Sacristy Tips: Making Paschal Candle Incense Grains

herefore in this night of grace accept, O holy Father, the evening sacrifice of this incense: which, by the hands of thy ministers, holy Church doth lay before thee..." With these words, prior to the reforms of the 1950s, the deacon, during the singing of the Exultet, would insert into the Paschal Candle five "grains" of incense in the form of a cross, symbolising the sweetness to us of Christ's five Precious Wounds.

Sadly, down the years, the meaning of those five grains of incense has been lost, and many other things, such as wax pyramids, or decorated drawing pins are placed into to candle.

However, we are here to help. This is how to make your own incense grains, after the traditional Roman model.

What you will need:

5 teaspoons of Incense (I tend to use Prinknash Priory, the grains are not too large or too small, and it is pure frankincense, and a pleasing golden colour)

5 2" long screws (screws are better than pins or nails: they are much less likely to fall out of the candle!)

1 Microwave

1 Microwaveable plate


i) Take a teaspoon of incense and pour onto plate, spread the grains out flat.

ii) Put plate in microwave, and heat on full power for roughly 30 seconds: until the incense is warm and sticky. Obviously there will be some variation in time; use your initiative!

iii) Remove plate from microwave, and place screw upright in the middle of the plate

iv) Gradually build the incense round the top half of the screw, forming a ball/ beehive shape

v) Put to one side and allow to cool and set

vi) Repeat process 4 more times.

General Advice:

You may find the plate gets rather warm during this process: I tend to change to another plate  halfway through.

You may find that the incense is inclined to stick to the plate as it begins to cool, but a little coercion with a table knife or similar is all it takes to get it to cooperate.

I also tend to make a new set for blessing each year, and burn the old set when the Paschal candle is removed from the Sanctuary.

It is customary in Italy to gild the incense grains, or at least paint them gold.

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