In Paul Turner's Blog by Paul Turner

Q:  Regarding incensation to the main Celebrant and con-celebrants, how many times and how many swings does the deacon make? Is it 3×3 times?  The same before proclaiming the gospel? Is it three times, one swing each: middle, right, left?

And when incensing the congregation? Is it three times, middle, right left?

In some parishes, when the thurifer comes out to incense the elevations, two other servers come out holding candles. Is that correct?

A:  The rules for incensation are in GIRM 277: “Before and after an incensation, a profound bow is made to the person or object that is incensed, except for the altar and the offerings for the Sacrifice of the Mass.”

Regarding the number of swings, see the same paragraph: “Three swings of the thurible are used to incense: the Most Blessed Sacrament, a relic of the Holy Cross and images of the Lord exposed for public veneration, the offerings for the Sacrifice of the Mass, the altar cross, the Book of the Gospels, the paschal candle, the Priest, and the people.”

It says three swings. Not three doubles. Not three triples. Three swings.

The Ceremonial of Bishops #74 says that the deacon incenses the book of the gospels with three swings: center, left, right. The 3 directions are not mentioned in regard to any other incensation – only for the gospel.

The incensation at the elevations is not to be accompanied by candles because their presence is not in the rubrics of the mass.