A censer is a small metal or stone dish used for burning incense. A common design is a metal container, about the size and shape of a small coffee-pot, suspended on chains and often with the addition of small bells. The bowl contains hot coals, and the incense is placed on top of these.
Censers used in the church, known as a thurible in the Western Rite, are used during offices or services, such as Vespers, Orthros, and the Divine Liturgy. Censing is the practice of swinging a censer suspended from chains towards something or someone, typically an icon or person, so that smoke from the burning incense travels in that direction. If a deacon is present, he typically does much of the censing, otherwise the job falls to the priest. Unordained servers or acolytes are permitted to prepare and carry the censer, but may not swing it during prayers.
To the Orthodox, burning incense generally represents the prayers of the people rising towards Heaven. One commonly sung psalm during the censing is "Let my prayer rise like incense before You, my hands like the evening sacrifice." Some Orthodox Christians use a standing censer on their home altars.