In Paul Turner's Blog by Paul Turner

Q: Merry Christmas, Fr. Paul! Thank you for all your wonderful work!

Growing up and even now in ministry, I notice most priests when they incense the altar, will break from incensing the altar to incense the Paschal Candle during Easter or the Natvity Scene on Christmas or the Image of Guadalupe on December 12. This doesn’t make sense to me since the altar is receiving the incensation at the moment.  It would be like incensing the celebrant and stopping midway to incense the people and return to the celebrant. 

The Ceremonial of Bishops 95 says images, which I assume are the nativity scene and Guadalupe, should occur after the altar and only at the beginning of Mass. Any thoughts on what we should do according to the rubrics? Thank you so much!


A: Here’s part of GIRM 277, which coheres with the Ceremonial as you’ve cited it: “Two swings of the thurible are used to incense relics and images of the Saints exposed for public veneration; this should be done, however, only at the beginning of the celebration, following the incensation of the altar.” 

There’s no provision for incensing the paschal candle apart from the moments for proclaiming the Exsultet at the Vigil. Other images may be incensed immediately after the altar at the beginning of the celebration.