Wednesday, July 27, 2016

"Matins as the Chief Service" by P.E. Kretzmann




Note: Thank you very much to Rev. Aaron Uphoff of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Randolph, NJ for the "heads up" and commentary on this interesting article.



In his June 1933 article in Concordia Theological Monthly, “Matins as the Chief Service,” P.E. Kretzmann gives modern readers a glimpse into a previous generation’s disagreements about worship.  Responding to the apparent push by some Lutheran ministers to substitute Matins for the Common Service without Communion on certain Sundays and/or festivals, Kretzmann gives an overview of three principles which guide Lutheran liturgics, discusses their application in service liturgies, and suggests guidelines should one insist upon making the Matins substitution.

The three principles are the gem of the article and he outlines them thusly:

1. Liturgical Unity: The liturgy must have a “singleness, wholeness, unity, so that the service does not present a disjointed conglomeration, but organizes into a single whole the many parts and intricate relations of a great symphony or a Gothic cathedral.” (p.438)


2. Liturgical Movement: “[T]he liturgy must represent the flowing stream of vital life. Points of transition from one part to another must be smoothly made and add momentum to the service.” (p.438)

3. Liturgical Scope: The liturgy should possess a “rhythm [of a] . . . proper alternation between the objective and the subjective, the sacramental and the sacrificial.” (p.438)

The third principle, that of the liturgy’s scope, he uses as his chief argument as to why Matins should not, in its set form, replace the Common Service on Sundays or festivals, stating that by itself the Matins service has an insufficient sacramental nature.  It is sufficiently sacrificial, offering right prayer and praise to God, but, in his opinion, it lacks ample sacramentality in which God graciously deals with the gathered congregation by His means of grace. 

However, while modern readers might initially infer from his words that Kretzmann is referring to the absence of the Sacrament of the Altar, such is not the case.  Quite the contrary, over and against those who would contend that a service is not fully sacramental or is incomplete without Holy Communion, he later states:

For the Eucharist is not the real climax of the morning service, the second and higher mountain, as has been asserted, but only the further application of the Word of God in announcing the forgiveness of sins. The service is thus quite complete if it closes with the General Prayer and the Aaronic Benediction. If we emphasize the Eucharist unduly, we shall make the mistake of the early Catholic Church, when its disciplina arcani accorded to the Lord's Supper a place of disproportionate importance. Highly as we value the Eucharist and convinced as we are that it should be celebrated far more frequently, we cannot place it above the service of the Word proper; for, after all, it receives its authority only from the Word of God, as Luther shows so clearly in his exposition of the Sixth Chief Part. (p.441)

In writing these words, Kretzmann was responding to the pro-substitution party which reasoned that the Common Service was incomplete when not concluded with Holy Communion, and, ergo, Matins was a desirable alternative, being a complete form and rite in and of itself.  Kretzmann’s disagreement with this position prompted him to propose guidelines for those who would insist upon substituting Matins, which he outlines at the end of the article.  In short, in order to increase the sacramental nature of Matins, he proposes adding elements from the Common Service to it, including but not limited to the Confession of Sins and the Kyrie.  Only with such additions, he contends, can Matins be a chief service liturgy.

Although he may challenge particular trends among today’s liturgically conscious Lutherans, Kretzmann provides a good frame of reference for how our liturgies function and why they have the form that they do.  And even though some will take exception to his insistence on the sufficiency of the Common Service without Communion and his proposed liturgical innovations to Matins, his three principles on liturgics serve as a good explanation and apologetic for those unaware or unconvinced of the value of liturgical worship. That is enough to keep this article helpful and relevant even after 80-plus years.


Need to Get Read Level: 7/10 for pastors and 3/10 for layman


Rev. Aaron Uphoff




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