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Eucharist in the Lutheran Church

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Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) - The Last Supper (1495-1498)

The Last Supper as represented by Leonardo da Vinci

The Eucharist in the Lutheran Church (also called the Sacrament of the Altar, the Lord's Supper, the Lord's Table, Holy Communion, the Breaking of the Bread, and the Blessed Sacrament[1][2]) refers to the celebration of the Last Supper.

This article deals mainly with the practices and beliefs surrounding the Eucharist as practiced by Lutheran denominations which identify with Lutheran Orthodoxy. Although there is agreement among most Lutheran branches on the core meaning of the Eucharist[3][4][5] there is also a significant divide between conservative and liberal beliefs.[6]


Part of the series on

also known as
"The Eucharist" or
"The Lord's Supper"


Words of Institution
Real Presence
Sacramental union

Theologies contrasted
Eucharist (Catholic Church)
Anglican Eucharistic theology

Important theologians
Paul ·Aquinas
Augustine · Calvin
Chrysostom · Cranmer
Luther · Zwingli

Related Articles
Christianity and alcohol
Catholic Historic Roots
Closed and Open Table
Divine Liturgy
Eucharistic adoration
Eucharistic discipline
First Communion
Infant Communion
Mass · Sacrament

Lutherans believe that the Body and Blood of Christ are "truly and substantially present in, with and under the forms" of consecrated bread and wine (the elements)[7], so that communicants eat and drink both the elements and the true Body and Blood of Christ himself[8] in the Sacrament of the Eucharist whether they are believers or unbelievers.[9][10] The Lutheran doctrine of the Real Presence is also known as "the Sacramental union.[11][12] This theology was first formally and publicly confessed in the Wittenberg Concord.[13] It has been called "consubstantiation", but most Lutheran theologians reject the use of this term, as it creates confusion with an earlier doctrine of the same name.[14] Some Lutherans do believe in consubstantiation.[15] Lutherans use the term "in, with and under the forms of consecrated bread and wine" and "sacramental union" to distinguish their understanding of the Eucharist from those of the Reformed and other traditions.[7]

Use of the sacrament

For Lutherans the Eucharist is not considered to be a valid sacrament unless the elements are used according to Christ's mandate and institution (consecration, distribution, and reception).[7] This was first formulated in the Wittenberg Concord of 1536 in the formula: Nihil habet rationem sacramenti extra usum a Christo institutum ("Nothing has the character of a sacrament apart from the use instituted by Christ").[16] Some Lutherans oppose the reservation of the consecrated elements, private masses, and the practice of Corpus Christi.[17][18] The consecrated elements are treated with respect and in some areas are reserved as in Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Anglican practice. Eucharistic adoration is typically practiced from the consecration and elevation to reception. To remove any scruple of doubt or superstition the reliquæ traditionally are either consumed or poured into the earth. In Lutheran congregations, the administration of private communion of the sick and "shut-in" (those too feeble to attend services) involves a completely separate service of the Eucharist for which the sacramental elements are consecrated by the celebrant.

Weddings and funerals also typicaly include the celebration of the Eucharist in Lutheran churches. At all ordinations of pastors and the consecration of bishops the Eucharist is offered.

Reception in American churches

Churches in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) practice open communion, where all baptized Christians can receive this sacrament. Nearly all Missouri Synod Lutheran churches (LCMS) practice closed communion, meaning only those who were confirmed in an LCMS church receive this sacrament.[19] Some ELCA churches offer the sacrament to all children regardless of age, some wait until after confirmation and others wait until a child can complete and understand a class about the Eucharist at around 7 or 8 years of age.[20][21]

Manner of reception

The manner of receiving the Eucharist differs throughout the world. Sometimes there is a cushioned area at the front of the church where the congregation can come to the front to kneel and receive this sacrament (as seen in the picture below). Typically, the pastor distributes the bread and an assistant then distributes the wine. The congregation departs and may make the sign of the cross. In other Lutheran churches, the process is much like the Catholic Church[22], the pastor, or eucharistic minister and acolyte line up with the pastor in the center, holding the bread, the eucharistic minister on either side, holding the chalice. When a person receives the bread the pastor speaks a formula similar to "The Body of Christ, given for you." When a person receives the wine, the eucharistic minister may say something like: "The Blood of Christ, shed for you." Some parishes use intinction, the dipping of the host into the chalice. Placing the bread in the hand of the communicant is commonly practiced, but some people prefer that the pastor place the host into their mouth.


In the American Lutheran tradition, the sacrament of Christ's Body and Blood is most commonly referred to as the Sacrament of the Altar, the Lord's Supper, the Lord's Table, Holy Communion, the Breaking of the Bread, the Eucharist, and the Blessed Sacrament.[1][2]



The Eucharist is celebrated as follows (or similar):[23]

The Sursum corda is chanted or spoken.

Pastor: The Lord be with you.

People: And also with you.

Pastor: Lift up your hearts.

People: We lift them to the Lord.

Pastor: Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.

People: It is right to give him thanks and praise .

Next, the preface is said by the pastor.

It is truly good, right and salutary that we should at all times and in all places give thanks to you, holy Lord, almighty Father, everlasting, who in the multitude of your saints did surround us with so great a cloud of witnesses that we, rejoicing in their fellowship, may run with patience the race that is set before us and, together with them, may receive the crown of glory that does not fade away. Therefore with angels and archangels and with all the company of heaven we laud and magnify your glorious name, evermore praising you and saying:

This is followed by the Sanctus.

Holy, holy, holy Lord,

God of power and might.

Heaven and earth are full of your glory.

Hosanna in the highest.

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.

Hosanna in the highest.

Next, the Eucharistic Prayer is said.

Pastor: Blessed are You, Lord of heaven and earth, for You have had mercy on those whom You created and sent Your only-begotten Son into our flesh to bear our sin and be our Savior. With repentant joy we receive the salvation accomplished for us by the all-availing sacrifice of His body and His blood on the cross.

Gathered in the name and remembrance of Jesus, we beg you, O Lord, to forgive, renew, and strengthen us with Your Word and Spirit. Grant us faithfully to eat His body and drink His blood as He bids us to do in His own testament. Gather us together, we pray, from the ends of the earth to celebrate with all the faithful in the marriage feast of the Lamb in His kingdom, which has no end. Graciously receive our prayers; deliver and preserve us. To You alone, O Father, be all glory, honor and worship, with the Son and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

People: Amen.

The Words of Institution are chanted or spoken.

Pastor: Our Lord Jesus Christ, on the night when He was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples and said, 'Take; eat; this is my body, given for you. This do in remembrance of me.' In the same way, also, He took the cup after supper, and when He had given thanks, He gave it to them saying, 'Drink of it all of you. This cup is the New Testament in My Blood, shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. This do as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.'

Pastor: As often as we eat this bread and drink this cup, we proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.

People: Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

Pastor: O Lord Jesus Christ, only Son of the Father, in giving us Your body and blood to eat and to drink, You lead us to remember and confess Your holy cross and passion, Your blessed death, Your rest in the tomb, Your resurrection from the dead, Your ascension into heaven, and Your coming for the final judgment. So remember us in Your kingdom and teach us to pray:

The Gospel text of the Lord's Prayer is spoken by the pastor, followed by the people chanting the final part.

Pastor: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be they name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

People: For the kingdom and the power and the glory are yours now and forever. Amen.

The elements are elevated as the pax and sign of peace are said.

Pastor: The peace of the Lord be with you always.

People: And also with you.

Pastor: Let us offer each other a sign of peace. (the peace of Christ is shared among the people)

Following this, the Agnus Dei is sung.

Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world, have mercy upon us.

Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world, have mercy upon us.

Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world, grant us peace. Amen.

The Distribution is next (see above for different manners), it is followed by the nunc dimittis:

Lord, now you let your servant depart in peace,

according to your word.

For my eyes have seen your salvation,

which you have prepared before the face of all people,

a light to lighten the Gentiles

and the glory of your people Israel.

The postcommunion is prayed by the pastor.

Gracious God, our heavenly Father, You have given us a foretaste of the feast to come in the Holy Supper of Your Son's body and blood. Keep us firm in the true faith throughout our days of pilgrimage that, on the Day of His coming, we may, together with all Your saints, celebrate the marriage feast of the Lamb in His kingdom, which has no end; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now forever. Amen.

Finally the Benedicamus Domino and benediction are spoken or chanted by the pastor and congregation with the Sign of the Cross.

Pastor: The Lord be with you.

People: And also with you.

Pastor: Let us bless the Lord.

People: Thanks be to God.

Pastor: The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and + give you peace.[Numbers 6:24-26]


  1. 1.0 1.1 An Explanation of Luther's Small Catechism, (LCMS), question 285")
  2. 2.0 2.1 Lutheran Eucharist names Retrieved on 2009-08-18
  3. ELCA Eucharist. Retrieved 26 October 2009
  4. LCMS Eucharist. Retrieved 26 October 2009
  5. WELS Eucharist. Retrieved 26 October 2009
  6. Difference between conservative and liberal Lutheran Eucharistic beliefs
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 An Explanation of Luther's Small Catechism, (LCMS), question 291)
  8. (cf. Augsburg Confession, Article 10)
  9. ("manducatio indignorum": "eating of the unworthy")
  10. An Explanation of Luther's Small Catechism, (LCMS), question 296")
  11. Formula of Concord Solid Declaration VII.36-38 (Triglot Concordia, 983, 985[1]; Theodore G. Tappert, The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1959), 575-576.
  12. Weimar Ausgabe 26, 442; Luther's Works 37, 299-300.
  13. Formula of Concord Epitiome VII, 7, 15; FC Formula of Concord Solid Declaration VII, 14, 18, 35, 38, 117; Triglot Concordia, 811-813, 977, 979, 983-985, 1013.
  14. F.L. Cross, ed., The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, second edition, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1974), 340 sub loco.
  15. J.T. Mueller, Christian Dogmatics: A Handbook of Doctrinal Theology, (St. Louis: CPH, 1934), 519; cf. also Erwin L. Lueker, Christian Cyclopedia, (St. Louis: CPH, 1975), under the entry "consubstantiation."
  16. Lutheran Theology Retrieved on 2009-08-19
  17. Corpus Christi article in Christian Cyclopedia
  18. Frank Senn: Christian Liturgy: Catholic and Evangelical, Fortress Press, 1997. p. 344. ISBN 0800627261
  19. "Close Communion" @
  20. First Communion age
  21. This is done in the same manner as the Catholic Church. (see First Communion)
  22. Catholic Communion process from the Mass
  23. (Lutheran Service Book, Divine Service I,III)

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