50th Psalm. In cases of dire need, when a Christian or his family is going through difficult times or grave accidents, you may read the 90th Psalm or recite the prayer ‘Let God arise…’.

When you pray at home (in a cell), and while censing, remember the words of Christ our Saviour: ‘For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them (Matt 18:20) ‘. However, we shouldn‘t forget that home prayers cannot substitute communal, sacramental prayer and the Mysteries of God.

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P. S. I have to say this is quite ritualistic and may not be an option for everyday prayers, but it gives a clear picture on liturgic precision. I tried to translate this as best as I could, though had most of it translated for me by my friend (she's a native Russian Orthodox). I've now put this together from my own language to English. The style and grammar can sound somewhat cumbersome and I'm not familiar with all the prayers (had to check between Lithuanian, Russian and English), so please submit any suggestions or corrections where necessary, that would be much appreciated Smiley Hope this helps.
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« Reply #35 on: July 10, 2014, 03:24:34 PM »

On the use of incense at home for laity

Thanks!  I've never read a more thorough explanation of this practice.  Very helpful.
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« Reply #36 on: July 11, 2014, 02:08:40 AM »

Good write-up, thanks.
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« Reply #37 on: July 26, 2014, 01:01:06 PM »

I've actually come across a question since I've translated this little text: what are the appropriate prayers attributed to the icons? To be perfectly honest, I am new to Orthodoxy and I'm just finding my way. Where could one locate these prayers online? I have icons of Virgin-Martyr St. Paraskevi, The Blessed Matrona of Moscow etc. Where could I locate prayers dedicated to these various saints?
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