Proust on the Law Written In Our Hearts

The Launch of the Thurible

What excitement we had at Mass yesterday! At the recessional, priest, acolyte, and thurifer headed down the aisle, singing, along with the little congregation, "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen," led as usual by the acolyte, who has the strongest voice.

The thurifer, a seminarian whose identity I won't publish, is, along with the priest, a great enthusiast for incense, and fills the church with great clouds of it. And he also swings the thurible with enthusiasm: with so much enthusiasm yesterday that as he recessed down the aisle he was whirling it in a great circle.  Perhaps you've seen this done--apparently it is a permissible maneuver. I was unable to locate a YouTube video, but it involves swinging the thurible not just in a low arc but in a full vertical circle.

The thurible being made of heavy brass, this puts a good bit of strain on the apparatus. It came apart. The lower half of the thurible parted company with the chain. It flew down the aisle, trailing hot coals and burning incense. Priest, acolyte, and thurifer, in full vestments, and still attempting to sing, scrambled to put out the little fires now smoldering up and down the carpeted aisle.  I really tried to get through to the last "comfort and joy," but I was just laughing too hard.

Tragically, there is no video of this event. Only a few blackened holes in the carpet remain by way of physical evidence that it occurred. But we have our memories.


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Sounds exciting; reminds me of a video I once saw of a Greek Orthodox Pascha liturgy, complete with fireworks.
When I was in the seminary it was considered very cool to swing the censer in a circle like that. I always wondered if the thing ever broke loose and went flying...

And now you know that it has happened at least once in the history of the world. Alas, alas that there is no video.

While looking for videos of someone doing the full-circle thing, I found this baby.

Hilarious! I wish I had been there :)

I've seen that video before - very impressive.

Then there is this...

I love that, especially "art works in order of descending value".

The first time I got to Santiago, in 2011 I obeyed all the servitors in the aisles saying no phones, no cameras. Then everyone stuck their camera in the air when they got the huge incense censor. On my second trip, in 2012, I had my camera in the air like everyone else!

I thought that must be the church you arrived at.

Seems like there's nothing stopping that thing from swinging sideways and knocking a few heads pretty dangerously.

If it came off its rope there would deaths, because the people are packed so tightly on both sides, both in the pews and to the doors behind on either side, that it would be impossible to flee.

In this country fear of lawsuits would long ago have been the end of something like that.

That's a great story. I've never seen anyone swing it in a circle, but I'd love to!

It is a pretty cool sight, but I'm spoiled now. It will never really be thrilling unless the thurible goes flying. Perhaps The Launching of the Thurible could be incorporated into the liturgies of important feast days.

Your launch sounds impressive, but maybe it's edged out by the time the swinging censer in the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral "flew out of the cathedral through the Platerias high window" during a visit by Catherine of Aragon in 1499.

I love wacky things happening during a Mass that are just accidents and not intentional. Several come to mind from the years I went daily at SHC...but I guess my favorite was at St Ignatius years ago when some wine/blood was spilled and someone scuttled away to come back with (as my companion whispered to me) "the holy club soda" to clean it up with.


Wow, Marianne...I guess Catherine should have considered that a bad omen and headed back home.

I just ran across this post from eight years ago. The seminarian who performed this feat is now a priest, and a very dedicated one.

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