Martin Luther on the Frequency of the Eucharist (1528)

Note: Throughout the month of October, leading up to the 500th anniversary of the legendary date of the outbreak of the Reformation on October 31, 1517, Pray Tell will publish writings of Martin Luther reflecting his beliefs on liturgy and sacraments at various points in his life.

First, that all masses without communicants should be completely abolished…

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…

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.

Source: Talking Donkey.






  1. I did not know that quotation.

    From my point of view in the 21st century, I absolutely like the first point, I am not sure whether the second is plausible or not, and I disagree to the third point (because it regards the communion as an individual need and entitlement, not a collective event).

  2. Luther’s point to Spangler in the letter this is from is to defend the conscience of the Christian from the necessity of multiple celebrations of the Eucharist. In that context the third point to which you disagree is not Luther arguing for an individualistic view of the sacrament, but rather his pastoral response to those internally convicted by their sin. By providing multiple points of contact with the sacrament those consciences in need of it’s healing balm could receive it without burdening the conscience of those who would only participate on Sunday. What is interesting to me is that Luther here anticipates at least a Sunday mass. If you want to read more on the community affect of the Eucharist in Luther’s thinking I think that hid, “Treatise on the Blessed Sacrament of Christ’s Body and Blood,” is a good example on his thinking.

  3. Luther’s attitude toward the Eucharist was quite a surprise to me when I learned about it grad school, in 1990. I had played in an LCA Lutheran Church from 1976-1978. Great experience. September of 1978 was when they began celebrating Eucharist on the 1st Sunday of each month. Prior to that, thaty had offered Holy Communion only 4 times each year! I think that by the early 1980’s, they had moved the celebrating the Eucharist at both services each Sunday.

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