Communion rite

Group 236


Born within a year of each other, Ulrich Zwingli and Martin Luther lived parallel lives of action. They shared a common agenda, one that stressed the primacy of the Bible, called for church reorganization and pressed for an informed laity.

But a major difference can’t be sidestepped. For Zwingli, bread and wine – “This is my body, this is my blood” – served as a metaphor for the Last Supper. He viewed the sacrament as the symbolic honoring of Christ as Redeemer and Lord.

Luther saw the sacrament quite differently. He believed that communion always incorporated the real presence of Jesus. In this regard, Luther broke not only with Zwingli but also with the medieval church’s belief that the bread and wine were the actual body and blood of Christ. For Luther, God’s presence in communion was neither figurative nor literal; rather it was a living reality that lifted the heart and redeemed the soul.

The two reformers were never able to bridge their differences over the rite. As a result, two major but differing Protestant traditions – Reformed and Lutheran – emerged within the Reformation movement.

  • Bulletin insert – Week 20: Communion rite (pdf file)
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