Monday, January 23, 2023

Something About Ad Altare Dei Incense

Mind altering.

Johnny Dixon finds a grimy, cobwebbed box labeled Ad Altare Dei Incense in the basement of Saint Michael's Church (The Curse of the Blue Figurine, 23).

The full Latin phrase is introibo ad altare dei and translates as "I will go up to the altar of God." The words are from Psalm 43, which expresses a desire to find refuge in God. Lewis recites this psalm during his bus ride in New Zebedee in The House with a Clock in its Walls.

An officiant may use incense to purify or sanctify at several points during a Roman Catholic Mass: during the entrance procession, at the start of Mass, at the offertory, or after the consecration. Many formulations of incense are used, often with frankincense, benzoin, myrrh, styrax, copal, or other aromatics [1].

Now, we can't find any incense carrying this name, but the fact its name mentions the altar makes me wonder if the product is an oil. If it was, it lengthens this blog entry because the church uses several holy oils:
  • Oil of the Sick (Oleum infirmorum, OI) made only of olive oil
  • Oil of Exorcism (Oleum catechumenorum, OC) made only of olive oil
  • Holy Chrism (Sanctum chrisma, SC) made from olive oil and balsam, the resin or sap of certain types of trees and shrubs.
Priests use Chrism for the Catholic Sacrament of Confirmation and in Baptism and Holy Orders sacraments. Chrism is usually stored in unique vessels known as chrismaria and kept in a cabinet known as an ambry [2].

Granted, it seems doubtful the parish would store such a revered oil in the basement, although the “shelves ...built into the wall underneath the steps” could be an ambry.  Maybe?  Or was Ad Altare Dei just the brand name of the incense?  Maybe there’s an old box of Ad Altare Dei altar bread out there, too?


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