Calvin On The Proper Celebration Of The Lord’s Supper

Although the Genevan Regulations on the Ecclesiastical Ordinances which were revised by Calvin suggest the Supper ought to be taken once a month, Calvin, in his Institutes says that the Supper would be “administered most becomingly if it were set before the church very often, and at least once a week.” (4.17.43) He then proceeds to list (what I counted) a twelve step procession of the proper celebration of the Lord’s Supper. 

  1. The service should begin with public prayers.
  2. After this, a sermon should be given. For the Supper must always be accompanied by the preaching of the Word.
    1. Elsewhere, he writes: “The bread is a sacrament only to those persons to whom the word is directed; just as the water of baptism is not changed in itself, but as soon as the promise has been attached it begins to be for us what it was not before.” (IV.XVII.15)
  3. The bread and wine should be placed on the table.
  4. Then, the minister should repeat the words of institution of the Supper.
  5. “Next, he should recite the promises which were left to us in it…”
  6. “At the same time, he should excommunicate all who are feared from it by the Lord’s prohibition.”
  7. “Afterward, he should pray that the Lord, with the kindness wherewith he has bestowed this sacred food upon us, also teach and form us to receive it with faith and thankfulness of heart, and, inasmuch as we are not so of ourselves, by his mercy make us worthy of such a feast.”
  8. Here, either believers ought to sing a psalm or read something.
  9. Then, “in becoming order the believers should partake of the most holy banquet, the ministers breaking the bread and giving the cups.”
  10. “When the Supper is finished, there should be an exhortation to sincere faith and confession of faith, to love and behavior worthy of Christians.”
  11. “At the last, thanks should be given, and praises sung to God.”
  12. “When these things are ended, the church should be dismissed in peace.”

John Calvin, Calvin: Institutes of the Christian Religion, ed. John T. Mcneill, trans. Ford Lewis Battles, Paperback (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011), IV.XVII.43, 2:1421-22.