One of the things that I love about my Orthodox Christian faith is the church tradition that has been passed down through generations. This 2,000 year old faith has stayed relatively unchanged since Apostolic times and many of the Biblical practices are still practiced in the walls of our sanctuaries not only on Sundays, but on many days of the week, most days of the year.
Attending an Orthodox service is an experience that satisfies all five of your senses:
Sight - beautiful icons and decorations adorn the walls and ceiling
Hearing - prayers are sung and chanters chant in reverent worship to the Lord
Taste - Holy Communion (the Body and Blood of Christ) is offered to baptized Orthodox Christians while Blessed Bread is offered to guests attending services
Touch - lighting a candle and venerating the icons upon entering Church, holding the Divine Liturgy book, shaking hands or offering a kiss on the cheek to those around you, kissing the priest's hand out of respect at the end of service
Smell - the beautiful fragrance of incense fills the air in all parts of the Church
Incense is mentioned many times in the Bible (121 times to be exact!). The Bible tells us that our prayers are "lifted up as incense" (Psalm 141:2). We not only burn incense in Church to engage one of our senses, but we believe that it helps to lift our prayers up to the Lord...how cool is that?
On Sundays or special holidays or days that I'm feeling my family or I need to be closer to God, I burn incense in my own home. All of my children know that amazing fragrance when it fills our home on those days. When my youngest was three years old, I was burning incense in our kitchen while trying to get a few moments of quiet prayer before she woke up. She plodded down the stairs with sleepy eyes and a wild head of blonde curls, holding her blankets and exclaimed, "It smells like God in here!"
So, this hundreds of years old practice continues to this day in our home, maybe your home, and in Orthodox Churches around the world. The sweet fragrance of incense lifts our prayers, lifts our hearts and brings us even closer to our Almighty Father in Heaven.
If you're interested in burning incense in your own home, here are a couple of great options to get started:
Starter Kit (has everything you need to get started)
Incense (my favorite scents are Byzantine and Rose)