Tuesday, October 16, 2012
Begin by praying the Collect for Grace and Collect for Purity.
Collect for Grace:
Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us safely to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Collect for Purity:
Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hidden: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we might perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Read: Psalm 26, Obadiah 10-16, and Revelation 8:1-5
There is a lot of symbolism in this short passage in Revelation, but one of the more interesting items is the use of incense.
Protestants have largely forgotten how to use incense. In the Reformers’ drive to purge all of the failures (both real and perceived) of the Roman Catholic Church, incense was one of the proverbial babies thrown out with the holy water. This is very unfortunate, because incense is mentioned many times throughout the Bible as a tool for, and symbol of, prayer.
God created us with five senses. We are to worship God with our whole bodies, and this includes the sense of smell. Protestant worship focuses on the ears (hearing the Word proclaimed) and to an extent sight (symbols of the empty cross and, in some denominations, the colors of the altar hangings). But often the senses of touch, taste, and smell are left out. Incense is a very recognizable scent, and allows us to engage that sense in worship. Additionally, smells are uniquely and firmly tied to memory. The scent of apple pie, for instance, can bring us to a fond, childhood memory. The scent of incense should bring us to a memory of worship and prayer.
Unless you are affected by smoke or scents, try using some incense when you pray. It is readily available in many different scents. Find one that evokes feelings of prayer and the mystery of God. If you want the scent that is usually found in churches, a quick internet search or a trip to a Catholic bookstore can help you out.
Whether you use incense or not, ask God to help you recognize symbols that you can use in prayer and worship. Ask him to help you overcome any prejudices against using various symbols in worship.