"The air is full of spices."
Incense has been on my list of things I want to make for a long time. I priced it out a couple years ago and decided it was too expensive, especially since I have other interests that are more important to me. Luckily I no longer have a need to make it because my sister already is!
Last weekend I spent two nights at my sister's convent all alone. It was the first time I had been alone for more than a night in over 15 years and it was just as wonderful as I hoped it would be. I got to visit with my sister three times and our last conversation was all about plants and incense. She has been making the incense that is used during Mass and prayers for some time now and through a lot of trial and error and much research she feels she is close to an authentic ancient scent. She also informed me that St. Mary Magdalene is the Patroness of Apothecaries and Perfumers and guess what my sister's religious name is? Sr. Mary Magdalene!
I've always loved the incense burned during Mass, it is a smell that makes me feel like I am home. Here is a brief explanation about the symbolism and history of incense (in the Catholic Church) by Fr. Saunders.
The purpose of incensing and the symbolic value of the smoke is that of purification and sanctification. For example, in the Eastern Rites at the beginning of Mass, the altar and sanctuary area were incensed while Psalm 50, the "Miserere," was chanted invoking the mercy of God. The smoke symbolizes the prayers of the faithful drifting up to heaven: the Psalmist prays, "Let my prayer come like incense before you; the lifting up of my hands, like the evening sacrifice" (Psalm 141). Incense also creates the ambiance of heaven: The Book of Revelation describes the heavenly worship as follows: "Another angel came in holding a censer of gold. He took his place at the altar of incense and was given large amounts of incense to deposit on the altar of gold in front of the throne, together with the prayers of all God's holy ones. From the angel's hand, the smoke of the incense went up before God, and with it the prayers of God's people."Now our home smells absolutely wonderful! I bought two different scents, one which they will be selling in the near future and one that smells really good but isn't appropriate for church. We had a good laugh when she told me that one of her earlier blends smelled like something you'd smell in a vintage shop. She was my thrifting partner before she became a nun so she's very familiar with Nag Champa and similar incenses. haha!
I hope to post some pictures from my weekend this week so hopefully I can find time in the next day or two.