Incense is quite simply burned as an offering to God.
“Incense is quite simply burned as an offering to God. The rising smoke of the incense fills the air with something beautiful in the same way that our voices fill the air when we sing. They are both ways in which God’s faithful people have sought to honor and worship their creator from the earliest biblical times. We don’t talk about singing as if it were symbolic of worship; it is worship. Music in church is not there to entertain the congregation; it is there to glorify God. We need to start thinking of incense in the same way.”
Little-known fact: I was the one basically responsible for re-starting the use of incense at Ascension (the Church of the Ascension, Episcopal, in Westminster, Maryland – my old home parish), back when Father Ron was still Rector there, before his retirement.
I brought some back from Nashville (where there was a Catholic bookstore just off-campus near Vanderbilt Divinity School, where I was attending at the time) and gave it to him for Christmas. Actually, I gave it to him before Christmas, and interestingly enough, darned if we didn’t have incense at the late service on Christmas Eve! I even got to serve as thurifer.
Eventually we had it on several of the higher feasts, and during the 11:15 service on the first Sunday of the month. But my favorite was always “Midnight Mass” on Christmas Eve. Just one of many things I miss about the “old days”…
“Let my prayer be set forth in thy sight as the incense [O Lord]; and let the lifting up of my hands be an evening sacrifice.” Psalm cxli. 2.