At Grace pure frankincense is used. Incense has been used in worship for centuries and is mentioned in both the Old and New Testaments. Incense was an integral part of the worship in the Temple in Jerusalem, with an altar set aside especially for its burning. The Wise Men brought Jesus frankincense, a type of incense quite often used as the basis for incense we use today. A verse from the hymn We, Three Kings of Orient reminds us that “incense owns a Deity nigh,” meaning that incense is a sign of Jesus’ real presence with us. In the Book of Revelation, Chapter 5, Verse 8, we read of a bowl of incense that is the prayers of the saints. Today incense has other symbolic meanings. Incense is a physical representation of the prayers of the faithful rising to God. The slight haze it produces reminds us of the mystery of God. Incense is also a representation of the pillar or cloud that led the Hebrews on their journey to freedom out of Egypt, the cloud that contained the essence of God as He guided and protected His people. Incense is one more way to worship God with our whole being, with all of our senses.
Unburned incense is stored in the boat and is then burned in the thurible. The minister who handles the incense/thurible is the thurifer, assisted by the boat bearer.
Many conventions apply to the use of incense. The thurifer follows a set pattern in turning to the altar party or the people with incense. The priest follows a set pattern of swings with the thurible as he or she moves around the altar. The celebrant of the Mass is offered three double swings by the deacon. The deacon receives two double swings from the thurifer, who also offer one double to the subdeacon. These practices are merely convention, and do not have special spiritual significance.