DOES SOLEMN = SAD?
When a liturgy is described by the adjective "solemn," it does not mean that we are going to have an especially sad service. Solemn, among other things, indicates that incense will be used. At St. Mark's we are fortunate to have incense every Sunday at the 10:00 am mass, as well as at our Wednesday Evensong and Benediction. The use of incense has been happening for as long as people have been worshiping God. Signifying prayers rising to the heavens, incense enlivens our sense of smell, making worship a full sensory experience.
At St. Mark's we use a wide variety of blends of incense, and many times within the same mass, the thurifer changes the incense at the offertory, providing us with another aroma of sweet-smelling prayer. Sometimes an incense might be used that is not so pleasant. This too can be intentional. During Lent it is especially appropriate to use incense that makes our eyes water slightly, or that even smells a bit foul. When we want to make worship an "hour of ease," the incense afflicts us into a more authentic faith. Such use is the exception however, for generally incense has the power to calm our minds and open our hearts. This is why incense has been used within many religions, cultures, and places throughout the centuries.
Thanks are due to Michael Ida, our Acolyte Master, for the varieties of incense in our incense cabinet, for he is continually researching different types of incense for us to enjoy. Sometimes parishioners travel to interesting and exotic places, and they bring back incense for the church from their travels. Thus, many times when people visit St. Mark's for the first time, they immediately notice the smell of incense when they enter the church. Just this past Saturday at the 9:00 am mass, we had a guest who remarked, "when I came into your church, I could smell the prayers!" That is a really wonderful compliment for a church to receive.
Father Paul Lillie+