Author Topic: Incense censor maneuvers  (Read 287 times)

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Offline TheMatt

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Incense censor maneuvers
« on: March 11, 2015, 06:25:57 AM »
Kind of a silly question but one I think about often. When using the incense I've noticed priests at times fling the censor in a full circle in front of then at times. Is there a liturgical or practical reason for this?
"Lord I have cried to Thee, hearken unto me, attend to the voice of my supplication, when I cry to Thee, hearken unto me. Let my prayer arise, in thy sight as incense, and let the lifting up of my hands be an evening sacrifice."

Offline hecma925

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Re: Incense censor maneuvers
« Reply #1 on: March 11, 2015, 07:16:32 AM »
Style.
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Offline Arachne

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Re: Incense censor maneuvers
« Reply #2 on: March 11, 2015, 07:21:15 AM »
There's rebellious crowdsurfing in your church? :P



censer (sĕn′sər) n.
A vessel in which incense is burned, especially during religious services.

censor (sĕn′sər) n.
1. A person authorized to examine books, films, or other material and to remove or suppress what is considered morally, politically, or otherwise objectionable.
2. An official, as in the armed forces, who examines personal mail and official dispatches to remove information considered secret or a risk to security.
3. One that condemns or censures.
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Offline hecma925

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Re: Incense censor maneuvers
« Reply #3 on: March 11, 2015, 07:23:46 AM »
fling the censor in a full circle in front of then at times.

There's rebellious crowdsurfing in your church? :P

It's helpful to do it in church, if the action is blessed by a priest.

Happy shall he be, that shall take and dash thy little ones against the rock. Alleluia.

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Offline TheTrisagion

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Re: Incense censor maneuvers
« Reply #4 on: March 11, 2015, 09:01:27 AM »
Quote from: Mor Ephrem
Why can't you just take your spiritual edification like a man? 

Offline Mor Ephrem

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Re: Incense censor maneuvers
« Reply #5 on: March 11, 2015, 10:04:59 AM »
Kind of a silly question but one I think about often. When using the incense I've noticed priests at times fling the censor in a full circle in front of then at times. Is there a liturgical or practical reason for this?

If you're describing what I think you're describing,  they're making the sign of the Cross with the swinging censer.
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Offline TheTrisagion

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Re: Incense censor maneuvers
« Reply #6 on: March 11, 2015, 10:15:21 AM »
Kind of a silly question but one I think about often. When using the incense I've noticed priests at times fling the censor in a full circle in front of then at times. Is there a liturgical or practical reason for this?

If you're describing what I think you're describing,  they're making the sign of the Cross with the swinging censer.
In our parish, when he censes the icons of the iconostasis, he swings the censer in a circle over his head as he goes from the Christ Icon to the Theotokos Icon and again going back to St. John the Forerunner and then again back to St. John Chrysostom, our patron saint. He doesn't cross with it, he just whips it in a big circle over his head. Other parishes I've been in, they just turn from one side to the other without the "flourish".
Quote from: Mor Ephrem
Why can't you just take your spiritual edification like a man? 

Offline TheMatt

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Re: Incense censor maneuvers
« Reply #7 on: March 15, 2015, 06:05:57 AM »
If you're describing what I think you're describing,  they're making the sign of the Cross with the swinging censer.
[/quote]
In our parish, when he censes the icons of the iconostasis, he swings the censer in a circle over his head as he goes from the Christ Icon to the Theotokos Icon and again going back to St. John the Forerunner and then again back to St. John Chrysostom, our patron saint. He doesn't cross with it, he just whips it in a big circle over his head. Other parishes I've been in, they just turn from one side to the other without the "flourish".
[/quote]

This is the closest description on what I'm asking about. Is it merely just showing off mad censer  (thanks for the correction!) skills or is this done for a traditional reason or maybe it helps get some good smoke generated by increased airflow or......?
"Lord I have cried to Thee, hearken unto me, attend to the voice of my supplication, when I cry to Thee, hearken unto me. Let my prayer arise, in thy sight as incense, and let the lifting up of my hands be an evening sacrifice."

Offline Jonathan

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Re: Incense censor maneuvers
« Reply #8 on: March 15, 2015, 07:08:18 AM »
Coptic priests often swing three times in front of them, then swing it in a full circle in front of themselves at each prayer during the circuit around the altar for Father, Son, Holy Spirit, One God. As said, just style/embellishment, not necessary or called for by rubrics.

Offline wgw

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Re: Incense censor maneuvers
« Reply #9 on: March 15, 2015, 07:38:38 AM »
I've seen Coptic priests swing a full 360 degrees, where the thurible is actually upside down relative to the floor.  The monks at St. Anthonys and younger priests in SoCal do it, whereas older priests do not...I suspect it's a local flourish first mastered by the local monks, and then passed on to the newly ordained (who IIRC are required in Coptic custom to spend 40 days in a monastery mastering the liturgy before being unleashed on a parish).

Also impressive in any thread about Thuribles are the open top Ambrosian Rite thuribles, which are moved in a clockwise rather than cruciform direction and emir prodigious amounts of smoke, and of course the titanic Botafumeiro of the Cathedral of Santiago de la Campostela in Extremadura, Spain, a historic pilgrimage destination due to the miraculously translated relics of St. James the Great (hence the Spanish war cry "For Spain and St. James!"), which is incredibly large, requiring a team of 20 to operate it.  It burns so much coal and incense that each "performance" costs 500 Euros.  In the 16th century it once broke loose from the ropes that suspend it and flew out through the Rose Window on the west side of the Cathedral; in the 1920s or 30s it crashed to the floor spilling coal and incense everywhere but again, no injuries.

Now I really think we need one of these in one of the larger Orthodox cathedrals.  Only larger, and natural gas powered.  I am all for a Thurible War with the Romans.   :P
« Last Edit: March 15, 2015, 07:45:27 AM by wgw »
I am Oriental Orthodox but love the Eastern Orthodox, and the Byzantine liturgy.  I also love the Western liturgy.  I hope for the reconciliation of our churches.

Please forgive any offense my posts cause; none is intended. No statements I make should be regarded as authoritative, regardless of tone. Let us bless the Lord ar all times.

Offline qawe

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Re: Incense censor maneuvers
« Reply #10 on: March 15, 2015, 07:54:42 AM »
I've seen Coptic priests swing a full 360 degrees, where the thurible is actually upside down relative to the floor.  The monks at St. Anthonys and younger priests in SoCal do it, whereas older priests do not...I suspect it's a local flourish first mastered by the local monks, and then passed on to the newly ordained (who IIRC are required in Coptic custom to spend 40 days in a monastery mastering the liturgy before being unleashed on a parish).

It's not a local flourish.  There are 2 plausible explanations for this:
1) Younger priests are more agile and can therefore safely carry out this manoeuvre
2) Many younger priests in the West (more so than the older priests), especially in LA, strongly stress the exclusivity of Orthodoxy and its liturgical tradition, and are therefore more keen to perform all the manoeuvres 'correctly'
« Last Edit: March 15, 2015, 07:55:27 AM by qawe »

Offline Jonathan

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Re: Incense censor maneuvers
« Reply #11 on: March 15, 2015, 07:59:12 AM »
My priest says they do this wheb they are FOM (fresh out of the monastery). And make a big deal of prostrating, etc. When they get older they calm down.

I've seen Coptic priests swing a full 360 degrees, where the thurible is actually upside down relative to the floor.  The monks at St. Anthonys and younger priests in SoCal do it, whereas older priests do not...I suspect it's a local flourish first mastered by the local monks, and then passed on to the newly ordained (who IIRC are required in Coptic custom to spend 40 days in a monastery mastering the liturgy before being unleashed on a parish).

It's not a local flourish.  There are 2 plausible explanations for this:
1) Younger priests are more agile and can therefore safely carry out this manoeuvre
2) Many younger priests in the West (more so than the older priests), especially in LA, strongly stress the exclusivity of Orthodoxy and its liturgical tradition, and are therefore more keen to perform all the manoeuvres 'correctly'

Offline wgw

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Re: Incense censor maneuvers
« Reply #12 on: March 15, 2015, 08:26:19 AM »
Well either way the maneuver looks cool.  And the older monks continue to do it despite their age.
I am Oriental Orthodox but love the Eastern Orthodox, and the Byzantine liturgy.  I also love the Western liturgy.  I hope for the reconciliation of our churches.

Please forgive any offense my posts cause; none is intended. No statements I make should be regarded as authoritative, regardless of tone. Let us bless the Lord ar all times.

Offline TheMatt

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Re: Incense censor maneuvers
« Reply #13 on: March 15, 2015, 04:11:26 PM »
I think it's pretty neat too. Just had no idea what, if any, benefit it served. Keep meaning to ask my Priest but always have something better to talk about. He's fairly old BTW but still does the maneuver every now and then.
"Lord I have cried to Thee, hearken unto me, attend to the voice of my supplication, when I cry to Thee, hearken unto me. Let my prayer arise, in thy sight as incense, and let the lifting up of my hands be an evening sacrifice."

Offline wgw

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Re: Incense censor maneuvers
« Reply #14 on: March 15, 2015, 04:32:30 PM »
Well I think we should avoid a strictly utilitarian approach to the liturgy.  It doesn't need to have benefit, it adds beauty to the services.  Just like the exquisite woodcarving that Coptic churches usually have on the iconostasis and elsewhere; the benefit is aesthetics.
I am Oriental Orthodox but love the Eastern Orthodox, and the Byzantine liturgy.  I also love the Western liturgy.  I hope for the reconciliation of our churches.

Please forgive any offense my posts cause; none is intended. No statements I make should be regarded as authoritative, regardless of tone. Let us bless the Lord ar all times.

Offline NanaDeborah

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Re: Incense censor maneuvers
« Reply #15 on: March 15, 2015, 05:24:56 PM »
I think it's pretty neat too. Just had no idea what, if any, benefit it served. Keep meaning to ask my Priest but always have something better to talk about. He's fairly old BTW but still does the maneuver every now and then.

Mine too.  He's probably late 60s.
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Offline Jonathan

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Re: Incense censor maneuvers
« Reply #16 on: March 15, 2015, 09:41:29 PM »
Well I think we should avoid a strictly utilitarian approach to the liturgy.  It doesn't need to have benefit, it adds beauty to the services.  Just like the exquisite woodcarving that Coptic churches usually have on the iconostasis and elsewhere; the benefit is aesthetics.

Yeah, it is very sad that this is being lost. My very young son asked me why there are bells on the censer, and I just said to make it look and sound nice. For him that was fine. But a youth overhearing asked "really? can that really be it? doesn't there have to be a purpose?". I know there is all kinds of symbolism read into it, like 12 bells for 12 Apostles, etc. But these are things that came after someone added the bells for no reason except that the Liturgy deserves beauty. For them, "what is the purpose" was not something they every thought to ask. The mindset was more "how can we give the Liturgy the proper expression for the great mystery it is". But today we think anything is silly if it doesn't have a "use" or "purpose", so we get giant TV's covering the iconostasis, new churches being built with no domes or architecture of note, loud, distorted sound systems so that everyone can hear easily, bright flashing fluorescent lights that flip on with a switch... And a very different feel than churches where they don't focus so much on "use". But part of this utility is a need to define things more precisely than they ever were, which can include stuff like feeling that swinging in a circle is "better", when the people before us never would have thought to ask whether the way one priest or another swings the censor is better. When stuff gets overly formalized and ritualized, it is as much a product of the utilitarian mindset as when things get discarded.

Offline Aram

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Re: Incense censor maneuvers
« Reply #17 on: March 15, 2015, 09:46:45 PM »
Kind of a silly question but one I think about often. When using the incense I've noticed priests at times fling the censor in a full circle in front of then at times. Is there a liturgical or practical reason for this?

If you're describing what I think you're describing,  they're making the sign of the Cross with the swinging censer.
In our parish, when he censes the icons of the iconostasis, he swings the censer in a circle over his head as he goes from the Christ Icon to the Theotokos Icon and again going back to St. John the Forerunner and then again back to St. John Chrysostom, our patron saint. He doesn't cross with it, he just whips it in a big circle over his head. Other parishes I've been in, they just turn from one side to the other without the "flourish".
It happens to be a really convenient way to change directions, if you have the time, space, and get enough speed going to make sure it doesn't slacken and let the charcoal fly out. I do this all the time when I have to turn around while censing the church.

Now that I've written that out, writing about censing style almost comes off like describing yoyo tricks.