a deacon incensing a priest during Mass; swiped with permission from the flickr account of Father Lawrence Lew, OPArticle

A granulated aromatic resin obtained from certain trees in eastern and tropical countries. When blessed, it becomes a sacramental. It is sprinkled upon a glowing coal in a covered vessel called a censer, and emits a fragrant smoke. The incense is kept in a vessel known as a “boat,” from its shape. Incense has been used in many lands, in worship, and to do honour to kings. In Christian churches of the East its use probably began before the 5th century. In the Latin Rite it is used at Solemn Masses, and at certain other services. Five grains of incense, each incased in a piece of wax resembling a nail, are inserted in the paschal candle, symbolic of the Five Wounds of Our Risen Saviour. When an altar or an altar-stone is consecrated, grains of incense are burned upon it, and other grains are put into the “sepulcher” or cavity in the stone, containing the relics of saints. Incense is a symbolic sacramental. Its burning signifies zeal; its fragrance, virtue; and its rising smoke, prayer going up before the Throne of God.

MLA Citation

  • “incense”. New Catholic Dictionary. CatholicSaints.Info. 4 November 2019. Web. 20 October 2021. <>