Bread of the World

Representative Text

1 Bread of the world in mercy broken,
wine of the soul in mercy shed,
by whom the words of life were spoken,
and in whose death our sins are dead.

2 Look on the heart by sorrow broken,
look on the tears by sinners shed;
and be thy feast to us the token
that by thy grace our souls are fed.

Source: Trinity Psalter Hymnal #205

Author: Reginald Heber

Reginald Heber was born in 1783 into a wealthy, educated family. He was a bright youth, translating a Latin classic into English verse by the time he was seven, entering Oxford at 17, and winning two awards for his poetry during his time there. After his graduation he became rector of his father's church in the village of Hodnet near Shrewsbury in the west of England where he remained for 16 years. He was appointed Bishop of Calcutta in 1823 and worked tirelessly for three years until the weather and travel took its toll on his health and he died of a stroke. Most of his 57 hymns, which include "Holy, Holy, Holy," are still in use today. -- Greg Scheer, 1995… Go to person page >

Text Information

First Line: Bread of the world, in mercy broken
Title: Bread of the World
Author: Reginald Heber (1827)
Place of Origin: England
Language: English
Copyright: Public Domain
Liturgical Use: Communion Songs


Scripture References:
all st. = John 6:33-35, Rom. 6:11

Written by Reginald Heber (PHH 249), "Bread of the World" was first published posthumously in his Hymns written and adapted to the Weekly Church Service of the Year (1827); it was subtitled "Before the Sacrament."

The text is a prayer asking Christ to look on us with mercy and to feed us with his grace. Though written in two stanzas, it is one continuous thought. A devotional text with strong poetic images–"bread of the world" and "wine of the soul"–this hymn invites confession of sin and the acceptance of divine grace.

Liturgical Use:
As Heber said, "Before the sacrament"–use this hymn as part of the service of confession and forgiveness or during the communion liturgy as a substitute for the traditional singing of the Agnus Dei.

--Psalter Hymnal Handbook
Bread of the world in mercy broken. Bishop R. Heber. [Holy Communion.] First published in his posthumous Hymns, &c, 1827, p. 143, in 2 stanzas of 4 lines, and headed “Before the Sacrament." Its use has become most extensive in all English-speaking countries. Original text in Taring's Collection, No. 529. In the Mitre Hymn Book, 1836, the opening line was altered to "Bread of our life in mercy broken," but this reading has fallen out of use.

-- John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology (1907)



John Sebastian Bach Hodges (b. Bristol, Gloucestershire, England, 1830; d. Baltimore, MD, 1915) composed EUCHARISTIC HYMN for Heber's text in 1868, while he was rector at Grace Episcopal Church, Newark, New Jersey. He first published the tune in his Book of Common Praise (1869) and named it after th…

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GENEVAN 98/118 is the one tune in the Psalter Hymnal used for two psalms. It was first published in the 1551 Genevan Psalter as a setting for Psalm 118; in the 1562 edition it was also set to Psalm 98 (hence both numbers in the tune name). The tune is also often named RENDEZ A DIEV, the French incip…

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Include 290 pre-1979 instances
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