V: Holy Communion Every Sunday

Q: Why is Holy Communion offered every Sunday?

A: Holy Communion (also called the Holy Eucharist, the Lord's Supper, or the Mass by Lutherans) is the ultimate and central worship for Christians and has been so from the beginning. In this worship, God's Word is proclaimed (1) In audible words, reading and preaching on the Bible; and (2) in the following of Jesus' command, "Do this for the remembrance of me". In no other experience is the presence of Christ promised so fully or ultimately.

Jesus used a Jewish meal to become the vehicle to focus His Presence (I Cor. 11:23-26 and other texts), having identified Himself as Living Bread (St. John 6:48-58). After Easter, He showed Himself to His own at "the Breaking of Bread" (St. Luke 24: 13-35). The first Christians shared the Lord's Supper as a part of their regular worship gatherings (Acts 2:42), which were daily in Jerusalem (Acts 2:46). As the Gospel spread, Sunday (called, 'The Lord's Day") became the primary day in all Christian communities for this worship, as evidenced in Acts 20: 7. The Eucharist was the primary purpose to meet as a Church in Corinth (I Cor. 11:20a) and it was on Sunday (I Cor. 16:2). Pagan and Christian writings alike witness the universal practice of first and second generation Christians celebrating the Eucharist each Sunday before the year 100 (e.g., The Didache and the Letter of Pliny.)

Though theological and liturgical emphases changed, the chief service of Sunday through the centuries remained Holy Communion until the Reformation (16th century). Martin Luther and his followers, however, continued the practice of weekly Sunday communion, and the Apology of the Augsburg Confession stated, "In our churches Mass is celebrated every Sunday and on other festivals."

Later influences created in Lutheranism a situation where weekly Sunday communion was lost in many places. Weekly Communion is again being restored to: (1) more fully obey the command of Christ as witnessed in Scripture, early church practice, and the teaching of the Reformation; (2) make more available the gracious gifts of God given in the sacrament for His baptized people; (3) exhibit more fully the meaning of the Church as "the Body of Christ", seeing the Eucharist as binding together God's people into Christ's Body; (4) respond more fully to the contemporary biblical, liturgical, ecumenical, and confessional movements which have all rediscovered the central place of the Eucharist in the life of the Church; and (5) claim the promises God gives in Communion, which are only available when the command "Do This" Is obeyed.

Adapted from About Being Lutheran © Lutheran Liturgical Renewal 1991. Used by permission.