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!)


monkagain said...

Hello, I enjoyed your incense story and it made me smile - there often is the lighter side of our spiritual journeys, assisting us to laugh at ourselves and not to take oneself too seriously. I've got an interdenominational list for monastic subjects of about 415 members. The list deals with communities, traditional, newer types, spirituality, contemplation, hesychasm, vocations, info, news. Myself a hermitmonk.

Nicodemus said...

Monkagain - I'm glad you enjoyed my story. You piqued my curiosity about your story, though. If you feel comfortable sharing, are you a monk here in the states, or are you elsewhere? What else can you tell me about yourself?