1. Calvin’s Service of the Lord’s Supper (1542, 1566)

We must note that the Sunday before the Supper is celebrated, we announce it to the people: first, in order that each may be ready and prepared to receive it worthily and with appropriate reverence; second, so that we would not present children unless they are well instructed and have made a profession of their faith in the church; third, so that if there are strangers who are still untaught and ignorant, they would come to be instructed privately. The day when we celebrate it, the minister touches upon it at the end of the sermon, or, if necessary, makes it the entire sermon, an exposition to the people of what our Lord intends to say and signify by this mystery and how we ought to receive it.

Then, having offered the prayers and recited the Confession of Faith to testify in the name of the people that all wish to live and die in the Christian doctrine and religion, he says aloud:

Let us listen to how Jesus Christ instituted his Holy Supper for us, as Saint Paul relates in chapter eleven of the First Epistle to the Corinthians:

I received from the Lord, he says, what I have delivered to you; that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was given up, took bread, and having given thanks, broke it, and said, “Take, eat. This is my body, which is broken for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” Likewise, after suppers, he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new testament in my blood. Do this, each and every time that you drink it, in memory of me.” That is, whenever you eat this bread and drink of this cup, you announce the Lord’s death until he comes. Therefore, whoever eats this bread or drinks of this cup unworthily will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let each one examine themselves, and so let them eat this bread and drink of this cup. For whoever eats or drinks it unworthily partakes of his or her condemnation, not discerning the body of Christ. [1 Cor. 11:23-29]

We have heard, my brother, how our Lord administered his Supper among his disciples, and in this he shows us that strangers, that is, those not of the company of the faithful should not be admitted. Following this rule, therefore, in the name and by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, I excommunicate all idolaters, blasphemers, despisers of God, heretics, and all who form separate parties to break the unity of the church, all perjurers, all those who rebel against their father and mother and against their superiors, all fomenters of sedition or mutiny, quarrelers, fighters, adulterers, debauchees, thieves, hoarders of wealth, plunderers, drunkards, gluttons, and all those who lead a scandalous life; declaring to those that they are to abstain from this holy table lest they pollute and contaminate this sacred food, which our Lord Jesus Christ gives only to his servants and faithful ones.

Therefore, according to the exhortation of Saint Paul, let each one test and examine his conscience, to know whether he truly repents of his faults and is sorry for them desiring from now on to live in holiness and in conformity with God; and above all, whether he trusts in the mercy of God and seeks his salvation wholly from Jesus Christ; and whether renouncing all hostility and malice, he has the good intention and the courage to live in harmony and brotherly love with his neighbors.

If we have such a testimony in our hearts before God, let us not doubt in the least that he acknowledges us to be his children and that the Lord Jesus is speaking to us, bringing us to his table and offering us this Holy Sacrament, which he delivered to his disciples.

And since we are conscious of much frailty and misery in ourselves, as well as not having a perfect faith, but that we are prone rather to unbelief and distrust, so that we are not entirely dedicated to serving God and with such a zeal as we ought, but we have instead to battle daily against the lusts of our flesh; nevertheless, since our Lord has granted us this grace of having his gospel engraved on our heart, so that we might resist all unbelief, and he has given us the desire and longing to renounce our own desires to pursue his righteousness and holy commandments; let us all be assured that the vices and imperfections that are in us will not prevent him from receiving us, nor from making us worthy to share in this spiritual table. For we do not come insisting that we are perfect or righteous in ourselves, but rather, seeking our life in Jesus Christ, we confess that we are dead. Let us understand, therefore, that this Sacrament is a medicine for poor, spiritual sick people and that the only worthiness that our Lord requires of us is to know ourselves well enough to be displeased with our vices and to find all our pleasure, joy, and contentment in him alone.

So let us first believe in these promises, which Jesus Christ, who is the infallible truth, spoke with his mouth, namely, that he truly wishes to make us partakers of his body and blood; that we might possess him fully, so that he might live in us and we in him. And since we see only bread and wine, yet we do not doubt that he accomplishes spiritually in our souls all that he demonstrates to us outwardly through these visible signs, namely, that he is the heavenly bread that feeds and nourishes us for eternal life. So let us be grateful for the infinite goodness of our Savior, who spreads out all his riches and goods on this table to distribute them to us. For by giving himself to us, he testifies to us that all that he has is ours.

Therefore, let us receive this Sacrament as a seal that the power of his death and passion is imputed to us for righteousness, just as though we had suffered it ourselves. Let us therefore not be so wicked as to pull back from where Jesus Christ so gently invites us through his Word. But considering the worth of this precious gift which he has given us, let us present ourselves to him with ardent zeal, so that he would make us able to receive it.

For this purpose, let us lift up our hearts and our spirits to where Jesus Christ is the glory of his Father, and from where we await him in our redemption. And let us not waste time with these earthly and corruptible elements, which we see with our eyes and touch with our hands, seeking him as though he were enclosed inside the bread or the wine. So our souls will be inclined to be nourished and revived by his substance, when they are thus lifted above all earthly things to reach heaven and enter the kingdom of God where he dwells. Let us therefore be satisfied with having the bread and the wine as signs and proofs, seeking the truth spiritually, which is how the Word of God promises that we will find it.

That done, the ministers distribute the bread and the cup to the people, having warned that they should approach with reverence and good order. Meanwhile, we sing some psalms or read a text from Scripture, which is appropriate for that which is signified by the Sacrament. At the end, we offer thanksgiving, as it has been said.[1]

  1. From Mark Earngey and Jonathan Gibson, Reformation Worship (New Growth Press, 2018), 324–29.


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