Sunday, March 31, 2013

Thuriferific! Or, Holy Smoke

This is Pastor Rich, of First Lutheran Church, and Ben --- upon whom Saturday night we were able to confer thurifer-of-the-year honors (among Chariton protestants at least). Ben is holding St Andrew's thurible as he practices censing the still-veiled First Lutheran font. The boat, which holds incense, is sitting on the edge of the font.

And thereby hangs the tale of where my Saturday afternoon and evening went to --- all in a worthy endeavor.

Other than Lessons & Carols, the Easter Vigil is my favorite service of the liturgical year, although it requires stamina. The readings, for example, commence with creation and shortcuts are not allowed.

It all begins with the congregation gathered outside in darkness around an open fire, new fire, from which the paschal candle is lighted. Individual candles then are lighted from the paschal candle and the procession into the darkened church begins. The church remains dark --- except for candlelight --- until perhaps an hour later when the lessons and accompanying prayers are complete. Then the Resurrection is declared, the lights come up, the bells ring and the second half of the service begins. It's all richly symbolic.

So this year, the decision was made to add incense to the joint Lutheran/Episcopal liturgical mix --- a common pracitce among Roman Catholics, the Orthodox and high-church Episcopalians and Lutherans. But not so common among Chariton's non-Catholics. So far as we could determine, a thurible had never entered the doors of First Lutheran before and St. Andrew's thurible was a little dusty.

But I dusted it off and transported it, the boat, the turible stand, incense, charcoal and other paraphernalia three blocks west to First Lutheran --- and it all went fine.

Well, there were a couple of minor issues. It wasn't determined until very late in the game that no one had a supply of the small pressed charcoal disks used to power the thurible. That's why at mid-afternoon, I was sitting at home on the driveway with a bag of quick-starting charcoal, hammering briquettes into small enough pieces to fit into the thurible.

For the uninitiated, charcoal is lighted in the base of the thurible and then at appropriate times and places, granular incense is spooned into it and clouds of, well, holy smoke, emerge. It's an ancient liturgical practice which, among other things, symbolizes prayers of the faithful rising.

Ben was a quick study, downright thuriferific, going far beyond basic thurifer rules --- don't set anything other than the incense on fire and don't bonk a communicant over the head with the thing. Holders of advanced degrees in thurifering can do amazing things. Going "round the world" involves swinging the thurible full circle; highly skilled thurifers do this in creative patterns sometimes. All of this requires considerable space and lots of practice. Maybe next year.

Anyhow, my Easter got off to a great start and I hope yours does, too. 


Brenda said...

I just wanted to let you know that although I never comment, I am reading your blog and enjoying what you write. I have recommended your blog to Bev and Frank, friends of mine, and they have become faithful readers also. You may remember me as Bill Gode's neighbor. I believe you attended his birthday party.

As a blogger myself, I enjoy hearing from those who read my blog, so that prompted me to drop you a line. You keep writing, and I will keep reading.

Happy Easter!

Frank D. Myers said...

Thanks so much for commenting --- why hasn't Bill told me about this? Is he afraid we'll monitor him even more carefully if Chariton knows his heighbor sometimes tells all? What a beautiful blog. I now have it bookmarked --- and the PT blog, too.