Luther on Frequency of Eucharist

To the prudent and wise Lazarus Spengler at Nürnberg, etc. my friend and lord, who is so favorably inclined toward me

Grace and peace in Christ! Prudent, dear Lord and Friend! I received your letter, together with the document concerning the mass, and studied it diligently. Although I arrived at the conclusion that you do not need my counsel since God himself has provided you with such people in Nürnberg [who can advise you on this matter], yet at your request I shall willingly also add my voice.

First of all, it is proper and prudent not to compel anyone to come to or abstain from the sacrament, or to appoint particular times or places for it, thus trapping the consciences. Since St. Paul teaches, however, [in] I Corinthians 14 [:40, that] among Christians all things should be done in an orderly fashion, it seems good to me that the Provosts and ministers should get together and decide on a common and free procedure for this matter. The honorable city council should then see to it that this procedure is used, and thus preserve unity and uniformity. If I were asked for advice regarding such a procedure, I would suggest the following:

First, that all masses without communicants should be completely abolished; it is only right that they should be abolished, as their brief itself announces.

Second, that one or two masses should be celebrated on Sundays or on the days of the saints in the two parish churches, depending on whether there is a great or small number of communicants. If there were a need for it, or if it were considered desirable, the same could be done at the Spital.

Third, during the week mass could be celebrated on whatever day there is a need for it, that is, if there are some communicants present who ask for it and desire it. In this way no one would be forced to come to the sacrament, and yet everyone would be served [with the sacrament] in an orderly and sufficient way.

If the ministers complain about this, however, alleging that they are thus forced [to celebrate the Lord’s Supper], or lamenting that they are unworthy [to celebrate the Lord’s Supper], I would tell them that no one compels them except God himself through his call. For since they have the office, they are already obliged and compelled (on the basis of their calling and office) to administer the sacrament when it is requested of them; thus their excuses are void. This is the same as their obligation to preach, comfort, absolve, help the poor, and visit the sick, as often as these services are needed and demanded.

It also does not matter that someone may pretend to be unworthy because of his weak faith, shortcomings in his life, or coldness in devotion. He ought to look at his vocation and office, or even [better], at the Word of God which has called him. He may be impure and unworthy, yet the office and the call, or the Word, is sufficiently pure and worthy. And if he really believes he has been called, then he himself is, through this faith, worthy enough. For whoever believes he is called to the office of the church definitely also believes that his office and his work, and he himself in such an office, are acceptable and just before God; if he does not believe this, then it is also certain that he does not believe that his vocation and office are entrusted to him by God. …

Such an innovation may cause quite some commotion among the common people, but this is a risk which must be taken and put into the hands of God. But one must do everything to quiet any such commotion. This could be done in the following way: The undertaking of the visitation provides a good opportunity to admonish [the people] from the pulpit and to impress upon them that, as they themselves and the whole world well know, there have been many abuses in the worship, which we intend to correct.

Therefore they should be calm and not so outraged when some things are changed. Also in things which are of concern to all, no one should consider his own opinion to be the best. Rather all should devoutly help [and] pray to God, who does not wish anything in his church done according to man’s opinion, work, or word, but according to God’s Word and work (as St. Peter teaches), so that through His Spirit all things may be arranged in a blessed and good way. …

August 15, 1528

LW 49:205-210.

Notice that Luther assumes that the Sacrament will be celebrated at least weekly.


4 thoughts on “Luther on Frequency of Eucharist

  1. Pingback: A Most Precious Gift….to receive often.. | A Justified Sinner....

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