One of the things that I love about our Catholic faith is our ability to use external things to help us to have a deeper spiritual experience. Some people describe these physical experiences as “smells and bells.” One substance sometimes used in our worship is incense. In the psalm we read today, the psalmist talks about one of the deeper meanings of the use of incense.
O LORD, to you I call; hasten to me;
hearken to my voice when I call upon you.
Let my prayer come like incense before you;
the lifting up of my hands, like the evening sacrifice.
We learn through the psalm that one of the symbolic meanings of the use of incense is that its smoke represents our prayers rising up to God. There are other meanings as well. Smoke is also used as a means of purification and cleansing. The smell of the incense reminds us of sweet smell of the smoke of sacrifice, that rises up and pleases God. Each of these sacred meanings draw us out of ourselves and into the realm of the purely spiritual, helping us to meet God in a powerful internal way.
So the next time you are in church and the incense gets burning, breathe it in and connect with the living God!