Incense in the Home

edited February 2014 in Personal Issues
Hey everyone. So my mom forbids use of incense in our house because even though I foiled argument with a Bible verse, she thinks if I get into using incense ( I already use candles and she doesn't like it but allows it) and the like in my prayer that I'll turn into (exact quote) " a crazy person". My parents are from Egypt, I was born there and we moved when I was young (in the late 90s) AND my mom is pretty tolerant and relaxed. She's down to earth, kinda. So I'm basically asking with help on how to convince her to let me use incense. We have some frankincense but I want to get this . I would pay for it and everything. I am well acquainted with the outdoors and fires (and serving as an psaltos) so I'm not a) reckless b) inexperienced. This is my Bible verse: 
Malachi 1:11
 For from the rising of the sun, even to its going down,
My name shall be great among the Gentiles;
In every place incense shall be offered to My name,
And a pure offering;
For My name shall be great among the nations,”
Says the Lord of hosts.

Obviously I have to give obedience and honor to my parents as in the Ten Commandments. Here's the thing, we see eye to eye on just about everything. She says because of that, I should be grateful and let this one go. I say that she should extend that love a little further because it's for my prayer. I'll post about the problem with my parents and my prayer later, although that is resolved.
Pray for me!


  • I don't think you should take that verse literally to be used against your mom. despite how much you'll say, whatever she says will happen. so try not to argue much.

    Incense are always set to be used within church. at home, or outside church, the incense that you should raise are unceasing prayers.
  • I find this is a very Coptic or OO view so I am fishing for the more Byzantine or EO view. I try to be obedient to my parents. I like what you said about unceasing prayer and I'll consider that deeply. 

    ...and trust me I know what she says will happen....If I can't change her mind haha
  • I don't know what the EO view is exactly but I am fairly certain that no one burns incense at home (at least not practicing Orthodox Christians)

    There is a problem with your logic. In Malachi 1, God was speaking to Jewish priests, not to the average joe on the street. The verse is directed to show how the Jewish priesthood lost their position and favor with God and was/is given to the Gentile priests. Using incense at home, subject to the authority of this verse, is wrong because the verse speaks of a pure offering through incense. The Orthodox Church has seen this as the duty of the priesthood since the third century and offering incense at home with incense is in fact  a rebellion against God. In Numbers 16:6,7, "Moses told the rebellious Jews who wanted to be rulers and priests "“Tomorrow morning the Lord will show who is His and who is holy, and will cause him to come near to Him. That one whom He chooses He will cause to come near to Him. Do this: Take censers, Korah and all your company; 7 put fire in them and put incense in them before the Lord tomorrow, and it shall be that the man whom the Lord chooses isthe holy one. You take too much upon yourselves, you sons of Levi!”  In the end, "a fire came out from the Lord and consumed the two hundred and fifty men who were offering incense." Num 16:36. 

    Like Mina said, you can offer a "pure offering" of praise and worship. But you can't offer "a pure offering" of incense to the Lord of hosts since you are not a priest. Even priests don't do this at home. This doesn't mean fire is going to come down and consume you. It is a memorial to God's commandment that we fear and respect above everything else.
  • edited February 2014
  • Historically, incense has been offered as a sign of joy and even a sign of sadness in funerals. It is mostly offered for fumigatory reasons. What the original poster was claiming was offering incense based on Malachi 1:11, which describes offering to God a priestly offer. This is non-negotiable.
  • edited February 2014

    Dear St. Pachom, 

    I have asked Fr. Daniel Azer regarding offering incense at home and he quoted the rebellion of Korah to prove that only the clergy are allowed to offer incense. The way he put it was that it's better to be on the safe side than commit a grave error. 

    St. Pachom, I am a bit concerned about this part of your question: “So I'm basically asking with help on how to convince her to let me use incense.” For me it sounds like you have made up your mind and just want to find ways to convince your mother. Wouldn’t if be better to first ask “where can incense be offered and by whom?” 

    Forgive me if I jumped to a conclusion and I don’t mean to point my finger at you. 

    Your brother in Christ 


  • Hey guys. I talked to abouna and he brought up more than just Korah. Put shortly, no we can not offer incense haha. Thanks for the help though. Pray for me
  • edited February 2014
    So there is no patristic or scriptural insight other than a particular modern interpretation of a story that could perhaps be understood in many different manners. To this interpretation I could potentially imagine the simple rebuttal being that we are all a royal priesthood (at the risk of sounding protestant). I am not convinced by this interpretation of the Korah story forbidding anyone from offering incense in their homes, it seems like a rather weak argument and is not conclusive in my mind. 
  • Pete, My father of confession said there are other verses in the old testament not related to korah that forbid
  • right, fair enough. but as those who have recieved the revelation of Christ, upon Whom the Scriptures themselves hinge, i would like if there was a precedent for how the early Church understood this. If there is no Patristic or canonical or liturgical impetus for this condemnation of censing privately in the home, then I dont think its enough to condemn it based on our private understandings of the OT. Surely if the fathers thought the same way, we would see this in their commentaries on the OT. 

    Pray for me
  • Korahs rebellion was not in that he raised incense. His rebellion was his self-appointed priesthood. 

  • I wasnt gonna go there but as usual Ray is always right :). Hence my apprehension in accepting this OT event as a precedent for not censing in the home.
  • Ray, 
    That's splitting hairs now. Yes, Korah rebelled by appointing himself and 250 other elders (men of renown) as priests and not the actual act of raising of incense. But it was Moses who used "burning incense" as the sign and the test if God sent Moses. Moses says, and it shall be that the man whom the Lord chooses is the holy one....By this (burning incense) you shall know that the Lord has sent me to do all these works, for I have not done them of my own will. If these men die naturally like all men, or if they are visited by the common fate of all men, then the Lord has not sent me. But if the Lord creates a new thing, and the earth opens its mouth and swallows them up with all that belongs to them, and they go down alive into the pit, then you will understand that these men have rejected the Lord.” Num 16:28-30. 

    Technically speaking, Korah didn't even ask for the priesthood. He insisted on being the leader instead of Moses. Korah's exact words were You take too much upon yourselves, for all the congregation is holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the Lord?” Moses' reply responds directly to Protestant claims of a royal priesthood. Moses responds, "Is it a small thing to you that the God of Israel has separated you from the congregation of Israel, to bring you near to Himself, to do the work of the tabernacle of the Lord, and to stand before the congregation to serve them; and that He has brought you near to Himself,you and all your brethren, the sons of Levi, with you? And are you seeking the priesthood also? Therefore you and all your company are gathered together against the Lord. And what is Aaron that you complain against him?” In essence, Moses says "It's not a small thing nor is it for everyone to be separated from the congregation, to have God bring the people to Himself, to do the work of the tabernacle, and finally to serve the people." The concept of a royal priesthood does not imply nor give authority for the service of the temple or the right to perform priestly acts - which burning incense is.

  • edited February 2014
    The fathers spoke against all incense (even in church) for hundreds of years since they associated the act of burning incense with paganism. Are they simply applying another (different) interpretation that can simply be rebutted? There will be no evidence in patristic commentaries because either it was seen as completely pagan (early years) or completely a priestly act with no question (later years) The canons are notorious for being interpreted in a plethora of contradictory ways. So they offer no real impetus either. 

    Finally, what I have been saying all along is that no pope, bishop or synod is obligated to conform to traditions or customs that are not local to them. Even ecumenical councils are not valid until agreed upon by the local synod. So even if all Apostolic Churches allowed incense at home, and even if the Coptic Church allowed it in the past, it is the right of the current local synod to forbid incense at home (or for the diaconate and by any non-priest anywhere), if they have legitimate reasons. This is what I meant by non-negotiable. You can campaign the current synod on how incense at home is not a valid application of Korah's rebellion but one cannot claim it is a weak claim or a modern (faulty) interpretation. 
  • I cant comment much right now but i am up for discussion about the ecumenical council point. I disagree here with this thoughts. It would seem to me that, because the ecumenical councils are supposed to have been representative of the entire body of the Church, they are binding and final to each local synod. In my mind it would seem that if a local Church had left the council of Nicea and undone its decisions or not adhered to its proclamations about the Orthodox faith, then this local synod would indeed be leaving the communion of the Church Ecumenical. In my mind it would seem that the fathers took the council of Nicea to hold fast for all churches as a decision made by the entire body of the Church. If we had left that council and decided we didnt like its proclamations then we would be leaving the body of the Church ecumenical Who had made this decision. Thus i cannot agree that it is up to a local church to deem the decision of the Church 'valid'. 

    With respect to customs and particular traditions, i would agree that each church is free to its own expression and organic growth of Orthodoxy in the cultural milieu of the local synod, but i believe that to be irrelevant to this discussion. 

    My fear is that we impose rules, regulations, 'canons', pseudo-canons (my own invention for those stupid practices we continue today that have no basis but we just do and if we were to undo then there would be a violent response), and in all of this we lose Christ. All we continue to do is to abide by rules, regulations (i am not denying the place of canons however, let us be clear. But right now i dont have time to flesh it out more. I do not reject the authority of the canons, just being clear.) and we become adherents of the letters of the law and we lose Christ in all of it. I think Dr. George Bebawi in his talk on youtube about Canon Law in the Coptic Church did a great job of elaborating this point. 

    In any case, i do not agree that any local church has the authority to supercede the decision of the Church Ecumenical at the ecumenical councils. It is de facto accepted that if you reject the rulings of the ecumenical synods (if we left Constantinople claiming that we couldnt accept the Divinity of the Holy Spirit) then we have left the decision, the life and faith, the living faith and witness of the Body of Christ, The Church. In this we have indeed become invalid, not the decision of the Body of Christ. 

    Pray for me
  • MrPete,

    Thank you for the discussion. We may disagree but it is always beneficial to discuss in love without anger.

    I will wait for your more detailed response. I would prefer you place them in a new thread because this thread is on incense. For the moment, I would like to say that you are going by logical definitions of ecumenicity which ultimately have logical downfalls. The fact remains that ecumenicity is so difficult to define. Take a look at this site for a nice description of the problem from the Eastern Orthodox View. Then take a look at a Petrine Roman Catholic view at this site. Obviously, I don't agree with the Roman Catholic view but it illustrates the problem with standard "representative of the entire body of the Church". 

    From a purely historically point of view, a local council does not need to completely ratify an ecumenical council for the said ecumenical council to remain ecumenical. Rome never agreed to Chalcedon Canon 28. It took Rome a century to ratify the canons of Trullo from the fifth/sixth councils. Some Orthodox Churches (unofficially the Coptic Church is included) do not agree with the last canon of Constantinople. And of course, the OO do not agree with Ecumenical councils 4-7, even though all the OO's agree with the theology and matters of faith. So it is not merely an agreement of the faith, nor representation at the council but something else that is not easily defined or understood.

    Your last paragraph has many problems if you apply that to the Second council of Ephesus in 449 AD. It was in fact ecumenical, assuming your definition of ecumenicity is valid and all the claims of (1) mob brutality and coercion and (2) our "approval" of monophysitism are wrong. This council was not accepted by the local synod of Rome and then by other local synods. This means that all the EO, RC and non-Chalcedonians are schismatic and invalid by your last paragraph. You're going to have a hard time proving that. 
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