“…a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” (Matthew 9:34b-35)
When the Gospel passage of the Transfiguration was read last Saturday evening during our Vigil service, another one of the imports of incense dawned on me. I happened to be thurifer last week, making me the cloud-maker for the evening; throughout the service, as the incense swirled around us, we quite literally entered a cloud. The smelly (in a good way, to my nose) incense enveloped us and we dwelt in the closest thing to a blanket of mist that people can easily create themselves. That’s why we use incense (among many other reasons). It moves us into the cloud.
It’s not just any cloud. As we read in our Isaiah Bible study this week (ch. 19), God’s communication with humanity is often through a cloud (this was a big-deal connection to the Church Fathers–see Cyril of Alexandria, Gregory of Nyssa, John Chrysostom)–like the pillar of cloud that led the Israelites through the wilderness, God speaking out of a cloud at Jesus’ baptism, and God and Moses communicating through a cloud on Mount Sinai. Clouds are often used in Scripture to remind us that God is near and so we use cloud, in incense, to remind us that God is in our midst when we worship together.
Join us at the corner of Wydown & Ellenwood on Saturday nights at 5 p.m. to worship in the cloud…