Hymn of the Week: August 22
by David Sinden, Organist & Director of Music,
St. Peter's Episcopal Church, Ladue
Proper 16B - August 22, 2021
Hymn 472: "Hope of the world, thou Christ of great compassion"
Given the "bread of life" discourse in the Gospel readings in recent weeks, it is no surprise that many of the hymns in this column have had a Eucharistic focus of late. Two of them even included the phrase "bread of life."
On August 1, Mary Chapman wrote about Hymn 339: "Deck thyself, my soul, with gladness," with its phrase "Jesus, Bread of Life, I pray thee."
On August 8, the Rev. Brooke Myers wrote about Hymn 335: "I am the bread of life," with the crucial phrase at the start of the hymn.
In addition to these two instances, the phrase appears three more times in "The Holy Eucharist" section of the hymnal: Hymn 305/6 ("Come, risen Lord, and deign to be our guest"), Hymn 308/9 ("O Food to pilgrims given"), and Hymn 342 ("O Bread of life for sinners broken").
Given that the prescribed pericopes from the discourse conclude this Sunday, I thought this might be an opportune time to look at the remaining appearance of the phrase "bread of life" in the Hymnal.
Hymn 472: "Hope of the world, thou Christ of great compassion" was written by Georgia Harkness in 1953. A Methodist, Harkness was the first woman to attain a full professorship in an American theological seminary.
"Hope of the world" is anchored in the Christian hope of Romans 15:13, words familiar to many Episcopalians through their use at the conclusion of the Morning and Evening Prayer: "May the God of hope fill us with all joy and peace in believing through the power of the Holy Spirit."
The second stanza of the hymn emphasizes the hope we have in Christ as the Bread of Life: "Hope of the world, God's gift from highest heaven, / bringing to hungry souls the bread of life."
You can read the words of the hymn on Hymnary.org: https://hymnary.