Q: In my experience, when deacons are vested for a Mass and sitting together as a body, e.g., at the Chrism Mass, they are not incensed separately from the assembly in the way that priests and bishops are.
My question is, if a deacon is presiding at the Liturgy of the Hours, say Vespers, in which incense is used, would he be incensed after the altar is incensed during the Magnificat? Or would the presider be incensed then only if he is a priest or bishop?
A: GILH 261 says that the altar, priest and people may be incensed. It is silent about a deacon or lay presider, but since several of the preceding paragraphs account for presiders of different rank, I’m guessing that only a priest presider would be incensed separately.
Why? Perhaps for the same reason the altar is incensed. Its main function is for the celebration of Mass, not of morning or evening prayer. But it is a symbol of Christ, and the place where the priest offers sacrifice by reason of his ministry and where he is incensed independently. The purpose of the altar is recalled when everyone sings a canticle from the gospel and incensation takes place.