The Traditional Use of “Incensi” among the Annang People: Liturgical Opportunities and Challenges in Ikot Ekpene Catholic Diocese, Nigeria
James Ekanem, SDB
Catholic University of Eastern Africa, Nairobi – Kenya
Salesian Theology College, Nairobi – Kenya
Veritas University, Abuja

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Almost every major world religion and tribal spiritualities light plant parts in worship to seek greater connection to the divine. Incense is defined as a material that is burned to produce an odour which is also referred to as the perfume itself that is produced from the burning of plant. Many people light incense sticks in their homes just for the sweet smell and the ability it has to transform space. Others too in our world today may have a stigma connecting incense sticks and illegal drug use. Many of us who have been Catholics may have witnessed the swinging of censers, filling the Church with sweet-smelling resins. The tradition of using incense in the liturgy goes back to ancient Hebrew worship, as recorded in the Psalms: “Let my prayer be set forth in Thy sight as the incense” (Ps 141:2). Incense as often used as part of a purification ritual seems to have lost its symbolisms and proper use of it in the Church as well as the decline of its use. The real problem here is that many faithful hardly know the real reason and purpose why incense is an important part of the Catholic Mass. Do people fully understand the use and symbolism of incense during the liturgical celebrations? Do the traditional use of incense offers some opportunities or challenges in the Church liturgical rites? The purpose of this study is to investigate, stimulate and sensitize the Church and all the Christian faithful of the symbolism of incense which have become optional or none use and to take effective action in reclaiming the lost symbolism and proper use of incense. Perhaps a better understanding of the traditional use of incense may help or enhance the use and importance of the symbolism of incense in our liturgical celebrations. Maybe some elements found in the traditional use of incense, the Sacred Scripture and the Church’s practice may enrich and recover the lost symbolism of incense. And may be by organizing Liturgical Seminars/workshops to seminarians and young religious in formation houses it may address the essential elements in the way incense is use.


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