Article XXII: Of Lay Communion under One Form

Originally published at: Article XXII: Of Lay Communion under One Form | Book of Concord

Confession Confutation Apology [Defense]

1 As in the Confessions of the princes and cities they enumerate among the abuses that laymen commune only under one form, and as, therefore, in their dominions both forms are administered to laymen, we must reply, according to the custom of the Holy Church, that this is incorrectly enumerated among the abuses, but that, according to the sanctions and statutes of the same Church it is rather an abuse and disobedience to administer to laymen both forms. For under the one form of bread the saints communed in the primitive Church, of whom Luke says: “They continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread.” Acts 2:42. Here Luke mentions bread alone. Likewise Acts 20:7 says: “Upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread.” Yea, Christ, the institutor of this most holy sacrament, rising again from the dead, administered the Eucharist only under one form to the disciples going to Emmaus, where he took bread and blessed it, and brake and gave to them, and they recognized him in the breaking of bread. Luke 24:30, 31: where indeed Augustine, Chrysostome, Theophylact and Bede some of whom many ages ago and not long after the times of the apostles affirm that it was the Eucharist. Christ also (John 6) very frequently mentions bread alone. St. Ignatius, a disciple of St. John the Evangelist, in his Epistle to the Ephesians mentions the bread alone in the communion of the Eucharist. Ambrose does likewise in his books concerning the sacraments, speaking of the communion of Laymen. In the Council of Rheims, laymen were forbidden from bearing the sacrament of the Body to the sick, and no mention is there made of the form of wine. Hence it is understood that the viaticum was given the sick under only one form. The ancient penitential canons approve of this. For the Council of Agde put a guilty priest into a monastery and granted him only lay communion. In the Council of Sardica, Hosius prohibits certain indiscreet persons from receiving even lay communion, unless they finally repent.

2 There has always been a distinction in the Church between lay communion under one form and priestly communion under both forms. This was beautifully predicted in the Old Testament concerning the descendants of Eli: “It shall come to pass,” says God, 1 Kings 2; 1 Sam. 2:36, “that everyone that is left in thine house shall come and crouch to him for a piece of silver and a morsel of bread, and shall say, Put me, I pray thee, into one of the priests’ office (Vulgate reads: “Ad unam partem sacerdotalem.”), “that I may eat a piece of bread.” Here Holy Scripture clearly shows that the posterity of Eli, when removed from the office of the priesthood, will seek to be admitted to one sacerdotal part, to a piece of bread. So our laymen also ought, therefore, to be content with one sacerdotal part, the one form. For both the Roman pontiffs and cardinals and all bishops and priests, save in the mass and in the extreme hour of life for a viaticum, as it is called in the Council of Nice, are content with taking one form, which they would not do if they thought that both forms would be necessary for salvation. Although, however, both forms were of old administered in many churches to laymen (for then it was free to commune under one or under both forms), yet on account of many dangers the custom of administering both forms has ceased. For when the multitude of the people is considered where there are old and young, tremulous and weak and inept, if great care be not employed and injury is done the Sacrament by the spilling of the liquid. Because of the great multitude there would be difficulty also in giving the chalice cautiously for the form of wine, which also when kept for a long time would sour and cause nausea or vomition to those who would receive it; neither could it be readily taken to the sick without danger of spilling.

3 For these reasons and others the churches in which the custom had been to give both forms to laymen were induced, undoubtedly by impulse of the Holy Ghost, to give thereafter but one form, from the consideration chiefly that the entire Christ is under each form, and is received no less under one form than under two. In the Council of Constance, of such honorable renown, a decree to this effect appeared, and so too the Synod of Basle legitimately decreed. And although it was formerly a matter of freedom to use either one or both forms in the Eucharist, nevertheless, when the heresy arose which taught that both forms were necessary, the Holy Church, which is directed by the Holy Ghost, forbade both forms to laymen. For thus the Church is sometimes wont to extinguish heresies by contrary institutions; as when some arose who maintained that the Eucharist is properly celebrated only when unleavened bread is used, the Church for a while commanded that it be administered with leavened bread; and when Nestorius wished to establish that the perpetual Virgin Mary was mother only of Christ, not of God, the Church for a time forbade her to be called Christotokos, mother of Christ. Wherefore we must entreat the princes and cities not to permit this schism to be introduced into Germany, into the Roman Empire, or themselves to be separated from the custom of the Church Universal. Neither do the arguments adduced in this article avail, for while Christ indeed instituted both forms of the Sacrament, yet it is nowhere found in the Gospel that he enjoined that both forms be received by the laity. For what is said in Matt. 26:27: “Drink ye all of it,” was said to the twelve apostles, who were priests, as is manifest from Mark 14:23, where it is said: “And they all drank of it.” This certainly was not fulfilled hitherto with respect to laymen; whence the custom never existed throughout the entire Church that both forms were given to laymen, although it existed perhaps among the Corinthians and Carthaginians and some other Churches.

4 As to their reference to Gelasius, Canon Comperimus, of Consecration. Dist. 2, if they examine the document they will find that Gelasius speaks of priests, and not of laymen. Hence their declaration that the custom of administering but one form is contrary to divine law must be rejected. But most of all the appendix to the article must be rejected, that the procession with the Eucharist must be neglected or omitted, because the sacrament is thus divided. For they themselves know, or at least ought to know, that by the Christian faith Christ has not been divided, but that the entire Christ is under both forms, and that the Gospel nowhere forbids the division of the sacramental forms; as is done on Parasceve (Holy or Maundy Thursday) by the entire Church of the Catholics, although the consecration is made by the celebrant in both forms, who also ought to receive both. Therefore the princes and cities should be admonished to pay customary reverence and due honor to Christ the Son of the living God, our Savior and Glorifier, the Lord of heaven and earth, since they believe and acknowledge that he is truly present – a matter which they know has been most religiously observed by their ancestors, most Christian princes.

Confession Confutation Apology [Defense]