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
|First Line:||Bread of the world, in mercy broken|
|Author:||Reginald Heber (1827)|
|Liturgical Use:||Communion Songs|
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.
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)
This hymn is by Reginald Heber, an Anglican bishop who is best known for “From Greenland's Icy Mountains” and “Holy, Holy, Holy.” The date it was written is unknown, and it was published posthumously in 1827 by his widow in Hymns Written and Adapted to the Weekly Service of the Church Year. The text is in two short stanzas, though they are combined when sung to a longer tune such as RENDEZ À DIEU. The theme of the text is the sacrifice of Christ and its meaning for us, as shown in the sacrament.
This text is sung to many tunes, and is often set to original music. The two most frequently used tunes used are EUCHARISTIC HYMN and RENDEZ À DIEU.
EUCHARISTIC HYMN was written for this text by John Sebastian Bach Hodges, an Episcopal rector, in 1868. He named the tune for the liturgical use of the text and published it in 1869 in Book of Common Praise, which he edited.
The Genevan psalm tune RENDEZ À DIEU is also known as GENEVAN 98/118. It was originally used for Psalm 118 in the 1551 Geneva Psalter, then for both Psalms 98 and 118 in the 1562 edition. The name RENDEZ À DIEU comes from the opening words of a French paraphrase for Psalm 118. When this tune is sung with the joyful texts of the two Psalms, the Psalter Hymnal Handbook (p. 253-254) has this suggestion: “Its clear melodic structure and vibrant rhythm call for firm accompaniment with bright organ registration.” However, when the tune is used for a somber text like “Bread of the World,” a slower tempo and more muted organ would be appropriate.
Heber's original title for the text was “Before the sacrament.” For a confessional text like this one, it is most appropriate to sing it during a time of confession before Communion. If the choir is to sing it, there are plenty of settings to choose from. An arrangement that uses a familiar tune is “Celtic Communion”, in which Mark Hayes sets this text and one by St. Patrick to BUNESSAN, with optional orchestration for Celtic instruments such as flute or penny-whistle. Another option is a choral setting of “Bread of the World” to an expressive original melody and additional stanza by Mark Burrows. An a capella setting of “Bread of the World in Mercy Broken” is for choir in motet style by Robert Smith. “Communion Music for Manuals, Set 1” contains organ settings by Charles Callahan of both tunes this text is usually sung to: EUCHARISTIC HYMN and RENDEZ À DIEU.
Tiffany Shomsky, Hymnary.org