Project Canterbury


Presented to both Houses of Parliament by Command of His Majesty

transcribed by Mr Thomas J W Mason
AD 2001


(13) The Blessing of Palms.

A service known as the “Blessing of Palms” on Palm Sunday has been introduced in some churches. There is no evidence before us as to the number of these churches; but accounts of four such services were given by different witnesses.

The ceremony consist of (1) the blessing of the palms by the priest, with the use of incense, and in one case the sprinkling of holy water; (2) the distribution of the palms so blessed among the clergy and congregation; and (3) a procession in the church in which the clergy and congregation carrying these palms take part.

Bishop Creighton and the present Bishop of London have sanctioned the distribution of palms, provided the prayers used are for a blessing on the people, not on the palms, and that the palms are neither censed not sprinkled with holy water.

Beyond the mention of a purely local use in Jerusalem in the fourth century, there is no certain indication of anything corresponding to this service till about the eighth century, from which date onwards services of a more or less elaborate character appear. The association attaching to the ceremony is simple and obvious.

(14) Tenebræ.

The service known in the Roman Church as “Tenebræ” has also been introduced in some churches. Tenebræ is the name given to a special form of Mattins and Lauds used on the Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday in Holy Week, since the eighth or ninth century. A number of lighted candles were extinguished one by one at the end of each Psalm, recalling the darkness of Calvary. A single candle remained alight which, after the Benedictus, was hidden behind the altar, and again brought out at the close of the service, to signify that Christ the Light of the World was hidden in the grave and afterwards rose again.

Accounts of three Tenebræ Services are given in the evidence. One of these, at St. Cuthbert's, Pilbeach Gardens, appears to have contained most of the ceremonies above described. Bishop Creighton is said to have sanctioned this particular service, thought he objected to the name. The present Bishop of London has refused to sanction the service of Tenebræ.

(15) Washing the altars.

The ceremony of washing the altar with water and wine, practised in the Roman Church on Maundy Thursday, is reported to have been performed in one church (St. Columba's, Haggerston). Bishop Creighton refused to sanction this practice.

The stripping and washing of altars on Maundy Thursday can be traced back to the seventh century as part of the general cleansing of the church before Easter. It later times the altars were often washed with wine and water; and mystical interpretation came to be attached to the ceremony.

(16) Paschal Candle.

In five churches, as to which evidence was given, a candle of great size, called the Paschal Candle, is introduced and lit at Easter. The significance of the observance is thus described by a writer of the Roman Church:

“The Paschal Candle, blest in the next place by the deacon, if a figure of the Body Cof Jesus Christ--not lighted at first to represent Him dead; and the five blest grains of incense fixed in it denote the aromatic spices that embalmed His Sacred Wounds. When the deacon lights it, it is a representation of the Resurrection; and the lighting of the lamps and other candles afterwards teaches the faithful that the resurrection of the Head will be followed by that of the members.”

The use of the Paschal Candle has been declared illegal by the Court of Arches. Bishop Creighton refused to sanction the benediction of a Paschal Candle.

The first certain mention of the Paschal Candle is found about the year 500 A.D.; and from that date onwards it appears to have been gradually introduced throughout the various Churches of the West.

(17) Stations of the Cross.

Pictoral or sculptured representation of our Lord's Passion, hung round the walls or pillars of the church, are mentioned in the evidence, under the name of “Stations of the Cross,” as present in 138 out of the 559 churches. The full number of such representations is fourteen, which includes two traditional incidents in our Lord's Passion not recorded in Holy Scripture. In some churches (three are mentioned in the evidence) these two are omitted.

A series of representation of fourteen Stations of the Cross was directed by the Court of Arches to be removed from a church in which they had been placed without a faculty. An opinion was also expressed that at least the two representations of traditional incidents mentioned above were decorations forbidden by law.

It is probably that in many churches where the pictures or representations are placed they are regarded as mere decorations and are not used for purposes of devotion. But the “Stations of the Cross” is also the name given to a series of devotions of a private nature, or conducted by a clergyman accompanied by a greater or less number of people, before each of these representations in succession. The words said or read, at each Station vary, but, speaking generally, they consist (1) of a statement of the fact recorded in the particular picture or sculpture; (2) a prayer; (3) the Lord's Prayer; (4) the Hail Mary; and (5) one or more versicles and responses, as, for examples, “Lord, have mercy upon us,” “Christ, have mercy upon us,” “May the souls of the faithful, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.”

We have no evidence as to the number of churches where such services take place; and there is good reason to believe that in many of those in which the Stations of the Cross are used for purposes of devotion, the Hail Mary is omitted form the form employed.

This series of pictures and the devotions offered before them are of purely modern origin, having been introduced into the Roman Church so late as the seventeenth century. It cannot therefore be claimed that the pictures are covered by the Ornaments Rubric, or that the devotions are a revival of ancient English use.

(18) Observance of days not appointed by the Prayer Book to be observed.

We have evidence of many cases in which days not appointed by the Prayer Book to be observed have been observed with the announcement and holding of special services. Except in the case of special forms of services for occasions authorised by 35 and 36 Vict., cap. 35, sect. 3 (see paragraphs 33 and 55), all such observances must be regarded as irregular. Additional irregularity is also introduced by the use of Collects, Epistles and Gospels other than those appointed by the Prayer Book. Their use traverses the fourth section of the above mentioned Act. Eight instances of such use on Sundays or Holy-days for which the Prayer Book appoints Collects, Epistles and Gospels were given in evidence. In three of them the Collect, Epistle, or Gospel used appeared to be that appointed in the Roman Missal.

The irregularity consisting in the observance of unauthorised days has a different aspect and character in different cases; and these may be arranged in three classes.

(i.) The observance of special occasions of the kind mentioned in paragraph 55, so far as they are not covered by the Shortened Services Act (35 and 36 Vict., cap. 35).

(ii.) The observance of Black Letter Saints' Days.

(iii.) The observance of days which either were at the Reformation excluded from the kalendar in the Prayer Book or have at a more recent date been introduced into the kalendar of the Roman Church. We deal with irregularities of this class at paragraph 242, etc.

With regard to (ii.), evidence was given of special services in sixteen churches in commemoration of the following Black Letter Saints' Days:Ñ(1) With special Collect or Epistle and Gospel--St. Margaret, Holy Cross Day, St. Cyprian, Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Agnes, St. Nicomede, Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Alban, St. Edmund, St. George, Translation of Edward King of the West Saxons, St. Giles, and Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. (2) Without special Collect or Epistle and Gospel--Invention of the Cross, Holy Name, St. Mary Magdalene.

In the evidence, instances were give of notices of services on Black Letter Saints' Days, and of announcement made during services of the occurrence of such anniversaries in the week following, viz.:--Services--one instance with regard to each of the following days, viz. Translation of St. Martin, St. Lawrence, St. Margaret, St. Mary Magdalene, St. Etheldreda, St. Anne, Festival of King Edward the Confessor, and Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary: announcement--one instance with regard to each of the following days, viz. St. Cecilia, St. Clement, St. Catherine, and St. Lawrence.

Many of the Bishops have sanctioned special services on Black Letter Saints' Days, as distinguished from anniversaries not contained in, or excluded from, the Prayer Book kalendar.

Some of the Bishops have authorised the use at celebrations on Black Letter Saints' Days of special Collects, Epistles, and Gospels not contained in the Prayer Book.

Some Bishops while allowing the use of special Collects, Epistles, and Gospels, require that the Collects shall be taken from the Prayer Book.

Bishop Creighton declined to allow special Collects, Epistles, and gospels on Black Letter Saints' Days, on the ground that it was beyond the power of an individual bishop to make a permanent addition to the Prayer Book. In the case of St. Peter's, London Docks, he seems, however, to have somewhat receded from this position.

The first Prayer Book of Edward VI. (1549) reduced the unreformed kalendar so that the only Holy-days were those now called Red Letter Days, and in addition St. Mary Magdalene's Day. In the second Prayer Book of Edward VI. (1552) St. Mary Magdalene was omitted; and St. George, Lammas, St. Lawrence, and St. Clement (Black Letter Days) were added. Several non-ecclesiastical notices, such as the several signs of the Zodiac, and “Term begins,” were also included, In Queen Elizabeth's Prayer Book (1559) no change appears to have been at first intentionally made in the kalendar. But in 1561 a new kalendar compiled by a Royal Commission was prefixed to the Prayer Book. This kalendar agrees with that in the present Prayer Book except that it does not include Enurchus, Ven. Bede, and St. Alban. The first was added in 1604 and the other two at the last revision in 1662. At the latter date the separate list of the Red Letter Days headed “Table of all the Feasts that are to be observed in the Church of England throughout the Year” was introduced. These words appear to exclude the special observance of other feats. By 5 and 6 Edward VI., cap. 3, which is still unrepealed, it is enacted that the days mentioned in the Act (that is the present Red Letter Days except the Conversion of St. Paul and St. Barnabas), “and none other,” “shall be kept and commanded to be kept Holy-days or to abstain from lawful bodily labour.”

In 1661 the Puritans objected to the inclusion of the Black Letter Days in the kalendar; and the Bishops replied that these anniversaries “are left in the kalendar not that be so [that is, as the Red Letter Days] kept as Holy-days, but they are useful for the preservation of their memories and for other reasons, as for Leases, Law days, etc.” Nicholls, in his commentary on the Book of Common Prayer (1710), refers to the subject in accordance with this view.

Sir Robert Phillimore, when the Dean of Arches, held that it was illegal to give notice in church of feasts comprised in the list of Black Letter Saints' Days.

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