Monday, January 25, 2016

Why Matins, Mass and Evensong?

Why am I so passionate about parishes having Matins, Holy Communion, and Evensong every Sunday and Principal Holy Day?

You could think up a lot of wrong answers, “He’s an effete elitist music lover” that is partly true I do love church music, but it is not the reason. “He is a traditionalist with the dead faith of the living.”  That I won’t respond to because it is not an argument, but name calling. “He has no social life, so he wants us all to spend hours in church on Sunday” The first half of that statement is untrue, I have plenty of friends and I like to have a few pints with them, yes even on Sunday. But the second part of that statement, that I think we need to spend more time in church on Sunday, is true.

There are several reasons, I believe we need Matins, Mass, and Evensong. They include evangelism, inclusiveness, community, tradition, and internal conversion.

Matins and Evensong are very evangelical services, packed with scripture but shorter than the Communion Service, thus allowing for a longer sermon without violating the 55-65 minute rule. The service is even seeker friendly in the sense that visitors, even the unbaptized, can be fully included in the worship experience.

Matins can be even more of an outreach opportunity if you think of the three services in this way. Evensong is your chance to discuss complex in depth topics with those who have come back for a second time on Sunday. Mass is the primary service for the gathered community of the baptized. Matins is your chance to reach out and tell the new comer about the saving power of Jesus Christ.

Evensong, on the other hand gives you a different opportunity for evangelism and ecumenism. For evangelism, Evensong will attract those who have heard of the Anglican musical tradition. This is your chance to show them the power of our theology. As for ecumenism, this is your chance to invite your colleagues from other denominations. Invite the Methodist pastor over for evensong on March 3rd, the commemoration of John and Charles Wesley, a Scots Presbyterian to evensong on November 30, the Feast of the St. Andrew the first called, etc.

The offices are inclusive. An un-churched or even unbaptized person can be fully included in the worship at Morning and Evening Prayer in a way that is not possible at the Lord’s Supper. When the Rector has spoken to a new comer at Matins or Evensong a few times then it is time to bring up the B word. That is how we are supposed to be inclusive, by preaching and then baptizing people in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.  

The Offices help build the parish community. I am tempted to say that the parish that prays together stays together, but that is trite and not always true, otherwise one would see much less division in the church catholic. However it is true that to be a community we need to be together for more than an hour and a half to two hours on Sunday. If one has Matins or Mass at 9 a.m., Christian Education at 10 a.m., whichever service you didn’t have at nine at 11 a.m., and coffee hour or monthly pot luck at noon, a parish service activity from 1:30 to 3:30, and Evensong at 4 p.m. Then you have a much stronger community, even if only part of the congregation attends the whole Sunday program.

The offices are central to both our Anglican identity and to the tradition of the wider church. The Blessed Thomas Cranmer, set forth the reformed office at the dawn of the English Reformation. It has been the distinctive marker of the Anglican Church as Reformed Catholic ever since. It is precisely because we did not abandon Mass like the radical reformers nor abandon the public recitation of the offices like the Counter Reformation Romans, that our worship is truly catholic and reformed. But the idea of Morning and Evening Prayer or to give them their pre-reformation names, Vespers and Lauds, as the hinges of daily worship is an idea that runs back to the beginning of the church and in fact earlier. The morning, noon, and evening times of prayer are mentioned in the Didache. They are in fact the continuation of the morning and evening sacrifices, now of course sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving, since the one true sacrifice ended the need for the physical sacrifice, though not the prayers as Acts 3:1 and 10:9, tells us.

The offices along with mass give us a better, fuller diet of scripture. Now these alone are not ideal, there is a reason there is a read the bible in a year chart further on in this book. However six readings plus the psalms are a better more balanced presentation of the word of God than three readings and one psalm. To better evangelize, we need to first better internalize the scriptures ourselves. The offices help with this.

How exactly we should use Matins, Mass, and Evensong on Sundays and Principal Feasts is a topic for another day.

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