What’s the matter with Mattins?

Mattins services are held in the Parish of Headley with Box Hill whenever there is a fifth Sunday in the month.   Attendance is often quite low as people find the language obscure and participation in the service can be difficult as so much is sung in rather testing chants.  It seemed, therefore, that it might be helpful to explore a little the origins and the format of this service so that with increased understanding of its origins and traditions it’s unique qualities might be better appreciated and Mattins services less dreaded!


The Anglican service properly termed  “Morning Prayer” (in the 1662 Prayer Book and the current Common Worship) is commonly referred to as Mattins and comes to us essentially unchanged from Archbishop Thomas Cranmer’s Second Prayer Book published in 1552.

For centuries following the reformation, Mattins was the principal parish service on a Sunday in the Church of England, only in certain weeks was it followed by a service of Holy Communion (Eucharist). This position was surplanted with the revival of the Eucharist as the principal Sunday service during the second half of the twentieth century.

Mattins draws on the monastic offices of Matins, Lauds and Prime, beginning with opening versicles and responses, continuing with the invitatory “Venite” (Psalm 95), the “Te Deum” and “Benedictus” (called the canticles because they are sung), interspersed with Bible readings, as well as recitation of the “Apostles’ Creed”, and ending with closing versicles adapted from the Breviary, intercessional, an address and final prayers.

Attending Mattins

Far from breeding contempt, familiarity with the canticles brings the opportunity to move from them into the worshipper’s own thoughts and prayers. Singing them is difficult (especially without music) and you should not feel ashamed to use this time for private reflection. To help this They are set out here in full with a little explanation on their origins and their role in the service.

The Venite (Psalm 95 Venite, exultemus Domino)

In this great Psalm we prepare ourselves for worship, (“let us sing unto the Lord…let us worship, and fall down and kneel before the Lord our Maker”).

O come, let us sing unto the Lord : let us heartily rejoice in the strength of our salvation.
Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving : and shew ourselves glad in him with psalms.
In his hand are all the corners of the earth :and the strength of the hills is his also.
For the Lord is a great God :and a great King above all gods.
The sea is his, and he made it :and his hands prepared the dry land.
O come, let us worship, and fall down : and kneel before the Lord our Maker.
For he is the Lord our God :and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son : and to the Holy Ghost;
as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be : world without end. Amen.


The Te Deum (Te Deum Laudamus)

A hymn of praise ascribed to Saint Augustine and St Ambrose. It holds the place in Morning Prayer taken by the Gloria in Holy Communion and like the Gloria is omitted in the penitential seasons of Lent and Advent. It contains references to the creed and quotations from the Psalms.

We praise thee, O God; we acknowledge thee to be the Lord.
All the earth doth worship thee, the Father everlasting.
To thee all angels cry aloud, the heavens and all the powers therein.
To thee cherubin and seraphin continually do cry,
Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Sabaoth;
Heaven and earth are full of the majesty of thy glory.
The glorious company of the apostles praise thee.
The goodly fellowship of the prophets praise thee.
The noble army of martyrs praise thee.
The holy Church throughout all the world doth acknowledge thee:
the Father of an infinite majesty;
thine honourable, true and only Son;
also the Holy Ghost the Comforter.

Thou art the King of glory, O Christ.
Thou art the everlasting Son of the Father.
When thou tookest upon thee to deliver man,
thou didst not abhor the Virgin’s womb.
When thou hadst overcome the sharpness of death,
thou didst open the kingdom of heaven to all believers.
Thou sittest at the right hand of God, in the glory of the Father.
We believe that thou shalt come to be our judge.
We therefore pray thee, help thy servants,
whom thou hast redeemed with thy precious blood.
Make them to be numbered with thy saints in glory everlasting.

O Lord, save thy people and bless thine heritage.
Govern them and lift them up for ever.
Day by day we magnify thee;
and we worship thy name, ever world without end.
Vouchsafe, O Lord, to keep us this day without sin.
O Lord, have mercy upon us, have mercy upon us.
O Lord, let thy mercy lighten upon us, as our trust is in thee.
O Lord, in thee have I trusted; let me never be confounded.


The Benedictus (Luke 1.68-79)

Like the Magnificat and the Nunc Dimittis which are used in Evening Prayer this canticle is taken from the Gospel of Luke. It is the Song of Zechariah, the first words he utters on the birth of his son John the Baptist. So we begin the day with John linking Jesus to the patriarchs of Genesis.

Blessed be the Lord God of Israel :
for he hath visited, and redeemed his people;
And hath raised up a mighty salvation for us :
in the house of his servant David;
As he spake by the mouth of his holy Prophets :
which have been since the world began;
That we should be saved from our enemies :
and from the hands of all that hate us;
To perform the mercy promised to our forefathers :
and to remember his holy covenant;
To perform the oath which he sware to our forefather Abraham :
that he would give us, That we being delivered out of the hands of our enemies :
might serve him without fear, In holiness and righteousness before him :
all the days of our life.
And thou, child, shalt be called the Prophet of the Highest :
for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways;
To give knowledge of salvation unto his people :
for the remission of their sins; Through the tender mercy of our God :
whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us;
To give light to them that sit in darkness,
and in the shadow of death : and to guide our feet into the way of peace.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son :
and to the Holy Ghost;
as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be :
world without end. Amen.


The Apostles’ Creed

An older and simpler version of the creed (statement of faith), avoiding some of the Christological (the nature of Christ as both man and God) issues addressed in the Nicene Creed and so more suitable for early in the morning!

I believe in God the Father almighty,
maker of heaven and earth:
and in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Ghost,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, dead, and buried.
He descended into hell;
the third day he rose again from the dead;
he ascended into heaven,
and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father almighty;
from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Ghost;
the holy catholic Church;
the communion of saints;
the forgiveness of sins;
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.


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One Response to What’s the matter with Mattins?

  1. Pingback: Morning Prayer on Box Hill – 10:30 29th January | The Word on the Hill

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