The Sacred That Surrounds Us: The Incense Boat & Thurible
November 14, 2021, 12:00 PM
These are items employed in the use of incense at Mass. The boat is the container that holds the incense before it is inserted into the thurible. The thurible is a vessel, suspended by chains, which holds the lit charcoal on which small spoonfuls of incense are dropped, producing fragrant smoke.
The custom of using incense during religious worship did not start with Christianity, but existed long beforehand, over 2,000 years before. Incense is mentioned 170 times in Scripture, throughout the Old and New Testament. The significance of the use of incense has varied, for purification and as an offering of adoration and respect. The ancient design of a thurible was more like a vase covered by a lid punctured with holes to allow the perfumed smoke to rise out. Constantine the Great (d. AD 337) is recorded to have given a number of thuribles made of gold and embellished with gems and precious stones to St. John Lateran Church in Rome.
The smoke with its fragrance reminds us that during Mass, our prayers should rise up to be joined with the prayers of the angels and saints in heaven (see Revelation 8:3). God affirms the dignity of each person and the sacredness of religious items when the ministers incense them. Before and after being incensed, we offer expressions of reverence and prayer through profound bows.
“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 covenant in the tent of meeting where I shall meet with you; it shall be for you most holy.’” – Exodus 30:34-36