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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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….
  5. 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.

About Norm Fisher

Norm was raised in the UCC in Connecticut, and like many fell away from the church after high school. With this background he saw it primarily as a service organization. On the miracle of his first child he came back to the church. On moving to Texas a few years later he found a home in Lutheranism when he was invited to a confessional church a half-hour away by our new neighbors.

He is one of those people who found a like mind in computers while in Middle School and has been programming ever since. He's responsible for many websites, including the Book of Concord,, and several other sites.

He has served the church in various positions, including financial secretary, sunday school teacher, elder, PTF board member, and choir member.

Norm has been involved behind the scenes in many of the "go-to" websites for Lutherans going back many years.


Offering of Holy Communion on Good Friday — 16 Comments

  1. How wonderful it would be to receive the blessings of the Sacrament of the Altar every time I am at a Divine Service. The more I am fed by God’s Sacrament, the more I want! Call me an addict! A worship time without the blessed Body and Blood is like a “diet Divine Service” -something basic seems to be missing! Yes, God’s Word spoken and preached feeds and comforts me – but can’t I have more?? I earnestly desire it.

  2. I checked out my basement library tonight after work @ Walmart, and found my copies of The Lutheran Agenda and The Lutheran Liturgy. Neither one of them had liturgies specifically for Good Friday (as LW and LSB have), and in neither book did I find any specific rubrics for Communion on Good Friday.

    Luther Reed’s The Lutheran Liturgy makes no mention of Communion on Good Friday either, but Fred Precht’s Lutheran Worship: History and Practice does mention in passing that communion is generally not celebrated on Good Friday.

    I’m the kantor for an every-Sunday Communion church, yet, for Good Friday, we do not celebrate the Sacrament. I’ll offer my theory on that; you may like it or not, but I believe it’s reality for many parishes that offer Good Friday in the afternoon as their only service of the day: time constraints. You have people getting off work for that 3-hour window; for some (I know this to be the case in our own parish), that gives them just enough time to go home, quick change of clothes (if necessary), grab a quick lunch, go to church, then go back home, change (if necessary), and rush back to work in time for 3:00 pm. And then communion adds another 15-20 minutes to the service … Again, just a theory; but it’s probably reality for a lot more people than you think.

  3. When I was a boy, the Lutheran Hymnals in our pews were bound in blue covers. It was not until I was in my 20s that I encountered Lutheran Hymnals bound in red.

  4. I’ve never thought or seen the Sacrament given, on Good Friday. I know that the Anglican Church offers it, during the Tenebrae, but I’ve never seen a Lutheran Church offer it.
    I’ve always thought, wrong as it may be, of Good Friday as Christ’s, my Lord’s funeral service, as in the Tenebrae.
    A day to be most grievous, for the price paid for us, me. The unknowable brutality, physical pain & the weight of sin born, unseen. His Promise given, begun on Maundy Thursday w/the New Covenant, grieving a sinless life offered up, the Life of the Son of God on Good Friday, and then, sin, hell, and death conquered & completed on Easter morning. We grieve, the Hope bought for me, that great & terrible day, Good Friday. I look forward, at the end of the service, for the stone to be found, rolled away & the burial linens, folded. His Promises begun on Maundy Thursday, and completed on Easter morning.
    As I thought, it was His funeral service, do we distribute the Sacrament, at funerals?
    I’m no theologian, I know next to nothing, but is this something we as Lutherans, do?

  5. Is Good Friday a feast or a fast?

    The abuse of the Mass of the Presanctified came about because the Roman church celebrated the Sacrament every day. Thus with the altars laid bare and no one even entering the sanctuary (narrow sense – the area around the altar within the chancel), enough elements were consecrated the day before to permit Mass to be distributed (though not celebrated) on Good Friday. Thus the abuse in the “pre-sanctifying” of the elements.

    If your congregation offers the sacrament every time you gather, then by all means do not feel compelled to create an exception on Good Friday. But if it does not, then recognize the fasting nature of the day and rejoice that the “benefits of the sacrifice” are delivered through the proclamation of the Word.

    [Let the reader understand – I am one whose default position is that when we gather for worship, it ought be the Divine Service unless otherwise indicated. “Otherwise indicated” would be, for example, the second or third service of the day on Mission Festival where the Lord’s Supper was celebrated in the first service. In my estimation, Good Friday, as Hauptfastenzeit (the Principal Fasting Day – I don’t know if anyone else has ever used that term, but I do), is the only day that it is appropriate to receive God’s grace in corporate worship solely through the proclamation of/meditation on the Word.]

  6. When we were Lutherans (WELS), we’d have been quite happy to receive the Sacrament on Easter Sunday. After five years of not having that in the most conservative parish in our area, my wife had had enough and decided we should look elsewhere.

    I’m thankful you all are discussing more frequent administration of the Eucharist. Frankly, we were a bit starved for it. In our prior (LCMS) parish we attended before we moved, the Sacrament was offered on Good Friday once. I don’t know if they still offer it or not — their website doesn’t say. For what it’s worth, in our Orthodox parish, the Sacrament is not offered on Great and Holy Friday — the services are as follows:

    Service of the Royal Hours – 10:00 am
    Taking Down From the Cross – 3:00 pm
    Service of the Lamentations – 7:00 pm
    Vigil at the Tomb of Christ (until 9:00 AM the next morning)

    We do receive the Sacrament at 9:00 AM on Great and Holy Saturday.

  7. Looking in my copy of “The Lutheran Liturgy” for TLH, they have regular Propers for a Good Friday Divine Service: introit(s), collect(s), lectionary, gradual. It seems safe to say that the committee that assembled TLH and its resources wasn’t quite as ready to close the door on a Good Friday Eucharist as Pastor Weber thought.

  8. Dutch :
    … do we distribute the Sacrament, at funerals?

    We don’t, but shouldn’t we? How better to face the death of a loved one than to be fed with Him who conquered death and to receive that promise that Christ’s Body was broken and His Blood was shed “for you?”

    The most common rationale that I hear for not celebrating the Sacrament at funerals is that the comfort of the Gospel should be offered equally to all, but if we (appropriately) practice Closed Communion, some will consider that they have been comforted unequally or been denied additional comfort. (Which, I guess, is an apt assessment – though it is their own disbelief in the promises of God that creates this sad division.)

  9. PPadre,
    The Open/Close issue, is a huge one, for Good Friday. If close Communion, is so very hotly debated at this point in time, is it wise? For those who in great laity detail explain, what close Communion, or for that matter open Communion is, fine. If they don’t, of all days, either Maundy Thursday or Good Friday, is it wise for tha type of Congregaton to do so?

    On Good Friday, I think on Isaiah 53: 3-6. I also, think on the timeline of Holy Week. Today, our Lord entered Jerusalem, today our Lord entered the Upper Room, today, the unblemished Lamb of God, was condemned, brutalized, and bore the just punishment, in my place. Today, the Son of God, conquered sin, hell, and death itself. It is the brightest & most weightly part of the Gospel, is it not?
    Not every person, warming wood in a pew on Good Friday, knows or even in their hearts believes part or any. With a gambit of reasons attached. Most Congregations, do not explain their own practices, let alone why they do what they do or what the Doctrines are vs what they do, regarding the Sacrament. Good Friday, is not a day to venture, to leave to chance, with the Sacrament. I know far too many, who would go, and eat & drink unworthily. Knowing they do when it is offered any Sunday, is tough enough.

    Until the close vs open debate is sealed, for all time, for all Congregations, then I can’t say it’s wise. Not right now, at this point & time, no.

  10. According to Lindemann in The Sermon and the Propers, postdating TLH (1958):

    “Traditionally the Holy Communion is not celebrated. When the Mass of the Presanctified was abolished, this rite was replaced by a complete celebration in some areas, while in others by antecommunion. However, there are many who believe that the appointments of the Church of the Reformation presuppose the Celebration and regard it as a distinct heritage. They ask: What better day than this on which to unite in the memorial of the Passion and in proclaiming the Lord’s death (1 Cor. 11:26)? The Gloria in Excelsis and the Alleluias would be omitted, of course, but not the Sanctus and Benedictus. If there is a celebration, it should be complete. If there is merely antecommunion, it should conform to the rubrics of the rite.”

  11. PPadre,
    My words fail me, in regards to Good Friday. The best way I can relate, is by Martin Luther’s sermon, A Good Friday Sermon on How to Contemplate Christ Holy Suffering.
    I only know, one link,

    That in Luther’s words, sum it up, for me. I hope, it explains what I was trying to say.
    Most poorly.

  12. Couldn’t find anything about Good Friday rubrics or liturgy in the TLH Agenda or Lutheran Liturgy from our church library. Since most were taking Communion four times a year in 1941 then Good Friday was probably a Matins/Vespers service.

    My pastor said he wouldn’t mind offering Holy Communion on Good Friday.

  13. Way back in the late 1960s, in connection with a course entitled The Theology of the Lutheran Rite taught by Father Piepkorn, I did a study of the 16th century Lutheran Kirchenordungen. I discovered that, the Mass of the Pre-Sanctified having been abolished, most of them in fact spoke of a celebration of the Sacrament on Good Friday. This was certainly the case in Bach’s day at Saint Thomas in Leipzig. The Sacrament was celebrated on Good Friday at Saint Paul’s, Addison, when I was assistant pastor there in the early 1970s; it was an established custom. Several Missouri Synod parishes in my hometown Baltimore also celebrated the Sacrament on Good Friday in the 1940s and 50s. Others did not. Churches of our Synod influenced by the Liturgical Society of Saint James did not celebrate the Sacrament on Good Friday although they did in fact celebrate the Sacrament every Sunday and Holy Day. Although various explanations have been invented for not celebrating the Sacrament on Good Friday – e.g. the Eucharist is always a joyful celebration of not only the Passion but also the Resurrection of the Lord – the historical truth seems to be that it goes back to very ancient times when the Sacrament was simply never celebrated on Fridays. So we read in the Augsburg Confession: “according to the Tripartite History, Book 9, on Wednesay and Friday the Scriptures were read and expounded in Alexandria, and all these services were held without Mass”(AC XXIV 41).

  14. What better day to “proclaim His death until He comes” than the day He died?

    Good Friday should not be a funeral service, although the gloomy elements of a Tenebrae might lead one to believe this. Remember what the Divine Service is – Christ in our midst, serving us. Even if only a Tenebrae service, we are receiving Christ’s blessings that He won on the Cross.

  15. Old thread I know.
    I was reading over this cause I am trying to under Lutheran versus roman rite when it comes to Good Friday.
    In our Church(Former ELS, working towards to returning to ELS) we have a somber Eucharist service. Just chanting the word of institution portion of TLH, no hymns. Than we will be doing a Tenebrae service. I think this works. We receive communion at every service. This allows people to come early and take communion in a very quite way and than we can go into meditating on The Cross.

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