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Where the Church is Found

November 17, 2009

Herman Sasse has a fantastic quote on the Lord’s Supper in his Preface to Vom Sakrament Des Altars (reprinted in The Lonely Way, vol.2):

“Around the Lord’s Table is gathered the church.  At the Table of the Lord, the church knows what it most profoundly  is: the body of Christ.  There has been no doubt of this since the days of the apostles.  Where the Table of the Lord is deserted, where the Lord’s Supper is no longer known or celebrated, there the church dies, irretrievably lost.”

This is certainly has a lot to say for every Sunday communion, and begs the question: do Divine Services without Communion (ala TLH pg. 5) teach our people that communion is optional in the life of the church?  Now, the congregation I serve has communion every Sunday, alternating between first and second services.  We use the same liturgy and hymns at each service, except that the Lord’s Supper is celebrated at one of the two.   So I am curious what others may think.

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From → Theology

6 Comments
  1. I liken the Divine Service without Communion to cooking a meal and not eating it.

    At my current congregation, we have one service a week and communion on the 1st and 3rd Sundays. On the “off” Sundays, we follow the form of Matins.

    Now, the congregation does not know all of the canticles involved in Matins, but much like Deutsche Messe, there are appropriate hymns to sing in those places. “Holy God, We Praise Thy Name” is a versification of the Te Deum. We learned a setting Psalm 95 from This Far By Faith for the Venite. An outside-the-box solution is to substitute the Introit for the Venite. Given the rubrics call for “additional psalms,” the Introit or appointed psalm (or both) also flow nicely after the Venite and serve as a lead-in to the readings.

    There is a curious rubric in Matins and Morning Prayer. While the additional psalms, readings, canticles, and office hymn are in BOLD CAPITAL LETTERS this portion is in small read print:

    A Sermon or Catechetical Instruction may follow.

    I haven’t done it, but the order of Matins could be totally contemplative, focusing on the core of psalms, canticles, readings and prayer. I suppose this form works better as part of a daily prayer life or perhaps a midweek gathering as opposed to a substitution for the Divine Service though.

    The sermon is a major element of Sunday worship, so I can’t say as I recommend implementing this option regularly, but if your pastor comes down with the flu on Saturday night, an elder or deacon can jump in and lead Matins from start to finish by exercising this rubric. You eliminate the issues of lay absolution, pre-consecrated elements, and an “improvised sermonette” by your head elder.

    There is really only one hymn in Matins. You can trade out the canticle for a hymn, you can do a hymn versification of a psalm, and you can and hymns to the usual places such as “opening hymn,” “closing hymn,” and “sermon hymn.”

    In the situation of alternating early and late services, it will require a little more preparation and perhaps separate worship folders. However, once you get in the groove you find there is an interesting “plug-and-play” aspect to Matins. I find it much more flexible than the Divine Service. I serve an urban parish and Matins has served the congregation well when special Sundays come along, such as LWML Sunday or a Sunday when the school children sing (we get LOTS of visitors on those Sunday).

    Last year, I decided to blow up the Thanksgiving service and start over again. Matins provided the perfect backdrop to inject creativity and still retain the integrity of this unique order.

    • I think I would mostly agree. I don’t really like a pg. 5 style service. That being said, I’m glad we at least have the Sacrament every Sunday. So while it’s not my ideal, I think it is working for this congregation and maybe sometime in the future we’ll go to every service. Who knows?

    • Also, regarding Matins, since it was originally drawn from the Monastic offices, it did not have a sermon. Matins was meant to be a quick prayer service. I do think having a sermon, especially when it is the only service someone may go to on a Sunday, is a good idea. Back in Luther and Bach’s time, Matins was held first on a Sunday (not sure if there was preaching), with the Divine Service following. So preaching may not have been necessary.

      And we also use Matins as the basis for our Thanksgiving service and it works well.

      • The Romanian Orthodox Church near my apartment follows the historic practice of praying Matins before the Divine Liturgy each Sunday. In this sense, it is not the main service (sometimes called ante-communion – “before” communion). Since I am always in my own church on Sunday, I don’t know if they have a sermon or not.

        This brings up an interesting point, Matins can be celebrated in its fullness or in its simplicity.

      • Lance permalink

        I know at Redeemer in Ft. Wayne, they have Divine Service/communion every other week at their early service. (Late service is Divine Service/communion every week.) On the non-communion Sundays at the early service, they use Matins. Immediately after Matins has ended, anyone who wants to can go to the altar rail to receive the Sacrament. They use a shortened , yet reverent, communion liturgy (nothing sung, etc.) and it probably takes only about 10 minutes, or so. I’ve never seen this done anywhere else, but it allows people who go to the non-communion early services to still receive the Sacrament if they want to, and those who don’t want to receive it don’t have to. (I have no idea why anyone wouldn’t want to, but that’s another issue all together.)

      • I must say, I find that to be an intriguing idea.

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