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764

Break Now the Bread of Life

Full Text

1 Break now the bread of life, dear Lord, to me,
as once you broke the loaves beside the sea.
Beyond the sacred page I seek you, Lord;
my spirit waits for you, O living Word.

2 Bless your own word of truth, dear Lord, to me,
as when you blessed the bread by Galilee.
Then shall all bondage cease, all fetters fall;
and I shall find my peace, my All in all!

3 You are the bread of life, dear Lord, to me,
your holy Word the truth that rescues me.
Give me to eat and live with you above;
teach me to love your truth, for you are love.

4 O send your Spirit now, dear Lord, to me,
that he may touch my eyes and make me see.
Show me the truth made plain within your Word,
for in your book revealed I see you, Lord.

see more

Scripture References

Further Reflections on Scripture References

Some expressions in "Break Now the Bread of Life" may not satisfy everyone in the Reformed community, but these verses were not written to define doctrine in sharp detail. They were intended to be used as a simple prayer for illumination for Bible study groups and in the meetings of the Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle. Tradition also calls for the hymn's use during Sunday-evening vespers at the Lake Chautauqua' assembly grounds.

 

The hymn text draws on biblical images to depict Scripture's role in our lives. Stanzas 1 and 2 recall the breaking and the blessing of the bread at Jesus' feeding of the five thousand. Stanza 3 confesses Christ as the bread of life. Stanza 4 calls for the Spirit's presence and alludes to Christ's healings of various blind people.

 

Bert Polman, Psalter Hymnal Handbook

Confessions and Statements of Faith References

Further Reflections on Confessions and Statements of Faith References

This song emphasizes the action of the Christian and the church to call on God to renew our hearts through the word. These requests are based on the truths taught in Belgic Confession, Article 24: True faith is “produced in us by the hearing of God’s Word and by the work of the Holy Spirit, (and) regenerates us and makes us new creatures, causing us to live a new life and freeing us from the slavery of sin.”

764

Break Now the Bread of Life

Additional Prayers

A Prayer to be Fed
O Lord Jesus Christ, Wisdom of God, feed our hunger for knowledge.
Break the bread of life, dear Lord.
Feed our hunger for justice.
Break the bread of life, dear Lord.
 
Feed our hunger to be free from all that locks us down.
Break the bread of life, dear Lord.
O Lord Jesus Christ, just as you once broke loaves beside the sea,
break the bread of life for us, dear Lord. Amen.
— Cornelius Plantinga, Jr.
764

Break Now the Bread of Life

Tune Information

Name
BREAD OF LIFE
Key
D Major
Meter
6.4.6.4 D
764

Break Now the Bread of Life

Hymn Story/Background

Mary A. Lathbury is known primarily for two hymns: this one, originally "Break Thou the Bread of Life," and "Day Is Dying in the West." She wrote both at the request of Bishop John H. Vincent for use in the services of the Chautauqua Assembly, well-known in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries as a conference center that offered a rich fare of Bible study, Sunday school teaching methods, concerts, and plays. Vincent, the secretary of the Methodist Sunday School Union, founded the Chautauqua Institution on Chautauqua Lake in upper New York State in an effort to educate Sunday school teachers.
 
Lathbury wrote stanzas 1 and 2 in 1877; they were first published in Chautauqua Carols (1878). Alexander Groves added stanzas 3 and 4 later, and they were first published in the Wesleyan Methodist Magazine (London, Sept. 1913).
 
Some expressions in "Break Now the Bread of Life" may not satisfy everyone in the Reformed community, but these verses were not written to define doctrine in sharp detail. They were intended to be used as a simple prayer for illumination for Bible study groups and in the meetings of the Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle. Tradition also calls for the hymn's use during Sunday-evening vespers at the Lake Chautauqua' assembly grounds.
 
The hymn text draws on biblical images to depict Scripture's role in our lives. Stanzas 1 and 2 recall the breaking and the blessing of the bread at Jesus' feeding of the five thousand. Stanza 3 confesses Christ as the bread of life. Stanza 4 calls for the Spirit's presence and alludes to Christ's healings of various blind people.
 
William F. Sherwin composed BREAD OF LIFE in 1877 for the stanzas by Lathbury when he was the music director for the Chautauqua Institution.
 
A good fit for the hymn text, BREAD OF LIFE is a quiet tune, meditative in tone but with a fine climax in its final phrase. Sing this tune in harmony at a firm tempo.
— Bert Polman

Author Information

Mary A. Lathbury (b. Manchester, NY, 1841; d. East Orange, 1913) was a well-known writer, editor, and illustrator of children's books. Her literary skills earned her the nickname "Poet Laureate of Chautauqua."
— Bert Polman

Alexander Groves’s (b. Newport, Isle of Wight, England, 1842; d. Henleyon-Thames, Oxfordshire, England, 1909) career included being a grocer and accountant as well as a trustee, auditor, and actuary for the Henley Savings Bank. He served as organist of the Henley Wesleyan Chapel but later in life became a member of the Anglican Church in Henley. 
— Bert Polman

Composer Information

Although William Fiske Sherwin (b. 1829; d. 1888) lacked much formal education, his interest in music prompted him to attend singing schools and to study with Lowell Mason and George Webb. He became the music director at Pearl Street Baptist Church in Albany and a teacher at the Albany Female Seminary. Later he taught voice at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. In 1874 Methodist Bishop John H. Vincent, founder of the Chautauqua Assembly in New York State, asked Sherwin to organize and direct the Assembly's choruses. Sherwin retained that position until his death. He wrote few hymn texts but many hymn tunes and contributed to song collections such as Robert Lowry's Bright Jewels (1869) and Silas Vail's Songs of Grace and Glory (1874).
— Bert Polman
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