Tuesday, September 22, 2015

25/52 :: incense.

"There is a crack, a crack in everything / That's how the light gets in." 
- Leonard Cohen

"Everywhere we go, people breathe in the exquisite fragrance. Because of Christ, we give off a sweet scent rising to God, which is recognized by those on the way of salvation — an aroma redolent with life."
- II Corinthians 2:15-16, The Message


Whenever people ask why we have chosen Anglicanism, I am tempted to tell them it's because of the windows. 

The church is surrounded by them, at least eight on each side. And they're big windows, too, not yet filled in with stained glass. Jordan is beside himself, waiting for meaningful mosaics to replace the clear, but I am crossing my fingers the church will somehow change their minds. Maybe the money they need won't come, or maybe it will be earmarked for something else. Without the windows, I won't be able to see out, won't be able to touch the blue sky or glimpse the wind.

Nature, I think, might be the best iconography of all. 

It's the second service when it happens, when the sunlight hits the windows just right. The incense floats in the air, and it smells like potpourri, and I'm not always sure I really like it, the perfumed smoke filling the air.

But then I look up.

No one has explained it to me this way, but if someone were to ask me why incense, why use it in worship, why fill the sanctuary with its sweet aroma, I doubt I'd remember its historical significance, its presence in ceremonies since almost the beginning of time. I think I'd silently point to the windows.

There, as we sing and pray and kneel and commune, the incense mingles with the light. Its particles float in the air above us, and I wonder if it's as close to the tongues of fire as we will ever see. The incense dances, and I swear it's as if the Holy Spirit has entered the place Himself.

And of course, you don't need incense to see the Holy Spirit, to feel Him working and breathing and moving in your life. But I'd be lying if I didn't say it helped. So few things about my faith are tangible. I believe in things unseen, and the invisible gets hard, day after day.

But every so often, on a Sunday, I can see what I believe. And it floats in on the windows, and the scent follows me home.


Amanda said...

Oh, I love this. I attend a non-denominational church and I love it, but sometimes - I long for the comfort of tradition and silence and stillness.

Love your blog!

Julianne said...

This is beautiful, Annie!

Leslie said...

Bingo! Incense is so symbolic and important in engaging the senses in worship. The first time I sat through an Orthodox service, the incense was what really struck me. Still love that smell.