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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 mainly identify with Lutheran Orthodoxy. Although there is agreement among nearly all Lutheran branches on the core meaning of the Eucharist,[3][4] there is also a significant divide between conservative and liberal beliefs.[5]


Biblical basis

Martin Luther (like many) saw the main basis for the Eucharist (as well as the Real Presence) to be found in Matthew 26-28, Mark 14:22-24, Luke 22:19-20, and 1 Corinthians 11:23-25.[6]


Part of the series on

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


Real Presence
Sacramental Union
Words of Institution

Theologies contrasted
Anglican Eucharistic theology
Eucharist (Catholic Church)
Eucharist (Lutheran Church)

Important theologians
Paul · Luther
Aquinas · Calvin
Chrysostom · Augustine

Related Articles
Sacramental bread
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 also 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

Eucharistic distribution at an ELCA church.

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] 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 sometimes 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

At most churches in the ELCA, LCMS, and WELS, closed communion is practiced (meaning the Lutheran Eucharistic catechetical instruction is required for all people before receiving the Eucharist.[17][18]). Recently, more liberal churches, however, practice open communion (meaning the Eucharist is offered to adults without receiving the catechetical instruction, as long as they are a baptized Christian).[17]

At most churches in the ELCA (as well as nearly 25% in the LCMS[19]), First Communion instruction is provided to baptized children generally between the ages of 6-8 and, after a relatively short period of catechetical instruction, the children are admitted to partake of the Eucharist.[17] In other churches, the person must have receive confirmation before receiving the Eucharist.[19][17] Infants and children who haven't received the catechetical instruction (or confirmation) may be brought to the Eucharistic distribution by their parents to be blessed by the pastor.[20]

Manner of reception

An ELCA pastor pouring wine from the cruet to the chalice.

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 host 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[21], the eucharistic minister (most commonly the pastor) and his assistants line up, with the eucharistic minister in the center, holding the hosts, and the two assistants on either side, holding the chalices. The people process to the front in lines and receive the Eucharist standing When a person receives the bread, the eucharistic minister may say "The Body of Christ, given for you." When a person receives the wine, the assistant may say "The Blood of Christ, shed for you." Following this, the people make the sign of the cross (if they choose to) and return to their places in the congregation.

The bread can be a thin wafer, leavened or unleavened. Many parishes use intinction, the dipping of the host into the chalice.[22] Placing the host in the hand of the communicant is commonly practiced, but some people may prefer that the pastor place the host into their mouth. The wine may be administered via a chalice or through individual cups that may be either prefilled or filled from the chalice during the distribution of the Eucharist. Some congregations make grape juice available for those who are abstaining from alcohol and some will accommodate those with an allergy to wheat or grapes.

Adoration and the Corpus Christi

An ELCA congregation kneeling during the Eucharistic distribution.

Eucharistic adoration is typically practiced from the moment of consecration to reception. In many churches, the people kneel in adoration during the Eucharistic distribution. The consecrated elements are treated with much respect and in many areas are reserved as in Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Anglican practice. The Feast of the Corpus Christi was retained in the main calendar of the Lutheran Church up until about 1600,[23] but continues to be celebrated by many Lutheran congregations. On this feast day the consecrated host is displayed on an altar in a monstrance and, in some churches, the rites of the Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament and other forms of adoration are celebrated.


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]


Typical Eucharist in a LCMS church

The Lutheran Eucharistic liturgy is formally called the "Divine Service", but the terms "the Eucharist" and "Holy Communion" are also used. The most commonly used formula for the Lutheran Eucharistic liturgy is as follows (or similar):[24]

The Sursum corda is chanted.

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 spoken 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, which is chanted.

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 spoken by the pastor.

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 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.

The Memorial Acclamation is chanted next.

Pastor: Let us proclaim the mystery of faith.

People: Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.

Pastor: Lord, remember us in Your kingdom and teach us to pray:

The Gospel text of the Lord's Prayer is chanted 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 chanted by the pastor.

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 chanted.

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, which is chanted as followes:

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.

We give thanks to You, almighty God, that You have refreshed us through this salutary gift, and we implore You that of Your mercy You would strengthen us through the same in faith toward You and in fervent love toward one another; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Finally the Benedicamus Domino and benediction are chanted by the pastor and congregation with the Sign of the Cross being made at the end.

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. ^ a b An Explanation of Luther's Small Catechism, (LCMS), question 285")
  2. ^ a b Lutheran Eucharist names Retrieved on 2009-08-18
  3. ^ ELCA Eucharist. Retrieved 26 October 2009
  4. ^ LCMS Eucharist. Retrieved 26 October 2009
  5. ^ Difference between conservative and liberal Lutheran Eucharistic beliefs
  6. ^ see the "Book of Concord"
  7. ^ a b c 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. ^ a b c d At what age do ELCA congregations allow members their first Communion?. Retrieved 2010-01-12.
  18. ^ "Close(d) Communion" @
  19. ^ a b LCMS Youth Confirmation & First Communion. Retrieved 2010-01-18.
  20. ^ First Lutheran Church Communion FAQs. Retrieved 2010-01-18.
  21. ^ Catholic Communion process from the Mass
  22. ^ Intinction at the Christian Encyclopedia
  23. ^ Frank Senn: Christian Liturgy: Catholic and Evangelical, Fortress Press, 1997. p. 344. ISBN 0800627261
  24. ^ (Lutheran Service Book, Divine Service I,III)

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