Blessing of incense

In Paul Turner's Blog by Paul Turner

Q: I was recently discussing imposition of incense in the Novus Ordo with a few different priests. GIRM 277 makes it clear that there is a blessing of incense during Mass. 

What ought a priest or deacon do during exposition of the blessed sacrament? I have not found any where saying a priest is to bless the incense or impart any blessing of any sort in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. (I actually think the contrary is true). One exception would be in the Ceremonial 1109 in which the bishop blesses the incense. 

If the bishop could bless the incense could a priest by an analogy of law?

Do you have an opinion on this? And if you know of any other liturgical texts could you point me in the right direction? 


A: GIRM 277 has called for the priest to make the sign of the cross over the incense ever since the first version in 1968. I’m not sure why the rubric is missing during exposition, where all it says is that the minister incenses the Blessed Sacrament.

A lay minister may lead the service of adoration but not bless the assembly with the monstrance. A lay presider may also incense the Blessed Sacrament (paragraph 93 uses the term “minister” here, not “Priest”), but such a person would not bless the smoke – blessings such as those are reserved to priests and deacons. And, well, to bishops.

My hunch is that the Ceremonial of Bishops, which was published after the rites of holy communion and worship of the eucharistic mystery outside mass, added it because it describes what an ordained minister does. I don’t know of any legislation on this. However, paragraph 96 says that the principal hours of the Liturgy of the Hours may be celebrated in the presence of the Most Blessed Sacrament. As you know, if an ordained minister is presiding for them, they conclude with a blessing. The signs of the cross are missing from some of the chapters in the Book of Blessings, and the Vatican clarified that they should be added where they are missing in that book:

My opinion is that it’s fine for a priest or deacon to bless incense at benediction before incensing the Blessed Sacrament. But the rubrics are silent, so either solution is acceptable.