Late-Henrician Ritual

Easter Sepulchre

The Ornament’s Rubric refers to worship per the second year of Edward VI. Yet the 1549 Prayer Book only specifies particular vestments at the Lord’s Supper and Holy Communion. How then do we know Edwardian ceremonial decking? Article XXXIV tells us that the Traditions and Ceremonies of the Church, which be not repugnant to the Word of God, are determined by common order. Nicholas Ridley called those rites governed by canon ‘vera-adiaphora‘. Therefore, the canon belonging to the late Henrician and early Edwardian periods define ornaments and much lawful ceremony. This canon includes the injunctions and visitations of 1536, 1538, 1547, and 1548.

Sorting through these is not an easy task. The Ten Articles issued in 1536 inaugurates a kind of theological framework for further ceremonial reform. It properly divides religion between articles of faith vs. ceremony. The ninth article of which then lists rites extant in the late Henrician church, recognizing what is useful:

“[of them]… and all other like laudable customs, rites, and ceremonies, be not to be condemned and cast away, but to be used and continued, as things good and laudable, to put us in remembrance of those spiritual things that they do signify, no suffering them to be forgotten, or to be put in oblivion, but renewing them in our memories from time to time”

But not all those rites which Henry lists in the Ten Articles would be tolerated. By 1547 the injunctions of Edward hinted the temporary future of these rites, saying,

“Also, That they shall instruct and teach in their cures, that no man ought obstinately and maliciously to break and violate the laudable ceremonies of the church, by the King commanded to be observed, and as yet not abrogated.” C.27

What ceremonies would be abrogated by Edward’s second year? Ritual certainly was limited or reformed between 1547-1549, and this is where my previous post on the Ornament Rubric painfully fell short. As mentioned earlier, collating their number isn’t easy, but recently I ran across a wonderful footnote written by Walter H. Frere, Bishop of Truro (1923–1935), regarding lawful ceremony up to Edward’s second year. I hope this wonderful, yet lengthy, quote better reconstructs the kind of ceremony might have tolerated before the second prayer book:

“The history of these and kindred ceremonies during the Reformation has been postponed till now so as to give in one place a succinct account of them all. Holy water, holy bread, the use of vestments, Candlemas candles, ashes, palms, creeping to the Cross, sepulchres, hallowing of the font, and “all other like laudable customs, rites, and ceremonies” were allowed by the Ten Articles of 1536 “as good and laudable things to put us in memory of what they signify.” On February 26, 1539 (Wilkins, III, 842), Henry issued a proclamation in which holy water, holy bread, kneeling and creeping to the Cross on Good Friday, setting up lights before the Corpus Christi on Easter Day, bearing candles at the Purification were allowed since “as yet” they had not being abolished. But they were to be used without superstition. “Let the minister on each day instruct the people on the right and godly use of every ceremony. On every Sunday let him declare that holy water is sprinkled in remembrance of our baptism and of the sprinkling of the blood of Christ. On every Sunday let holy bread be given, to remind men of the housel, or Eucharist, which in the beginning of the Christian Church was received more often than now, and in sign of unity, for as the bread is made of many grains so are all Christian men one mystical body of Christ. Let candles be borne at Candlemas, but in memory of Christ, the spiritual light. On Ash Wednesday let ashes be given to every Christian man to remind him that he is dust and ashes. On Palm Sunday let palms be borne, but let it be declared that it is in memory of Christ’s entry into Jerusalem. Let it be declared on Good Friday, that creeping to the Cross and kissing the Cross signify humility and the memory of our redemption. They are signs and tokens, not the workers nor the works, of our salvation”. This explanation is almost identical to No. IX of the Ten Articles (1536). The same ordinances concerning ceremonies were embodied in some royal directions which appeared on Nov. 10, 1539. In January, 1545-46, Cranmer prepared letters for the King, which however never received Henry’s signature, abrogating creeping and kneeling to the Cross (Cranmer, Remains. p. 415). The Royal Injunctions of 1547 (No. 27) tolerated holy water, holy-bread and palms, did not condemn ashes, Candlemas candles, creeping to the Cross, Easter sepulchres, hallowing of the font, and allowed two lights; although the Homily of Good Works published before them and ordered by them to be read, condemned fire, bread, water, palms and candles. On January 18, 1548, a Order of Council abolished ashes, palms, and Candlemas candles. In February, 1548, a royal proclamation confirmed the order of the previous January, and in addition abrogated creeping to the Cross on Good Friday, holy-bread and holy water (Wilkins, IV, 23 and 21). There now only seemed to be left sepulchres, two lights and hallowing of the font. In May, 1548, Gardiner was reprimanded by the Council for having an Easter sepulchre at Winchester Cathedral in Holy Week, though there is no evidence that it had been condemned.” (p. 183-185, Visitation Articles and Injunctions, V. II)

Frere then describes the elements of various rites, i.e. the ashes, holy-breads, beads, sacring bells, holy candles, holy water, and creeping, etc..  Amongst these, only three ceremonials appear to continue into Edward’s second year. Not only is the ornament of interest but its “use” since the 1559 Act includes both, “that such ornaments of the Church and of the ministers therefore shall be retained and be in use as was in this Church of England by authority of Parliament in the second year of the reign of King Edward the Sixth”. Frere writes about each:

(1) Hallowing of the Font. The font was solemnly blessed on Easter Eve and Whitsun Eve (Procter and Frere, op. cit., 565). A new form was provided in the first prayer book.
(2)Paschal Candle. Fire was condemned by the Homily on Good Works. No reference is forthcomign to the condemnation of the Paschal candle. It was in use at Worcester in Easter 148.
(3) Easter or Paschal Sepulchre. On Maundy Thursday two special hosts were consecrated and reserved. One was consumed by the priest in the Mass of the Pre-sanctified on Good Friday, the other was placed in a pyx and deposited along with the Cross in the Easter Sepulchre. This was sometimes a temporary structure, for in many extant churchwardens’ accounts there is a record of money paid for erecting and taking it down. Here the Blessed Sacrament remained until the dawn of Easter Day, when it was removed to the hanging pyx over the altar. There are many instances of permanent “sepulchres” being built in England for the Easter Sepulchre. Sometimes people left money for such to be permanently erected over their own burial places. (pp. 186-187) [note: Dearmer does not talk about sepulchres, and my guess is although the practice survived into 1548 it did not last through the rest of the 16th century, becoming a dead letter.]

What might be noted is the basic continuity and constant reiteration of injunctions from 1536 to 1548. The Ten Articles– upon which new learning gained its foothold– laid critical precepts that broadened and deepened as they were applied. Yet the late Henrician and early Edwardian are nearly interchangeable periods, utilizing the same ‘Ten Articles’ logic. This is why it’s so problematic to make a dividing line anywhere between 1536 to 1549. For example, in both periods beads, decking of images, extreme postrations, shrines, and relics were suppressed. This followed holy communion and choir bibles in the vernacular.  And, when Elizabeth ascended to the throne, connnecting to late-Henrician and early-Edwardian ritualism not only made political sense but marked the inherent conservativism of England’s Reformation.

A number of implications of late Henrician worship might be drawn, most pertaining to modern Anglican circumstance. Nonetheless, the Ornament Rubric tells Anglicans what is distinctive about their worship. This requires not only an inquiry into early reformation canon but also the pastoral nature which canons purpose. And though the the Rubric has been somewhat historically regulated (sic., 1566 Advertisements vs. 1604 canons, cathedral and collegiate use, etc..), Elizabeth’s Rubric provides a specific liturgical identity apart from Rome, the East, and Geneva. Additionally, liturgy and ritual is packed with theological meaning. This latter fact is too often overlooked. At a time when Anglicanism is on the brink of fragmentation and scattering, the style as well as unique content of Anglicanism should be clung to.  Meanwhile, Presbyterians on the left and Eastern Orthodoxy (or Rome) on the right are likely most to profit from any continued apathy.

The next couple articles will explore certain common reverences in worship and their connection to a distinct English iconodulism. Meanwhile, I hope to touch upon questions that gradually tie all prior essays together– namely, the working of justification in worship.  This is implicit from the Henrician, etc..

12 responses to “Late-Henrician Ritual

  1. I commend you for your research abilities and tireless efforts!

    Though I am no longer an Anglican, the continued fragmentation of Anglicanism does make me sad. The tragedy of contemporary Anglicanism is a prime example of what happens when a people (Anglicans) no longer have a strong understanding of themselves and where they come from. Thank you for continuing to bear witness to the English Reformation!


    • Hi Eric,

      There are many good things about Lutheranism. Where I live we have a Missouri Synod church that is under a Lutheran Bishop. The reverend there, who is a ritualist, made a special point to acquire a cure in the ‘English District’. I need to visit Fr. Berg, and pick his brain about his bishop. I could then post something about this rather rare office in american Lutheranism.

      Meanwhile, I have a recent link posted regarding ‘Medieval Protestantism’. Tim Enloe is an amazing thinker and writer. Please check him out, and perhaps post it somewhere.

      Discarded Image
      Societas Christiana
      Tim Enloe

      Tim Enloe’s writings, particularly his podcasts (now at Discarded Image), was a major influence, drawing me from Presbyterianism into Anglicanism. The other was the prayer book itself, especially the rites for ‘states of life’. I believe, between protestants, the Lutheran and some Reformed (German and Dutch) best represent the magisterial protestant tradition– what I call ‘original protestantism’. Therefore they have much in common, representing loosely a ‘northern catholicism’. There’s new hope for Anglicans in North America with CC churches finally making peace, a new generation of bishops emerging, and the REC becoming more or less a broad church. Nothing is static.


  2. Thanks for the recommendation – I’m enjoying reading through ”Societas Christiana” right now.


    • Tim’s mp3 files at Discarded Image are excellent. As a Lutheran with an Anglican background, you might especially enjoy his writings/books on protestant concilarism.


  3. Before any of this can be rightly understood and appreciated, one must first of all be intimately familiar with the Sarum Missal, office books and that you know where these things all went and what part they played in the ordinary religion of an English Churchman. A distinction must also be made or at least attempted between the authority of something which had the consent of Convocations, Parliament and the king as against something simply ordered by the Royal Council or the King. We must remember in his later days Henry VIII was both so sick (and probably crazy) that he had ceased to rule as a constitutional monarch and begun to act as an absolute one. This was carried over to a greater or lesser extent by Edward VI’s Regency Council as he was still a minor at the time of his death. And then there is the no so little matter of the Book of Common Prayer itself in what it contains and what it pointedly omits.

    The Book of Common Prayer simply omits the rites which necessitated so many of the items mentioned above. The blessing of bread at the end of the communion service so that those who did not go to communion could have the imitation of it by receiving a piece of blessed bread from the priest at the end of the service as is still done in the Orthodox Church was part of the rite of the Sarum Missal, but it was omitted from the prayer book because the intention of that book was to bring the people, i.e., the Church, back to at least the weekly reception of Holy Communion as was the practice in the primitive Church. And this was the general note of the reform, i.e., to prevent ordinary Christians from being so caught up in the high drama of these rites that they ended up neglecting their core duties as Christians which the Book of Common Prayer defines as participation in the offices and the Holy Communion service including the act of actually receiving the sacrament.

    In short, what the Book of Common Prayer was about was a return to basics and essentials as defined by what the whole Church had done the first five centuries of its existence. As such, it should be noted that originally it excluded the Ordinal because those offices concerned the bishops primarily and as such would probably never be seen outside cathedrals. It concentrated on basics because it was the basics which gotten short shrift over the period of the previous five centuries when the dramatic shift in language and culture had deprived Western lay Christians of any real understanding of what the liturgy was and their role in it.

    On the other hand, it finally occurred to me that there is one thing which is too frequently missing from common Anglican usage which is never mentioned in these various lists of things and ceremonies to be discontinued. It was a staple of the worship of the Church East and West at the time of the Reformation and is strongly connected in the Old and New Testament with the worship of the Church. Plus we know from the works of folks such as Herbert in The Country Parson and Lancelot Andrewes as well as account books which have survived from large parish church and cathedrals that it continued to be used right up through the 18th century. And what is that? Incense!


    • Hi Bishop Lee,

      Walter Frere said in his Principles of Religious Ceremony, “Canon law is not repealed, necessarily, as is statute law, when it is no longer required to be in force. ” (p. 182)

      The way I understand this is the Ornament rubric is like canon while the Advertisements were a kind of lesser law, in this case analogous to statute. The Advertisements were indeed irregular, and any injunction after 1559 that might have abridged the Ornament Rubric really had no normative authority other than being expedient. So, please don’t think I am confusing post-1559 injunctions with the Ornament Rubric. They are different legal creatures.

      However, my interest doesn’t bar all injunctions. There are some which are very important. If the second year of Edward VI is normative, then wouldn’t it stand to reason that whatever regulated and enforced worship in the second year is also normative? This is why I’m looking at the 1547, 1538, 1536 injunctions because they desribe 1549 worship. And, while the 1547 injunctions came by Privy Council, they finally received royal assent in 1548 according to Frere.

      Is this method off-track? One thing I did forget by listing formative laws was the 1542 Act which made the Sarum Use a norm for England. Still I believe the 1536-1547 injunctions need calculation into the 1549 solution.


    • The BCP is what we might call a “high-context” document. In other words, it’s not exhaustively prescriptive because it resides in the context of a common practice which was (at the time it was produced) widely known.

      North-end celebration with a black scarf is a product of the Captivity of the “Protectorate”, and is not what the producers of the 1549 et seq. envisioned.


      • You are very correct Matthew, and by the ‘protectorate’ I assume you mean the regency of Edward VI not Cromwell. But the vast bulk of the 1547 injunctions merely reiterate what Henry established 1536-1542. So, it’s not so easy to divide the early protectorate from what preceded beforehand. It’s from the 1536 and 1538 injunctions you get the suppression of relics, certain icons, and shrines. You also have a rather ‘high’ Augustinian if not Lutheran view of justification prior to the protectorate, as read in the 1543 King’s Book, albeit not applied to all areas of worship but incubating nonetheless. To really make that clear distinction between, say, early Edward and Henry VIII, I believe you must go back before 1535 or thereabouts– at least before the ten articles. Also, it’s not as if Cranmer’s reforms happened overnight, Jan. 27th vs. Jan 28th 1549. They were increasingly introduced from 1536 on, with some up and downs along the way.


  4. Benton H Marder

    Brother Lee,

    I note that the new Ordinal was not published until 1550. Perhaps it simply wasn’t ready when the 1549 Book came into force? Certainly, an Ordinal would have been necessary to fit the Prayer Book.
    Well into the 19th century, many common editions of the Prayer Book did not include the Ordinal. As you mention, an ordination was generally done in a cathedral or bishop’s chapel. Lambeth Chapel was the scene of many consecrations, by the way. Parker was done there—not at the Nag’s Head in Cheapside.

    Incense is another story. The Carolines and them that came after used a standing censer, sometimes on a separate table. The thing wasn’t carried about and swung on a set of chains. There is an example of a stationary censer hung on chains—the great big one in the nave at Satiago de Compostela, which is lit up as a bonfire, the incense loaded on by the poud, and swung from the chains fitted from the ceiling. AfterCatherine would love to have one of these at St Mark’s, Portland.
    However, incense is not everybody’s cup of tea. In the old days, frankincense was costly; most parishes simply could not afford this luxury—not in Henry’s day or afterward until the late 18th century when England was properous. Still, by then, incense had acquired a partisan identification.
    A useful enquiry on all these matters might be made of what survived and continued in the Swedish Church over the centuries. They did not have to deal with the pseudo-Calvinism the Church of England did. I say ‘pseudo’ because Calvin’s own views were ‘higher’ than those of his followers

    In +,


  5. The surplice and tippet celebrations are indeed a result of what came to be under Cromwell and not the Regency of Edward Vi. That was much too short to have had any great influence except with those who fled to Switzerland during Mary’s reign.

    Benton, I reject what you have to say about “standing incense burners’ because what it was said that they did could not have been done with such. It is like the question of vestments. They were restored during Mary and were there when Elizabeth came to the throne. The were used in the Chapels Royal, college and university chapel as well as the cathedrals for the totality of Elizabeth’s reign. They were also used in the private chapels of those such as the Cecils who had influence with Elizabeth as well as those who hoped to do so. But those who entered the priesthood with the intention of “changing the Church of England, ” the same folk who reconfigured English parish churches, were quick to destroy them as soon as they got their hands on the particular parish.

    The Rev’d Canon Malcolm MacColl wrote that he investigated the accounts of his cathedral and found that again and again they had ordered the copes necessary to obey the canon and actually taken possession of same. But he in his time and place was totally unable to find a single one of them. Why? Because those marvelously, morally superior low churchmen stole and destroyed them over and over again just as they intended and all but destroyed the Church itself.

    As for the use of incense, there are and always have been things cheaper than pure frankincense and they were used where frankincense and cinnamon would not be afforded. The nonsense of it having acquired a “partisan identification” is really a matter of certain pseudo-Christians rejecting what Holy Scripture orders and commends again and again. Considering the huge numbers of would be Christians who find themselves morally unable to obey our Lord’s command to “Do this in remembrance of me.”

    I have this vision of our denominational friends arriving in heaven and finding it full of the smoke of incense (remember the twenty-four bowls) are immediately convinced that they have instead been sent to hell. Considering their expectations, it will certainly be that for far too many of them.


    • In Dearmer’s Parson’s Handbook I found this quote in a juicy footnote regarding some injunctions prior to 1549.

      “The particulars of these ornaments…are referred not to the fifth of Ed. VI…for in that fifth year were all ornaments taken away, (but a surplice only)…but to the second year of that king when his service book and injunctions were in force by authority of Parliament. And in those books many other ornaments are appointed; as, two lights to be set upon the altar or communion-table, a cope or vestment for the priest and for the bishop, besides their albes, surplices, and rochets, the bishop’s crozier staff, to be holden by him at his ministration and ordinations; and those ornaments of the church, which by former laws, not then abrogated, were in use, by virtue of the statute 25 Henry VIII 1533-34, and for them the provincial constitutions are to be consulted, such as have not been repealed, standing then in the second year of King Edw. VI, and being still in force by virtue of this rubric and act of parliament…’ Cosin’s Works, vol. v. (third series) pp. 438-9. … Thus the Notes refer the Rubric, not to the First Book only, but also to the statute of 1533, and to the Injunctions of the first year of Edw. VI, 1547. Even in 1548 the Order forbade they ‘varying of any other rite or ceremony in the mass (until other order shall be provided)’, which order was provided by the first prayer book, published in 1549. That Prayer book, however, abolished very little.” (p. 26)

      It stands to reason we ought to therefore reference the injunctions and articles 1534-1549 to define Henrician worship. Otherwise, we have something very close to Roman Catholicism, and this is why I imagine the ACC propounds a 1543 cut-off. By 1548 the reforms on worship were in basically finished form. Dearmer says, “The Revisers deliberately referred baqck to the year 1548, because they considered that by that year enough had been abolished, and that those ornaments which remained were not incongruous with the reformed service” (p. 24)

      And, in the footnote below, Dearmer says about Advertisements which partly suppressed the Ornament Rubric (or preserved it by halting further disorder) that they were a “judgement of policy not of law”. It is this same kind of policy Dearmer recommends in his own day to restore the fullness of the law,

      “It is true that different degrees of elaboration are legitimate, and indeed necessary. One parish may have simpler ornaments or ceremonial, just as one may have simpler music than another. In very many places, for instance, a simple form of sung Eucharist is needed– a service in which the music is restricted perhaps to a few popular hymns, the ornaments to the plainest of vestments, and the ceremonial to the necessary actions. Such a service will be widely used when we begin really to win the people back to worship, for the people as a whole are not yet ready for anything else. But how seldom till quite recently was a simple service seen that was at once law-abiding and consistent, reverent, devotional, and dignified! What wanton diversities of ritual and ceremonial, what suicidal exaggerations of party differences, what strange substitutes of our own imagining have been put forward in the place of the order of the Prayer Book! To provide varying degrees of the same thing is both lawful and expedient; but it is neither one nor the other to introduce or to continue irreconcilable and indefensible divergences” (p. 7-8)

      Dearmer then gives some examples of irreconcilable divergences, namely omitting morning prayer and interpolations in the established communion liturgy, so that they be “puritan in one place and Roman in another”. I imagine the lawful divergences would have been those outlined by Privy Council and Lambeth hearings. In the 1899 Lambeth hearing the archbishops admitted ‘degrees’ of difference but only by proper authority,

      “Every Clergyman is required by the Thirty-sixth Canon to use the Form in the Book of Common Prayer prescribed, and none other. This prevents the insertion of any additional prayer or ceremony without special authority. And the only authority which can bind or authorise the Clergyman to make any variation whatever from what is contained in the Book is either an Act of Convocation, legalised when necessary by Parliament, or the order of the Crown, issued with the advice and consent of the Metropolitan under the Act of 1559., or a direction of the Ordinary under the Uniformity Act Amendment Act of 1872.”


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