Author: Mary A. Lathbury (1877)
Tune: [Break thou the bread of life] (Sherwin)
This hymn has served as both a comfort and inspiration to many people since its first publication. Before every mid-week service, the great English preacher G. Campbell Morgan would read the words to this hymn to help him focus on his message. The primary focus of this hymn is centered upon Bible study and the desire to glean truth from God’s word.
The words to this hymn were authored by Mary Lathbury, who often wrote hymns to accompany various parts of the Bible. Eventually known as the “Poet of Chautauqua,” Lathbury was seen as a kind and gentle Christian soul whose creativity was immense. “Break Now the Bread of Life,” is one of her two most widely known hymns. Many have been misled in thinking that this hymn is a reference to the Lord’s Supper, when it is actually centered upon studying God’s word. This hymn can be seen in reference to John 6:35 which reads, “And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth in me shall never thirst.” In some hymnals, the third and fourth stanzas are omitted and the text is modernized.
The tune most commonly sung for this hymn is BREAD OF LIFE, specifically written for the text by William F. Sherwin in 1877. The notes are both gentle and reassuring, complimenting Mary Lathbury’s lyrics, and allowing the singer to focus on each word of the hymn. It is a slow, flowing tune, but uplifting nonetheless.
This hymn works well throughout the course of the year, especially on Sundays of contemplation and right before scripture readings. This hymn is not ordinarily used for the Lord’s Supper. This hymn should be sung in harmony at a firm tempo.
Suggested music for this hymn:
Break thou the bread of life