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Censing in some liturgical services


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#1 Albert Deluan

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Posted 02 September 2009 - 11:56 AM

Dear brothers,
I have a liturgical question for you all; according to the Typikon when is a priest supposed to use the censer during the services of:

1 - Molieben/Paraklesis

2 - Panichida/Parastas

3 - Akathists

I have seen some priests to cense the icon on analogion or the memorial table during the whole service while some others using the censer to cense the temple and the people only during the Kondakion (or some other occasions that now I don't rember). What does the Typikon say about this? Are there some diferences between Russian and Greek practise?

Thank you to everyone,
in Christ

Albert Deluan

#2 Nathaniel Woon

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Posted 02 September 2009 - 12:40 PM

I wonder sometimes as I have not seen incense used at a reader service. Do lay people ever use insence and if so ho do they do it and when do they do it?

Nathaniel in Malaysia

#3 Father David Moser

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Posted 02 September 2009 - 02:10 PM

according to the Typikon when is a priest supposed to use the censer during the services of:


There is a great deal of variation here and I don't know that there is any kind of "rule" or instruction in the Typicon itself

1 - Molieben/Paraklesis


The censor can be used not at all during this service or one cense at any number of places (at the beginning, at the tropar near the end, during the canon say between odes 8 and 9 as at matins, etc jut for examples)

2 - Panichida/Parastas


Here one censes the memorial table or the grave (depending on whether in the temple or at the cemetery) continually during the service. A great censing can be inserted at certain places (during the trisagion, during the hymn of resurrection) small censing at other places (after the 6th ode at the singing of the kontakion, during the intoning of memory eternal). The great and small censings can be done or not done according to the "local" custom.

3 - Akathists


There is no rule for this either. I have seen censing during the refrains or the allelluia verse. Constant censing here is possible, but not usual. Or there can be no use of incense at all.


So the answer to your question is that there is no rule, but there are an abundance of local customs. The priest will learn how to do these services according to the practice of whoever trained him or according to the practice of the bishop/senior clergy where he is assigned.

Fr David Moser

#4 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 02 September 2009 - 03:19 PM

I wonder sometimes as I have not seen incense used at a reader service. Do lay people ever use insence and if so ho do they do it and when do they do it?

Nathaniel in Malaysia


I believe this would be the purview of the local bishop. If there is not at least a deacon serving, incense is generally not used, although I suppose using a small home hand-censor around the worship space before the service might be permitted, but there is no prescription for use by laity during the reader service itself, again unless the local bishop says otherwise.

Herman

#5 Michael Astley

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Posted 02 September 2009 - 03:25 PM

I wonder sometimes as I have not seen incense used at a reader service. Do lay people ever use insence and if so ho do they do it and when do they do it?

Nathaniel in Malaysia


Dear Nathaniel,

Yes, censing is done at reader services. However, as the entire service is conducted outside the altar, with the Royal Doors and veil closed, the inside of the altar is not censed but only the iconostas, icons, the body of the church, and the people. Also, a hand censer is used. Under no circumstances may a subdeacon, reader, or layman cense anybody or anything with the long censer on a chain, (which is one of the reasons why the practice of subdeacons/lay servers walking backwards and censing the Gifts at the Great Entrance during the Liturgy is not correct). Even a deacon may not do so if he is conducting reader services in the absence of a priest.

For reader services, a table or analoi may be erected on the ambo in the centre of the solea, and on it may be placed a Gospel Book and a Cross, perhaps with a small lamp (if it is a table). The great and lesser censings are done at reader services at the same times that they would be done during services with a priest, (so during the sixth hour, at the Epistle/Alleluia at the Typika, at the "Lord, I have cried" at Vespers, and so forth). The censer is held in the right hand and the object is censed by making the Cross before it with the censer, followed by a bow. A text I read once suggested passing the censer to the left hand, then crossing oneself and bowing, but as my hand censer is only small, this increased the risk of dropping it. Also, it was very hot and I was holding it in the only way that I knew to avoid burning my fingers. Passing it from hand to hand would have been quite dangerous. The incense is, of course, not blessed but simply offered, as there is no priest to invoke the blessing.

I have only done this a couple of times but, from memory, the censing begins and ends with the table bearing the Gospel Book and the Cross. Then you cense the icons on the south side of the iconostas, then on the north side, then stand centrally and cense the kliros (or the left and right choirs, if you have them), and the people. Then follows the central icon and those to its right and left, then the body of the church, censing the icons and the people, as you go. Then you return to the table with the Cross & Gospel Book and cense that one final time, before laying the hand censer aside. I find it helpful to have a small stand where it can be rested and the incense can continue to rise while it is stationary.

I hope that this helps.

I'll check again and make sure that the order I have given you is correct but please feel free to post back here if you need any more help.

In Christ,
Michael

#6 M.C. Steenberg

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Posted 02 September 2009 - 03:28 PM

The normal practice (at least, that with which I am familiar) is that use of incense in a home censer or the like is permissable for daily prayers, etc., said at home; but if there is a formal reader's service, incense is not used.

The distinction has to do with the distinction between private prayers and liturgical services (which include those led, with a blessing, by a reader). Prayers offered at home are private prayers, and incense may be offered with them as part of the devotional. Readers services are, however, liturgical celebrations, and in this context all is done with a blessing and in the normal liturgical order. In liturgical services, incense is never offered without having been blessed by the bishop (or the priest, in the bishop's stead); so without a priest present, offering incense is inappropriate.

This is true, too, for reader's services at which a deacon is present or leading: without a priest, no incense.

INXC, Dcn Matthew

#7 M.C. Steenberg

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Posted 02 September 2009 - 03:32 PM

Dear Michael,

What you have described is a (somewhat modified) form of the monastic order of censing for the lesser services, in which a non-ordained monk (or nun) might cense the temple after the normal order of the Great Censing - save that it begins and ends at the central icon or table, rather than in the altar. However, even in monastic settings (where reader's / cell services developed), this would not normally be done without first presenting the censer (including the hand censer) to the priest or igumen, together with the incense, for them to be blessed and for the individual blessed to carry out the censing; it would not take place without the presence of a cleric to bless in this manner.

This may be altered in various dioceses by episcopal prerogative and local tradition; but, normally speaking, a readers service would in fact not involve any censing.

INXC, Dcn Matthew

#8 Michael Astley

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Posted 02 September 2009 - 04:05 PM

Dear Father Matthew,

Thank you for your gentle correction and for the information, as well. It seems I'm still sufficiently under the banner of "novice" to know better than to give advice on such matters. It's a case of the one-eyed leading the blind. My information had been misremembered from Fr John Whiteford's site, here.

Whichever pattern is more generally accepted, Nathaniel, it seems that either way I misled you because I misremembered some of the elements of what I read from that site. In any case, you now have two clear but different answers. The best thing to do is to speak with your priest, (or bishop if you are at a priestless mission), and see what he directs.

In Christ,
Michael

#9 Father David Moser

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Posted 02 September 2009 - 05:19 PM

Perhaps a general rule to remember is that if something liturgically requires a hand blessing from a priest or bishop then it should not be done in their absence. One does not wear vestments when there is no priest or bishop present to bless them. Censing requires that priest or bishop first bless the incense before censing (even if a priest serves in the presence of a non-serving bishop, he must have the bishop bless the incense before censing the Church) and therefore should not be done without the priest or bishop to give the blessing. The only real exception I can think of for this would be the reading of the epistle or Gospel in the Typica service, but even that is done out of the usual order and not intoned but simply read indicating a difference. Anyway the requirement for a blessing seems to be a good general rule to follow here.

Fr David Moser

#10 Nathaniel Woon

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Posted 03 September 2009 - 01:25 PM

Dear all,

I have the nagging feeling that something was just not right when we started using incense at the reader service. I now have the unpleasant job of telling the folks that we shouldn't actually use it.

It's never used at the reader services in the parish in Singapore for example.

Thanks for the information.

Nathaniel in Malaysia

#11 Nathaniel Woon

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Posted 03 September 2009 - 01:27 PM

Dear Fr. David,

Just to make sure I understand you - you said that the epistle and gospel are never intoned at a reader service. We were 'taught' by someone that it should be intoned.

#12 Michael Astley

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Posted 03 September 2009 - 04:02 PM

Thank you, Father David. That helps.

Dear Fr. David,

Just to make sure I understand you - you said that the epistle and gospel are never intoned at a reader service. We were 'taught' by someone that it should be intoned.


I, too, would welcome clarity on this point. The same document mentions reading the Gospel in a normal speaking voice but remains silent about the Epistle. I had assumed, therefore, that the Epistle is chanted in the normal way. However, as this usually requires a blessing, it would seem to make sense for it to simply be read when there is nobody to invoke such a blessing.

#13 Cyprian (Humphrey)

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Posted 03 September 2009 - 04:54 PM

With respect to all who've posted, it seems there is some "wiggle-room" on these subjects, and fewer absolute rules. Orthodoxy has never really had widespread uniformity of practice in things liturgical, and it's okay for it to be that way.

Regarding censing at Reader services, I do it on a regular basis (usually just at the beginning of the service - the hand censer is metal and heats up, making it too hot to hold on to later on). The priest in charge of our mission knows about it and has no issue with it. Our bishop knows about it, and has encouraged me to continue doing what I'm doing. That being said, I acknowledge the accuracy of abstaining from doing things that require a presbyteral or episcopal blessing. That is why one generally does not do litanies in Reader services. But, please keep in mind that there is the concept of "local practice" which can legitimately vary things. I've heard of sub-deacons amongst the Antiochians who lead litanies. This would never be done in the OCA, but that's okay.

Regarding what kind of 'voice' to use when reading the Gospel, I use the same monotone rhythm used in the Epistle, and Psalms, etc. I know some consider this technically "wrong", but again, the priest and bishop involved have no problem with it. In my opinion, it is related to the same reason why we use that monotone rhythm in the first place - to avoid implying certain interpretations by the inadvertant placing of emphasis common to our regular speaking voices. It's just that it's read in the "other direction" than when a priest or bishop reads it (ie. facing the icons, not facing the people).

"Local customs" come into play quite a bit when one starts discussing Reader services, as most Readers are not fully seminary trained, and many (like myself) are just trying to do our best from reading the rubrics in the service books, and have made many mistakes along the way. The local bishops and priests involved will also have some instructions that may naturally differ from locale to locale.

Just please understand that it's the local priests and bishops who have the final say in this, not people on the internet. Also, a variety of practice is not necessarily wrong. It's just variety. Variety is okay.

Just my two kopecks.

Monk Cyprian

#14 M.C. Steenberg

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Posted 03 September 2009 - 05:07 PM

Dear Father Cyprian,

Thank you for your note and comments. I think it is important, however, for the sake of clarity amongst the wide variety of people who will read these posts (now and in future), to be a bit definitive on certain points where appropriate.

You are quite right that there are variations of local practice, and certain aspects of Orthodox life do vary greatly from one locale to another. However, with regard to the matter of censing in liturgical services in particular, there is no local custom in the Orthodox world, anywhere that I am aware, that allows for censing without the express blessing of the priest/bishop in the service. This is a liturgical act, and since the times of St John Chrysostom the offering of incense has been accompanied by this specific blessing for the act by the presiding cleric.

What you describe as your own custom is something different, since it is not a variant local tradition, per se, but something done by economia with the express blessing of your bishop (as you have described it). This is, of course, perfectly acceptible; but it is different from a local tradition.

INXC, Dcn Matthew

#15 Cyprian (Humphrey)

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Posted 03 September 2009 - 05:34 PM

Ah, yes Fr Dcn Matthew, you are quite correct, as usual. Forgive my imprecise language.

I, once again, have volunteered to display my lack of knowledge. :)

I just wanted to point out that there is often a "theory" and a "practice" in things liturgical, and when they don't match, it is not always a result of someone doing something "wrong".

I hope I phrased that right. :)

In renewed humility,
Monk Cyprian

#16 Anthony Stokes

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Posted 04 September 2009 - 01:37 PM

You are quite right that there are variations of local practice, and certain aspects of Orthodox life do vary greatly from one locale to another. However, with regard to the matter of censing in liturgical services in particular, there is no local custom in the Orthodox world, anywhere that I am aware, that allows for censing without the express blessing of the priest/bishop in the service. This is a liturgical act, and since the times of St John Chrysostom the offering of incense has been accompanied by this specific blessing for the act by the presiding cleric.
INXC, Dcn Matthew


Unfortunately my library is boxed up right now due to a water leak at home, but I know that I have seen in at least two texts for Reader's services, that there is a part about the most senior person present doing a censing with a hand censor at the usual parts, at least at Vespers.

I see the point about censing being liturgical, but incense is also used at home and in private prayers, and not blessed at those points. And, Reader's services can also be done at home or in the church. I don't think there is necessarily a difference between these. A Reader's Service is the same no matter where it is done, and if a hand censor is allowed at home, then it would be allowed if the Reader's service is done in a proper church, at least that is my interpretation.

But, whenever I can find it, and I know I have posted on this before, I will post where I found the part about the senior person using a hand censor. It is definitely in the text that we use at my parish for Reader's services.

Sbdn. Anthony

#17 Father David Moser

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Posted 04 September 2009 - 03:22 PM

I know that I have seen in at least two texts for Reader's services, that there is a part about the most senior person present doing a censing with a hand censor at the usual parts, at least at Vespers.

I see the point about censing being liturgical, but incense is also used at home and in private prayers, and not blessed at those points. ... and if a hand censor is allowed at home, then it would be allowed if the Reader's service is done in a proper church, at least that is my interpretation.


Chances are, any rubrical notes in the published editions of reader's services reflect the local practice of the place of origin of the book. It has been my experience that, for the most part, English language publications of liturgical services (especially the minor ones) are merely an outgrowth of someone's need to have a text in hand to make their own prayers easier. If you go back far enough, even the vast majority of the editions of the unchanging (ie. horlogion) texts of all the services had this kind of beginning.

Secondly, there is, I think a difference between burning incense during prayer and censing. Whereas many people may use incense in their private prayers, the act of censing is an additional action which may or may not be an almost natural and unconscious accretion. I would still suggest that in public liturgical services, that we not simply assume from the notes of a publication, but rather should seek the instruction of the priest or bishop charged with oversight of a particular mission.

One more thing. There is a difference between private prayers and public prayers. Some things which are proper in private prayers are not appropriate in Church - and the other way round too. The assumption that what is proper in one venue must be ok in the other is not necessarily a valid assumption.

Fr David Moser

#18 M.C. Steenberg

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Posted 04 September 2009 - 03:43 PM

Dear Fr David, you wrote:

One more thing. There is a difference between private prayers and public prayers. Some things which are proper in private prayers are not appropriate in Church - and the other way round too. The assumption that what is proper in one venue must be ok in the other is not necessarily a valid assumption.


I think this is a critical note; and a point I had tried to raise earlier, though not with enough clarity.

There are many aspects to one's private prayers (i.e. prayers 'in the cell', which might be prayers in one's room, with one's family), which are quite appropriate there but which would not be appropriate in the liturgical offices of the Church in its normal order (the example of the orans position, with arms raised, has recently been discussed in another thread).

But a reader's service is not a private prayer: it is a liturgical office of the Church. With this in mind, one must note that the liturgical order should be maintained in any and all services - be they reader's or otherwise.

There is perhaps some confusion caused by an overlapping use of language. The texts/rubrics of reader's services are often used for home prayers - a custom that has many positive aspects (e.g. saying reader's vespers as one's evening prayers). But this is not the same thing as a reader's service proper: it is the usage of a set of rubrics or texts for such a service in one's private prayers.

A reader's service is a liturgical office, performed in the Church (or in an area dedicated for them, if a mission) when there is no priest present, with the specific blessing of the priest/bishop.

INXC, Dcn Matthew

#19 Father David Moser

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Posted 04 September 2009 - 04:13 PM

One more thing. There is a difference between private prayers and public prayers.


Just to add a little and expand on this statement. One image I use when talking about the services (our public prayer) is that of a symphony and symphony orchestra. We use books all with the same words music and with instructions of what to do and when during the public services - we have a "liturgical" form of worship in that it is highly ordered and structured, all coordinated so that everyone is doing the same (or complimentary) things at the same time. This is necessary as our public prayer is an act of our unity - we offer our individual prayers joined together as one. In the same way a symphony orchestra is single unit (a unity) made up of a variety of individual instruments. Each musician is given a score instructing him what notes to play and when to play them (what to say and what to do and when). When the score is executed as a single group the various voices of the instruments the result is a single whole - work of musical beauty. If the musicians simply did what they wanted there would be chaos and not beauty, even if they played the notes on the score exactly as they are written but with no coordination about where to start and end. In the church if we pray (even if from the text of the service) when and how we want there is chaos. The symphony musicians, in their private practice work on all kinds of things that are not included in the symphony, but which provide a foundation for the music required by the symphony. If those practice exercises (which are required in practice) were used in the symphony - they would ruin the beauty and create noise instead of music. So also there is a difference between private prayer and public prayer. Private prayer is necessary for creation of the public prayer for we bring our own ability to pray (which is developed and strengthened by our private prayer) to the public services and we create together a single beautiful offering made up of all our voices. The "director" who leads the whole group is, of course the priest or bishop (just as the conductor leads the symphony) and thus nothing is done without his blessing (just as nothing is played without the direction of the conductor). This image, I hope, illumines the difference between our public and private prayer.

Fr David Moser

#20 Anthony Stokes

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Posted 09 September 2009 - 01:11 PM

I finally found one of the sources where censing at a Reader's service is described. It's not in the service text itself, and it's based on the Reader's service book of Bishop Daniel, ROCOR's old rite bishop. It's on Fr. John Whiteford's site - http://www.saintjona...ces/howtodo.htm

What about censing?


Only a hand censer should be used – not a priest’s censer – even if a deacon is doing the censing.

When censing, the censer is held in the right hand, and the sign of the cross is made with the censer over whatever he is censing. Then the censer is placed in the left hand, and he makes the sign of the cross and bows… unless he is censing the people, in which case he makes the sign of the cross with the censer only, and then bows to the people without signing himself.

Censing always begins and ends with the Cross and the Gospel. If in a Church, the Royal Doors are never opened, nor are the curtains. The inside of the altar is never censed. If there is an iconostasis to cense, cense the Royal doors first, then the icons to the right, then the icons to the left.

When doing a full censing, the order of censing is: the Cross and the Gospel, the main icons (or the Iconostasis if there is one), the people, the other walls of the room, the main icons again, and then the Cross and the Gospel.

When a lesser censing is done, the order of censing is: The Cross and the Gospel, the main icons, the people, the main icons again, then the Cross and the Gospel.

Generally, you can cense whenever a censing would normally be done if a priest were serving. At a vigil, you would do a full censing at the beginning of Vespers, at “Lord I have cried…”, at the Polyeleos (or the Evlogitaria), and at the 9th Ode of the canon. You do not cense after the Dogmaticon at “Lord I have cried…” because that censing is for an entrance, and entrances are not done at reader services. A Full censing is also done at the 6th hour and a lesser censing is done during the Epistle (or during the Alleluias) at Typika.


Sbdn. Anthony




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