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Author Topic: The offering of incense  (Read 743 times) Average Rating: 0
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William
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« on: July 12, 2011, 11:00:09 PM »

This article quotes multiple ante-Nicean Fathers condemning the use of incense. I don't know how trustworthy the author is in quoting these sources, but I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.

How do the Orthodox reconcile these quotes from early church fathers with its use of incense in worship?

We offer Thee incense, O Christ our God, for an odor of spiritual fragrance. Receive it upon Thy heavenly altar, and send down upon us in return the grace of Thine all-holy Spirit.

How does one reconcile that prayer with statements from the church fathers that incense is not used in Christian worship and that God is not pleased by aromas nor fragrances?
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« Reply #1 on: July 12, 2011, 11:20:19 PM »

Of course God has no need for incense. He had no need for ritual sacrifice either—the Prophets said so. Yet the Jews still did it, and even St Joseph offered the thanksgiving offering after Christ's birth. So, while these things do not somehow persuade God of anything or make us holier, we still do them. We offer incense in praise and worship, not in appeasement. Its use is not dogma (though it is standard and expected), so it would not be found in books like the Didache, or in the canons.

We also offer incense because the Church of Heaven has incense (Revelation says so) and earthly worship reflects heavenly worship.

I would say that it could have been a stumbling block for the early Christian Greeks, since offering incense was associated with paganism. To be "un-pagan", Christians perhaps did not offer incense to God (although I bet the Jews did). But when paganism was wiped out, incense was sanctified and given its rightful place in Christian worship.

The problem is with people, divorced from Holy Tradition, who fail to distinguish between Church Fathers/Saints, and reliable but not-quite-there-in-some-areas contemporary writers. Lactantius, Eusebius, and Tertullian are among the latter group. Some of their reasoning sounds positively gnostic.

This is an example of why Protestant "forensic theology" can go wrong. We do not do liturgy based on what we dig up from the dirt. We do liturgy based on the Holy Tradition that has been handed down to us. We are its caretakers, not its reinventors or scrutinizers.
« Last Edit: July 12, 2011, 11:28:32 PM by bogdan » Logged
ialmisry
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« Reply #2 on: July 13, 2011, 02:13:10 AM »

This article quotes multiple ante-Nicean Fathers condemning the use of incense. I don't know how trustworthy the author is in quoting these sources, but I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.

How do the Orthodox reconcile these quotes from early church fathers with its use of incense in worship?

We offer Thee incense, O Christ our God, for an odor of spiritual fragrance. Receive it upon Thy heavenly altar, and send down upon us in return the grace of Thine all-holy Spirit.

How does one reconcile that prayer with statements from the church fathers that incense is not used in Christian worship and that God is not pleased by aromas nor fragrances?
Didn't you just ask this yesterday?
The Christian use of incense is not an offering of a precious thing to God, but rather the incense symbolizes the rising of our prayers to God. This is how incense is depicted in Revelation and in the prayers used in censing.
We offer Thee incense, O Christ our God, for an odor of spiritual fragrance. Receive it upon Thy heavenly altar, and send down upon us in return the grace of Thine all-holy Spirit.
I posted something, but my computer froze.  Besides bringing up the fact that the language you cite from the DL is from Scripture.  The original in the DL (btw, the lack of the Proskomedia in Liturgy Books is a serious defect to be decried):
Quote
Θυμίαμά Σοι προσφέρομεν Χριστέ ο Θεός εις οσμήν ευωδίας πνευματικής, ο προσδεξάμενος εις το υπερουράνιόν Σου θυσιαστήριον,  αντικατάπεμψον ημίν την χάριν του Παναγίου Σου Πνεύματος.

Καὶ ἄλλος ἄγγελος ἦλθεν καὶ ἐστάθη ἐπὶ τοῦ θυσιαστηρίου ἔχων λιβανωτὸν χρυσοῦν, καὶ ἐδόθη αὐτῷ θυμιάματα πολλὰ, ἵνα δώσει ταῖς προσευχαῖς τῶν ἁγίων πάντων ἐπὶ τὸ θυσιαστήριον τὸ χρυσοῦν τὸ ἐνώπιον τοῦ θρόνου.
Another angel came and stood over the altar, having a golden censer. Much incense was given to him, that he should add it to the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar which was before the throne. Rev. 8:3

τότε ὁ Παῦλος παραλαβὼν τοὺς ἄνδρας τῇ ἐχομένῃ ἡμέρᾳ σὺν αὐτοῖς ἁγνισθεὶς, εἰσῄει εἰς τὸ ἱερόν διαγγέλλων τὴν ἐκπλήρωσιν τῶν ἡμερῶν τοῦ ἁγνισμοῦ ἕως οὗ προσηνέχθη ὑπὲρ ἑνὸς ἑκάστου αὐτῶν ἡ προσφορά.
Then Paul took the men, and the next day, purified himself and went with them into the temple, declaring the fulfillment of the days of purification, until the offering was offered for every one of them. Acts 21:26

ἀπέχω δὲ πάντα καὶ περισσεύω· πεπλήρωμαι δεξάμενος παρὰ Ἐπαφροδίτου τὰ παρ' ὑμῶν, ὀσμὴν εὐωδίας, θυσίαν δεκτήν, εὐάρεστον τῷ θεῷ
But I have all things, and abound. I am filled, having received from Epaphroditus the things that came from you, a sweet-smelling fragrance, an acceptable and well-pleasing sacrifice to God.  Phil. 4:18.

καὶ περιπατεῖτε ἐν ἀγάπῃ, καθὼς καὶ ὁ Χριστὸς ἠγάπησεν ὑμᾶς / ἡμᾶς καὶ παρέδωκεν ἑαυτὸν ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν / ἡμῶν προσφορὰν καὶ θυσίαν τῷ θεῷ εἰς ὀσμὴν εὐωδίας.
Walk in love, even as Christ also loved you, and gave himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling fragrance. Ephesians 5:2.

ὅτι Χριστοῦ εὐωδία ἐσμὲν τῷ θεῷ ἐν τοῖς σῳζομένοις καὶ ἐν τοῖς ἀπολλυμένοις,
For we are a sweet aroma of Christ to God, in those who are saved, and in those who perish.  2 Corinthians 2:15


καὶ αὐτοὶ ὡς λίθοι ζῶντες οἰκοδομεῖσθε οἶκος πνευματικὸς εἰς ἱεράτευμα ἅγιον ἀνενέγκαι πνευματικὰς θυσίας εὐπροσδέκτους [τῷ] θεῷ διὰ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ.
You also, as living stones, are built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.  I Peter 2:5

Εὐλογητὸς ὁ θεὸς καὶ πατὴρ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, ὁ εὐλογήσας ἡμᾶς ἐν πάσῃ εὐλογίᾳ πνευματικῇ ἐν τοῖς ἐπουρανίοις ἐν Χριστῷ
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ. Ephesians 1:3.

ἔχομεν θυσιαστήριον ἐξ οὗ φαγεῖν οὐκ ἔχουσιν ἐξουσίαν οἱ τῇ σκηνῇ λατρεύοντες
We have an altar from which those who serve the holy tabernacle have no right to eat. Heb. 13:10.

Καὶ ἄλλος ἄγγελος ἦλθεν καὶ ἐστάθη ἐπὶ τοῦ θυσιαστηρίου ἔχων λιβανωτὸν χρυσοῦν, καὶ ἐδόθη αὐτῷ θυμιάματα πολλὰ, ἵνα δώσει ταῖς προσευχαῖς τῶν ἁγίων πάντων ἐπὶ τὸ θυσιαστήριον τὸ χρυσοῦν τὸ ἐνώπιον τοῦ θρόνου.
Another angel came and stood over the altar, having a golden censer. Much incense was given to him, that he should add it to the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar which was before the throne. Rev. 8:3.

ὁ δὲ παράκλητος τὸ πνεῦμα τὸ ἅγιον, ὃ πέμψει ὁ πατὴρ ἐν τῷ ὀνόματι μου ἐκεῖνος ὑμᾶς διδάξει πάντα καὶ ὑπομνήσει ὑμᾶς πάντα ἃ εἶπον ὑμῖν ἐγώ.
But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and will remind you of all that I said to you.

Besides the fact that the Hebrews burned it, it is frequently burned in the Middle East today with no religious connotation: Muslims do not use it in worship but do burn it to ward off evil spirits.  It is burned in the Mosque to give an atmosphere of their idea of paradise (it is mentioned in the Quran), and so is used in some Sufi rituals, and processions.  And then there is the practical matter: I was just watching a History Channel show on the catacombs, and the archaeologist was commenting how she couldn't figure out how the Christians could tolerate the stench, as the catacombs were always full of decomposing bodies.  The use of incense (which doesn't seem to have occured to her) would have gone a long way in taking care of that problem.


Btw, for those who claim that the Greek of the DL isn't a problem, the origianl
«Θυμίαμά Σοι προσφέρομεν Χριστέ ο Θεός εις οσμήν ευωδίας πνευματικής, ο προσδεξάμενος εις το υπερουράνιόν Σου θυσιαστήριον, αντικατάπεμψον ημίν την χάριν του Παναγίου Σου Πνεύματος».
is glossed as
Θυμίαμα σ' Εσένα προσφέρουμε, Χριστέ Ύψιστε Θεέ, ως οσμή ευωδίας πνευματικής· αυτό, αφού δέχθηκες στο υπερουράνιό Σου Θυσιαστήριο, στείλε πίσω σε μας τη χάρη του παναγίου Σου Πνεύματος
« Last Edit: July 13, 2011, 02:31:30 AM by ialmisry » Logged

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« Reply #3 on: July 13, 2011, 02:33:02 AM »

I was just watching a History Channel show on the catacombs, and the archaeologist was commenting how she couldn't figure out how the Christians could tolerate the stench, as the catacombs were always full of decomposing bodies.  The use of incense (which doesn't seem to have occured to her) would have gone a long way in taking care of that problem.

And incense still has a practical purpose even today. I've been to parishes that attract a lot of unwashed homeless -- my own did for some time -- and the place stank enormously, but everything became so much nicer during services when the priest would swing the censer. I imagine in antiquity body odour was a much more common problem.
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« Reply #4 on: May 26, 2012, 02:38:53 AM »

Today also in many major countries of Asia the prayer is incomplete without an incense. The incense has its own importance which can never be ignored in any century. Burning incense before images or statues of god is an superstitious practice which will continue till the end of the world.
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« Reply #5 on: June 26, 2013, 05:48:38 PM »

I just listened to a "coffee cup commentary" dated May 21, 2013 title "Incense?" which states incense was not a hold over from the OT rather a secular court action honoring dignitaries such as kings and was adopted for use for The King of Kings.  I would post the link to AFR, but I don't know how on my phone.  I also thought it interesting when he said all ancient religions used incense because the world then was a smelly place.

What are your thoughts?
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« Reply #6 on: June 26, 2013, 10:59:50 PM »

I just listened to a "coffee cup commentary" dated May 21, 2013 title "Incense?" which states incense was not a hold over from the OT rather a secular court action honoring dignitaries such as kings and was adopted for use for The King of Kings.  I would post the link to AFR, but I don't know how on my phone.  I also thought it interesting when he said all ancient religions used incense because the world then was a smelly place.

What are your thoughts?

Except that incense was use in OT worship, and frankincense is synonymous with worship.
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« Reply #7 on: June 26, 2013, 11:20:01 PM »

I just listened to a "coffee cup commentary" dated May 21, 2013 title "Incense?" which states incense was not a hold over from the OT rather a secular court action honoring dignitaries such as kings and was adopted for use for The King of Kings.  I would post the link to AFR, but I don't know how on my phone.  I also thought it interesting when he said all ancient religions used incense because the world then was a smelly place.

What are your thoughts?

I have a vague recollection that, at the time of the early Church, the use of incense in worship wasn't common because of its pagan religious associations.  After all, a pinch of incense to the idols or to the Emperor was enough to save you from martyrdom, and yet many chose Christ over that pinch of incense.  With the legalisation of the Church, the development of rites, church buildings, etc., incense began to be used in worship, and then the OT use of incense as a sacrificial offering, OT imagery, etc. became common. 

The use of incense as an air freshener, air purifier, in funeral practices, etc. is a separate matter that I don't know as much about.   
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