Monday, September 29, 2008

Holy Smoke!

I apologize for my unplanned and unannounced hiatus – it is my plan to have a new blog each week from here on out.

On that note, an incense story.

Desiring to enrich my prayer life, I made my first attempt to use incense during my prayer time at home. I thought it would be so simple, so easy, so discreet. Since the rest of my household is not Orthodox, I waited until they were all sleeping soundly in their beds three and a half levels away from my prayer corner on the opposite end of the house. My prayer corner is in a place where no one likes to go anyway. It is an unfinished sub-basement often referred to as the “dirty basement” by the female members of my family.

I lit the charcoal disc and waited for it to get hot. After a short sizzle and some flying bits of tiny red sparks, I launched my first incense kernel like a mini chunk of food on a tiny little grill. It produced some smoke for what seemed like a very short time. So, I threw another one on, and then another, and then another. I continued in my prayers relishing in the added olfactory dimension of this truly blessed time of prayer.

I didn’t realize how much smoke that little censer was putting out until I turned around and saw a thick, hazy fog filling my little basement. It looked rather neat to see the light beams from my clamp-on lamps shoot through the smoke. However, I was getting concerned about how much of this was drifting upstairs. The two times my family has been to an Orthodox service, the incense nearly choked them to death – they recoiled every time they saw the priest start to swing the censer.

After I left the basement, I did a sniff test to see if I could smell it anywhere near the door. I didn’t smell anything! I checked a few more corners of the house to see if it made its way up through the vents – still nothing. I felt good about heading to bed, as I was still one level away, and the smell did not drift. That was about 10:30 P.M.

I’m lying in bed still a little concerned, because that was a heck of a cloud I left behind down there, and I knew it had to go somewhere. At around 11:15, it had wafted its way into our bedroom. My wife, who was sleeping so soundly when I came to bed that she didn’t even wake up when I plopped down on the mattress, suddenly was becoming restless. She let out a sleepy cough, and then another, but this one was a little more robust. She then sat up in bed, and I pretended to be asleep hoping she didn’t notice. Still half asleep, she said, “Something’s burning!”

So as not to worry her, I immediately confessed I used incense during my prayers before bed, at which point she pleaded that I never do that again. After listening to her cough and hack for the next fifteen minutes, I of course agreed to her request.

I guess there’ll be no smells and bells at my household for a while. It all just seems so censeless (groan!)