John Calvin and many of the Reformers were strong advocates of weekly communion. But as Keith Mathison laments in his excellent book Given for You: Reclaiming Calvin’s Doctrine of the Lord’s Supper,
The practice of the church, as described in the New Testament, was regular, weekly celebration of the Lord’s Supper. This practice continued for the first several centuries of the church’s existence. During the Middle Ages, the Roman Catholic Church gradually moved away from a weekly celebration in which everyone participated. During the sixteenth century, many of the Reformers called for a return to the practice of the apostolic church. For a variety of reasons, they often had to settle for less than the ideal, and unfortunately what they settled for, rather than what they preferred, often became part of the received tradition in Reformed churches. In fact, this ingrained tradition is the only thing preventing the Reformed churches from finally achieving the goal of such early Reformers as Calvin by returning to the ancient Christian practice of weekly communion. (GFY, 297).
As Mathison points out and handily refutes, there are the standard issue objections by those who desire to continue the “ingrained tradition” of infrequency: It is not specifically commanded anywhere in the NT, it is a Roman Catholic practice, it would obscure the centrality of the preaching of the word, and, according to Mathison, perhaps most unreasonable of all that it would make the Supper too routine and boring (as if routine were a four-letter word or that the final value of a thing is based upon it’s ability to be, what, fun?).
But engage one who advocates against frequency long enough and, after these objections, eventually one will be confronted with the odd notion that frequency entails some sort of sacramental magic where Word and Spirit are negligible in relation to the visible signs and seals that confirm faith. Anecdotal evidence of people getting up during the words of institution to use the restroom, or folks scrambling into the service to receive the sacraments after the preached, sung and prayed Word will be offered to buttress what arguably amounts to fear-mongering against frequency. But Mathison offers up the frequenter Calvin in a way that helpfully demonstrates that frequency has no desire to create empty symbols of the bread and wine. In point of fact, it is the precise opposite:
“Calvin takes great pains to distance himself from any ‘magical’ understanding of the sacraments. He insists that there is no force or power that resides inherently in the elements themselves. What power they have comes from the working of the Holy Spirit:
The sacraments properly fulfill their office only when the Spirit, that inward teacher, comes to them, by whose power alone hearts are penetrated and affections moved and our souls opened for the sacraments to enter in. If the Spirit be lacking, the sacraments can accomplish nothing more in our minds than the splendor of the sun shining upon blind eyes, or a voice sounding in deaf ears. Therefore, I make such a division between Spirit and sacraments that the power to act rests with the former, and the ministry alone is left to the latter—a ministry empty and trifling, apart from the action of the Spirit, but charged with great effect when the Spirit works within and manifests his power. (ICR, 4.14.9, GFY, pgs. 10-11)
“It is a grave error, according to Calvin, to treat the sacraments as if they were optional elements to be observed or ignored at our discretion. Wallace provides a helpful summary of the main points in Calvin’s view of the celebration of the sacraments in the church (Wallace, Calvin’s Doctrine, 239). First, according to Calvin, the sacraments are subordinate to the word:
The right administering of the Sacrament cannot stand apart from the Word. For whatever benefit may come to us from the Supper requires the Word: whether we are to be confirmed in faith, or exercised in confession, or aroused to duty, there is need of preaching. Therefore, nothing more preposterous could happen in the Supper than for it to be turned into a silent action, as has happened under the pope’s tyranny…Silence involves abuse and fault. If the promises are recited and the mystery declared, so that they who are about to receive it may receive it with benefit, there is no reason to doubt that this is a true consecration. (ICR, 4.17.39)
“According to Calvin, the word and sacraments are inseparably joined, and this means that both are necessary” (ICR, 4.14.3-4, GFY, pgs. 43-44).