Offering of Holy Communion on Good Friday
Pastor Karl Weber, author of our post on Ash Wednesday, put together this paper as our parishes have come to accept the Sacrament on Good Friday.
Every Sunday and on other festivals [note 1]
In the New Testament, the Sacrament was a regular and major feature of congregational worship, not an occasional extra (Acts 2:42; 20:7; 1 Cor. 11:20, 33). In Reformation times our churches celebrated the Sacrament “every Sunday and on other festivals” (Apology XXIV 1).
Surveying Synod’s three recently used hymnals, or, their “Agendas,” the reader will notice an increase in encouragement and the “permissibility” of receiving the Lord’s Supper on Good Friday. This is seen as we progress from The Lutheran Hymnal [1941 – 1982 (the red hymnal)], when, safe to say, the Lord’s Supper was not offered on Good Friday. The time period of Lutheran Worship [1982 – 2006, (the blue hymnal)] allowed for “guarded” distribution of the Sacrament. These most recent days express the greatest encouragement to receive the Sacrament found in Lutheran Service Book [2006 – present (the maroon hymnal)]. As a Synod we are becoming more faithful to what Luther would have for us, and, more importantly, in allowing Jesus to serve us.
Those who “withhold” the Sacrament on Good Friday reason that it was offered on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday is a continuation of that service. This is true enough. I desire to offer the Sacrament on Good Friday realizing some may not have been able to attend on Maundy Thursday. Additionally, realizing the sacrifice was offered on Good Friday two millennium ago why not distribute the benefits of the sacrifice through and in the bread and wine to the faithful?
LSB – LUTHERAN SERVICE BOOK, The Maroon Hymnal, 2006 – Present [note 2]
The Service in Detail
- In earliest times, all the events of Christ’s passion, from the Last Supper to the resurrection, were celebrated in one day and night’s continuous service called Pascha. The observance of the Triduum (three days) understands the services from the evening of Holy Thursday to Easter Sunday to form one, continuous liturgy.
- This is the chief service for Good Friday. It contains a number of ancient elements, particularly the reading of the St. John Passion, the Bidding Prayer, and the Reproaches. It is most appropriate that this service be held during the hours Christ hung upon the cross: 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. Local circumstances may dictate another hour.
- There are differing opinions about whether it is appropriate to celebrate the Lord’s Supper on Good Friday. In the Early Church the Lord’s Supper was celebrated on Good Friday in some places. In the Middle Ages the practice arose of distributing elements consecrated the previous day. The Lutheran Reformation considered this practice an abuse and discontinued it. This led some Lutheran church orders to omit the Sacrament entirely. Many other 16th-century Lutheran church orders included the celebration of the Lord’s Supper as part of the normal observance of Good Friday as a festival. If the day is observed in the spirit of restrained praise in thanks for the redemption Christ won on the cross, the distribution of the fruits of that death in the Sacrament of His true body and blood is a quite appropriate way to proclaim and remember Him.
- The restrained joy of this day is achieved by the omission of elaborations such as the acclamations of praise surrounding the Gospel, the Gradual, and the Verse. The altar remains bare, having been stripped on Holy Thursday. The pastor is vested simply in alb or cassock with surplice. He may don a stole to preach. (The color of the stole may be either scarlet, purple/violet, or perhaps black.) If Holy Communion is celebrated, it is appropriate during the singing of the hymn, “Sing, My Tongue,” for the pastor to vest with the stole (and chasuble) and for the Communion elements to be brought to the altar. The Communion liturgy is provided in an abbreviated form and should be spoken (not sung). The concluding hymn, “The Royal Banners Forward Go,” ensures that the final note is one of triumph….
- If the Lord’s Supper is celebrated, the communion vessels and elements, as well as the corporal and purificators, are not brought to the altar until the singing of the hymn just prior to the Preface. Following the distribution, the communion vessels, and remaining elements are removed from the altar during the singing of the final hymn.
LW – LUTHERAN WORSHIP – The Blue Hymnal, 1982 – 2006 [note 3]
Good Friday. The Lutheran Worship: Agenda provides three services for use on Good Friday. Generally, Holy Communion is not celebrated on this day, though rubrics and pericopes are given should they be required. Instrumental music may be limited to support of the singing.
At Noonday. The Lutheran Worship: Agenda gives a brief service with sentences and collects, a hymn, Scripture readings, sermon, hymn, a special group of prayers, and a blessing.
Good Friday I. This order has a reflective and intercessory character. Everyone enters in silence. After the Collect, the Old Testament Reading, and a hymn, the Gospel is read. A sermon is optional. Then the Bidding Prayer, traditional on Good Friday from ancient times, is led by an assisting minister with the petitions said by the presider. For this unique prayer it is good to use two different reading desks; the second, for the presiding minister, may be the pulpit if necessary. The concluding part of the service uses a rough-hewn cross. It may be carried in procession and placed in front of the altar during which time the sentence and response are said three times. Then the Reproaches, by the presiding minister, are answered by the congregation or choir singing the appointed hymn. Silence for meditation follows. A hymn and closing sentences end the service.
Good Friday II. This simple form may be used with or without Holy Communion. After the Epistle the Reproaches are chanted or said and the congregation or choir responds with an appointed hymn stanza. The Gospel, John chapters 18 and 19, is interspersed with the seven appointed hymn stanzas. After the Sermon and Offering, the Bidding Prayer is said. When there is no communion, the service closes with the Benediction.
TLH – THE LUTHERAN HYMNAL – The Red Hymnal, 1941 – 1982
Sadly, I was not able to locate a TLH Agenda, and nor could Pr. Noble at St. Paul’s, Perham (who has Communion on Good Friday and every Sunday Communion), and nor could Pr. Maland at St. Paul’s, Henning. So, I gave up looking L . When TLH was the Hymnal in Synod Communion was twice a month, or, even only four (4) times a year. On this basis I think it is safe to say that the TLH Agenda would have said not to have Communion on Good Friday.
[note 1] Luther’s Small Catechism with Explanation (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2005): 237, q. 295, Note.
[note 2] Lutheran Service Book: Altar Book, prepared by the Commission on Worship of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2006), 511, 512.
[note 3] James Brauer, “The Church Year,” in Lutheran Worship: History and Practice, ed. Fred L. Precht, prepared by the Commission on Worship of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1993), 146.