1 Breathe on me, Breath of God,
fill me with life anew,
that I may love the way you love,
and do what you would do.
2 Breathe on me, Breath of God,
until my heart is pure,
until my will is one with yours,
to do and to endure.
3 Breathe on me, Breath of God,
so shall I never die,
but live with you the perfect life
for all eternity.
Psalter Hymnal, 1987
|First Line:||Breathe on me, breath of God|
|Title:||Breathe on me, Breath of God|
|Author:||Edwin Hatch (1878)|
|Notes:||French translation: "Souffle du Dieu vivant" by Suzanne Bidgrain|
|Liturgical Use:||Prayer Songs|
st. 1 = Ezek. 36:27
st. 1-3 = Joel 2:28, John 20:22
The text is a prayer for renewal by God's Spirit (like Ps. 51:10-12), a renewal that is to be expressed in a life of love (st. 1), in purity of heart and will (st. 2), and in an intimacy with God that heralds the perfection of eternal life (st. 3). In both Hebrew and Greek the Word for "spirit" is the same as "wind/air/breath"; thus in this text the Spirit of God is referred to as "Breath of God."
Intended as a hymn for ordination, this text by Edwin Hatch (b. Derby, England, 1835; d. Oxford, England, 1889) was privately printed in 1878 and then published in Henry Allon's The Congregational Psalmist Hymnal in 1886. Hatch evidently had a simple and childlike faith; that description fits this text as well.
Hatch grew up in a Non-conformist home, was educated at Pembroke College, Oxford, England, and ordained in the Church of England in 1859. A teacher of classics and church history, he taught at Trinity College, Toronto, Canada (1859-1862), and at a high school in Quebec City (1862-1867). In 1867 he returned to Oxford, where he served the academic world with great distinction, particularly as a specialist on early Christian history. His few hymn texts were published posthumously in Towards Fields of Light (1890).
Pentecost; as a prayer for renewal; ordination and other commissioning services; profession of faith.
--Psalter Hymnal Handbook, 1988
This hymn has been placed in hundreds of hymnals because of its powerful and overwhelming invitation of God’s spirit into the body. The lyrics seem amazingly simple and sensitive for a man who was so intensely educated and driven. The gentle tune swells and falls gracefully, almost like it is breathing itself. This hymn encapsulates a deep desire to be renewed in Christ, and purified by the Holy Spirit. “Breathe on me, Breath of God,” has uplifted the hearts of many a Christian and remains an immortal favorite.
Although Hatch did not produce very many hymns in his lifetime, “Breathe on me, Breath of God” has been published in hundreds of hymnals.
The tune most commonly used for this hymn is TRENTHAM, which was originally composed by Robert Jackson in 1888 for Henry Baker’s “O Perfect Life of Love.” Although TRENTHAM has been used with multiple texts throughout the decades, it has been most often placed with “Breathe on me, Breath of God.” Full of hope and power, this tune is the perfect accompaniment for Hatch’s lyrics.
Due to the themes incorporated in the text, this hymn will fit in well with the Pentecost season—although it should not be restricted to just one part of the year. It is also especially appropriate for use at confirmations and baptisms.
This hymn should be sung sincerely; slowly enough to allow the words to ruminate but without dragging them out.
Suggested music for this hymn:For those looking for an instrumental version: “Fantasia on Trentham” is an excellent arrangement for handbells.
Luke Getz Hymnary.org