09 November 2003

How often the Lord's Supper?

Many churches in the Reformed tradition celebrate the Lord's Supper only quarterly, while others celebrate monthly. That this was an improvement over the once-a-year reception characteristic of much of the mediaeval west is not to be doubted. But Calvin would have liked to see even more frequent celebration and reception:

Plainly this custom which enjoins us to take communion once a year is a veritable invention of the devil, whoever was instrumental in introducing it. . . . For there is not the least doubt that the Sacred Supper was in that era [the early church] set before the believers every time they met together; and there is no doubt that a majority of them took communion. . . .

Calvin regreted the less frequent reception of his own day and urged reform:

It should have been done far differently: the Lord's Table should have been spread at least once a week for the assembly of Christians, and the promises declared in it should feed us spiritually (Inst. IV.XVII. 46, emphasis mine).

Unfortunately the city fathers of Geneva could not be persuaded to go along with Calvin's wishes. Calvin hoped that his successors might put the matter right:

I have taken care to record publicly that our custom is defective, so that those who come after me may be able to correct it the more freely and easily (Bretschneider, Corpus Reformatorum, XXXVIII,i, p. 213).

After nearly half a millennium, isn't it finally time to follow Calvin on this matter?

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