BREAK THOU THE BREAD OF LIFE                                          written in 1877

The Story

Mary Lathbury (1841-1913) was the daughter of a Methodist minister, and the sister to 2 Methodist ministers. She was better known as a commercial artist than as a hymnwriter, and her illustrations appeared regularly in popular American magazines. But she was concerned about superficial Christianity. So many Christians didn’t seem to have any depth. Their Bible reading only scratched the surface, and they had no understanding of how culture and education could enrich their Christian lives.

During the summers, Mary often vacationed at Lake Chautauqua in New York, and shared her burden with others who vacationed there at the same time. Soon the Chautauqua movement was founded. Mixing Christian inspiration, culture, and education, the movement spread rapidly across the country. Knowing Mary’s concern that people study the Bible to get into a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ, the leader of the movement asked her to write a hymn that would serve as their Assembly Anthem.

This hymn is often sung as a Communion hymn in churches today, primarily because of its reference to “bread”. But Mary actually wrote it to encourage Christians to go “beyond the sacred page” of their Bible and let Jesus reveal Himself to them as they read the “bread of life”.

The Song

            Read this hymn, and – today – thank God for the gift of Scripture.

Break Thou the bread of life, dear Lord, to me,
as Thou didst break the loaves beside the sea;
beyond the sacred page I seek Thee, Lord;
my spirit pants for Thee, O living Word!

Bless Thou the truth, dear Lord, to me, to me,
as Thou didst bless the bread by Galilee;
then shall all bondage cease, all fetters fall;
and I shall find my peace, my all in all.

Thou art the Bread of life, O Lord, to me,
Thy holy Word the truth that saveth me;
give me to eat and live with Thee above;
teach me to love Thy truth, for Thou art love.

O send Thy Spirit, Lord, now unto me,
that He may touch my eyes, and make me see:
show me the truth concealed within Thy Word,
and in Thy Book revealed I see the Lord.


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