Q. What is the purpose of incense?
A. At first, it was used for very practical reasons. The early temple likely smelled akin to a slaughterhouse with all the animal sacrifices being made. Then there was also the stench of unwashed bodies of worshipers. Basically, the incense helped make the temple a more pleasant place to be. But it also had a more spiritual aspect, and it is for these reasons that we continue to use it today. For one, it carries our prayers up to heaven. Psalm 143 says, “Let my prayer be counted as incense before thee…” Another idea is that incense shrouds the sanctuary in mystery to add to the sense of awe and reverence for the sacrament. If you ever get a chance to go to Spain, be sure to visit the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, which contains the largest censer in the world, the Botafumeiro.