Is It Necessary to Turn Towards the Deacon During the Censing?

Question from a reader:

Hello. Where did this new trend come from - to follow the deacon when he censes the church? Do we go to the temple to pray or to work as a compass needle? Why don't priests in temples and churches explain this point to parishioners?

~ Vyacheslav

Photo: Vladimir Eshtokin

Priest Sergiy Savenkov answers:

Dear Vyacheslav, censing is an ancient tradition of the Christian church.

When a deacon or priest censes worshipers, they bow to him, showing their humility before the grace of the Holy Spirit, which is transmitted to them through the incense. St. Simeon of Thessaloniki wrote the best about the meaning of incense: “The priest, meanwhile, censes the altar, the temple and all those who pray, honoring sacred things as divine objects, and sanctifying those to come. Therefore, starting with the holy of holies - the altar, he censes everything in order, not just burning incense, but seizing and sanctifying it and through prayer bringing and raising it to Christ, so that the censing will be accepted on high [ie, in heaven - approx. Auth.] and that the grace of the All-Holy Spirit be sent down to us. Thus, through incense we accept grace, and let no one neglect the censing.”(The Wisdom of Our Salvation / St. Simeon of Thessaloniki - M .: Blagovest, 2010. - 640 p. [Question 273. On the follow-up of Matins, and above all that means the opening of the doors of the temple, the entrance inside it and incense]).

You really don't need to follow the deacon, just bow slightly. Unfortunately, overzealousness leads people to act rashly. In most cases, the rules of conduct in the temple are passed down orally from the “older” parishioners to the “younger” ones, so that habits and prejudices are passed down from generation to generation. Many priests talk a lot and often to people about how to behave in church and especially at divine services, but not everyone listens to them.

In the sacraments of the church, the grace of the Holy Spirit is transmitted to us through some substance. For example, by sprinkling consecrated water, or by being anointed with consecrated oil. This is done because the Church teaches us about the unity of man in this way. The pagans considered the body the prison of the soul and neglected it in every possible way. The first Christians had similar thoughts, so the Apostle Paul had to explain the Christian view of the unity of man: “May the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and all your nature, spirit and soul and body, may be perfectly observed at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ ”(1 Thess. 5:23).

Before censing, the deacon always turns to the priest with a request to bless the censer, therefore incense is not just aromatization of the room, but consecration, just as sprinkling with holy water is not done to humidify the air.

Here is the priest's prayer before censing:

"We bring the censer to Thee, Christ our God, as a spiritual fragrance, that it may be received into Thy heavenly altar, and send us the grace of Thy Most Holy Spirit."

Peace and joy from the Lord!