I am the Bread of Life
  • Mark P.
    Posts: 248
    Today I sang "I am the Bread of Life" by Sister Suzanne Toolan during Communion in an Episcopal church. The arrangement, by Betty Pulkingham, was mediocre in my mind (how can this be in an Anglican church?). Anyway, is the lovely harmonization in Worship III Sister Suzanne's? The organ part in Worship III is vastly superior to the clunky accompaniment I heard today.
  • Yes, that is Toolan’s original.

    NB, in Worship II the original text was “…and I will raise him up…” Interesting, I always thought.
  • Original first verse:
    I am the Bread of Life. HE who comes to me shall not hunger. HE who BELIEVES in me shall not thirst.
    No one can come to me, unless the Father DRAW HIM.
    And I will raise HIM up, and I will raise HIM up, and I will raise HIM up on the last day.

    Written in 1970 by Sr. Toolan. Bastardized in 1986, either by Sr. Toolan, by GIA, or by Sr. Toolan at the request of GIA.

    Thanked by 1hcmusicguy
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,451
    Happy Easter to you too.
  • David AndrewDavid Andrew
    Posts: 1,204
    At best a grammatical nightmare (mixing pronouns . . . "I" becomes "He" and "Him", then "I" and "He" are all used in the same sentence).

    At worst a theological confusion. Who is the "I" or the "He" referring to? If I'm singing this, is the pronoun "I" referring to me? Then who is "He"? Who am "I" raising up? We all know these arguments, or should. And no, I'm not going to enter into the non-starter about chanted Propers that contain "Vox Dei" texts. Apples and oranges, and anyone who argues otherwise is, I think, merely attempting to be an agent provocateur.

    Finally, why can't we just agree that in the context of the "gathered assembly" singing both the "Vox Dei" and the "Vox Plebs Dei" in alternation, there is a severe distortion perpetuated against the imagery; it renders the singing of the text in this manner an exercise in narcissistic self-adulation; it isolates and breaks down the dialogic nature of the Mass and is just an exercise in poor grammar?

    There's very little that Robert Batastini, Editor Emeritus of GIA, has said that I can agree with anymore, but in this case I do agree. He said that this text could be altered by Sr. Suzanne by merely changing the tense of the pronouns, making it a doctrinal statement sung by the people, viz., "He is the bread of life/We who come to Him shall not hunger . . . And He will raise us up . . . "

    I would take it one step further. If we add to this alteration the employment of the name of Christ at the beginning, the theology and creedal quality of the text becomes clear: "Christ is the Bread of Life/ We who come to Him shall not hunger . . . And He will raise us up on the last day."

  • Alternating the voice and address becomes confusing in many psalms too.It is not unique to tHIS hymn.
    But I do not like the extended fuzzy interpretations the "Body of Christ" comparisons. I have recently heard these comments shared during a workshop on the New Missal.
    1. During the communion rite, the celebrant greets and addresses the communicant as the " Body of
    Christ." rather than proclaiming the presence of Christ in the Host.
    2. Talking in church is preferred over private private prayers as we are Christ, and socializing is talking
    to Christ.
    3. Christ has no body but yours. ( I am beginning to think the Christ has nobody willing to accept him as
    the head of the body))
    4. If we genuflect to the tabernacle then we should genuflect to each other.
    5. Christ is not mentioned as the head of the mystical body nor are we mentioned as mere members but
    rather as His equals.
    6. The incarnation is only a metaphor or a paradigm. We are flesh, we are the incarnation-
    we make Christ real.
    7. familiar Hymns texts are used to validate some of these statements.
  • Of course, my initial response that this on was sung on Easter was....why?

  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,951
    I program this hymn 3 or 4 times a year for those who like it. For the same reason, I use, "Were You There," on Good Friday. I don't like either one of them, but have bigger battles to fight.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    The miracle of Easter is resurrection, apparently also including some horses we thought were dead.
    Thanked by 1KARU27
  • No "Bread of Life" at Sacred Heart.
    Communion pieces were "Adoro Te, O Panis Caelice" and Remondi's "O Sacrum Convivium". Meditation was the Mode VI "Regina Caeli".
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,951
    Gavin, as is said in the East by priests after Easter, "Christ is risen, and I'm dead." I think we musicians often feel the same degree of exhaustion.
  • Mark P.
    Posts: 248
    I sang four services for Easter and I came to detest "I am the Bread of Life." I definitely think that the arrangement contributed to my dislike.
  • Greetings, all -- my first post. I consider Sr. Toolan a highly exceptional Catholic composer and "IATBOL" a small masterpiece of its type. Of course the original text was fine, and the only problem is that political correctness has reared its ugly head again and has dementedly chased male pronouns out of sight. The missalettes and hymnals of virtually all denominations are crammed with such vandalism. I wrote a short study on how it mars the LCMS's otherwise great Lutheran Hymnal -- copies on request. I comment in it that the fad ruins great poetry and trashes theology. Supposedly it's done to safeguard the females (somewhere) who, without prompting or a feminist teach-in, profess to feel slighted by God or his Son being represented as "he" or "him". If they exist I've never met one, but there I go again, attempting to apply logic to PC.

    Notably, the pronoun police often leave the devil male -- "the prince of darkness grim, we tremble not for him."

    I recall a folky RC hymn which was banal enough as "Great things happen when God mixes with man" but was repellent as the witless "Great things happen when God mixes with us".

    "I am the Bread of life" -- Jesus Christ said it. "Yes, Lord, I believe" -- St. Peter said it and so should we (Matt. 16:16).
  • " I consider Sr. Toolan a highly exceptional Catholic composer and "IATBOL" a small masterpiece of its type."

    "I" am not the bread of life. "I" am very uncomfortable singing that "I" will raise up anything, other than a window sash. Welcome to the forum, be sure to tell us what you think of On Eagles Wings! 8<)
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 9,176
    Welcome, 1954!

    Which came first, and which was the rip-off: "Great things happen when God mixes with man" or the soda-pop jingle "Great things happen when Cott mixes with us"?
  • " I consider Sr. Toolan a highly exceptional Catholic composer and "IATBOL" a small masterpiece of its type."

    "I" am not the bread of life. "I" am very uncomfortable singing that "I" will raise up anything, other than a window sash. Welcome to the forum, be sure to tell us what you think of On Eagles Wings! 8<)<br />
    (the eggs, the eggs!!!!!)
  • Oh, well, now you're bringing in the "voice of God" problem, and that is a big one. At least 25 years ago someone was already decrying it in the AGO magazine. Rightly so, because it's another fad that's just crazy.

    By "of its type" I basically meant "with the understanding that there's something notably bad about virtually everything in the genre", e.g. that all guitarish hymns tend to move congregations ever further away from their musical and Scriptural roots and from a more "think" to more "feel" orientation.

    I guess when I play and sing IATBOL with my Catholic congregation it seems so much more substantive than a lot of other guitarish stuff (and the words are so much less trite) it lifts us all momentarily out of the banality of "please rise to greet our celebrant", prayers for open borders, lectors who stumble over Hebrew names they haven't practiced, etc. But the singer is undeniably presuming to sing Christ's words, and ultimately that's not right, at least not in the context of so many others that do.

    Speaking of banality.... I wasn't going to say anything about On Eagles' Wings since I'm trying to quit causing brawls and turning people off, but since you've asked, I despise it and am proud to say that in the nearly ten years I've been picking hymns at my place it has never been done. Yeesh, it's awful! Makes everything sound just fine and copacetic, nothing to worry about, we're back in church a week later, the lights still come on and the pews are still cushy, lucky us. Let's worrying about the big issues out there to the experts.

    That's the deal with the "voice of God" numbers. Most or all are sweet, reassuring, comforting, and they let people confuse themselves with the Almighty for a few minutes. God is just a nice pink marshmallow in the sky. He never rebukes or punishes. What people are missing with their love of treacle!

    I love picking the hymns and polling the faithful later as to who knew which selections. We do guitarish ones, but only those with some character, and with keyboard only. Our missalette, forget which brand it is, has introduced me to some really quality material, some of it centuries old.

    Thanks for your words of welcome. Hilarious re Cott!! Like the old ad "When you change to Cinzano you mix with the best, Cinzano Cinzano".
  • Back in 1980 , in Olympia Washington, about a month after St Helens, Sr. Toolan herself gave a lecture on opening the seven chakras. (not that there's anything wrong with it).
    There she said that the sentence "I AM" is a mantra
    used for the specific purpose of opening one of the higher chakras.
    From this I Inferred her expressed intention to take the words "I AM" beyond merely quoting scripture but to to a level of pantheism that goes beyond the unity with the head of the Mystic Body.
    I spoke privately with her later and she expressed an intention to open the chakras with words and music.

    "Be still and know that I AM God," when used as a mantra for oneness and peace is quite different from its transcendent meaning in the psalm. But then that was 1980 - I accumulated a lot of bad Karma.
    Thanked by 1Earl_Grey
  • Person in the pew next to me sings "I am the Bread of Life".
    I nudge said person and grumble softly, "No, you're not!"

    The Bread of Life in the Tabernacle, waiting to be placed on the TONGUES (read "not hands") of those who hunger for Him.
    Thanked by 1JacobFlaherty
  • When forced to sing it, we set it so the choir began with:

    "And Jesus said, "
    Read no further if you don't want your preconceptions and prejudices challenged.

    Old Dopey out here was pondering why our resident Grumpies were going all Rodney King on Seabiscuit (aka IOTBOL) for the umpteenth time afresh when there are so many other pleasant diversions to occupy inquiring minds, ie. Royal Nuptials, devastating tornadoes, fish-faced moguls kissing mirrors over presidential birth documents, the collapse of the dollar/western civilization (which came first of those eggs?) etc. And cool new person adds OEW in for good measure as well. Cool sez I.

    I wonder why the average pew lodger emerges from the rubble of what was his basement in Tuscaloosa, or the tabloid pages of the Daily News, or pie-eyed from the den after an hour of Hannity/Matthews' ranting about Brit pomposity versus Trump/Obama pomposity.....humming "Gustate et videte" to h/self as a coping, comforting mechanism?

    Why, when gramma gets burried that all four generations of the surviving family will agree that IOTBOL/OEW or How Great Thou Art will be "just perfect" for her funeral?

    Well, channeling my inner Mozart gave me the answer. I was thinking about a few rhythmic motives in Amie's REQUIEM, having just rehearsed a hundred singers this last Tuesday evening who often ambled through it like donkeys instead of galloping like thoroughbreds. "Christe e-LE.....Quam olim ABrahae...." and so forth. At one point in that rehearsal I reminded them of one of the most basic maxims of rhythmic intent: rest/three successive pulses that lead to a majorly emphatic DOWNbeat. "What's the pinnacle example in Classical music of that?" I demanded of them. A hyper brilliant female tenor attorney sez "Beethoven's Fifth" to which I bellow "tum tum tum TUM! Had no further lapses of momentum with that motive for the balance of the rehearsal.

    What do the three refrain melodies of IOTBOL/OEW/HGTA have in common? "tum tum tum TUM! ! There is just something within the human neural hardwired soul that responds in affirmation to the use of that device to set words. Maybe the words themselves get subsummed by the melodic/rhythmic figuration itself, but the human soul's need for emphatic structure amidst most of the grind, chaos, turmoil, silliness and dreck of daily life somehow feels, ahem, "raised up" or "lifted" via those five pulses (rest included.)

    You might say, "Dopey, so what does that have to do with the drudgery of Vox Dei sacropop?" Well, Grumpy, it just might serve to remind us that there are often things at play within these ditties that simply "works" for the simple soul that suggests clearly it's okay to just get up and take that next step into the day. You can find all sorts and manner of these little hidden hooks (think of the sequence of melodic notes: 1-7-5. 1-7-5) that Lloyd-Webber splashes everywhere in every tune, but Rutter managed to sanctify in his Requiem. It boggles the mind, it's inexplicable.

    So, I say we just get over it, move on, stop beating ourselves, the PIPs and the horse of the tune up on a regular, intervallic basis, and appreciate that God has a pure beautiful heart that gave us both chant/polyphony and yes, rhythm. 'Cause each breathing human is capable of burping out "I got rhythm" if s/he needs a smile now and then.
  • He's back and in good form!
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,951
    He's getting grumpy. They must have locked him out of the wine cellar again. ;-)

    However, he is correct about the Toolan song not being worth arguing over. There's much worse out there.
  • Hey, Byzantine, I'm in the room! Third person? ;-P
    That's not grumpiness, btw, that's CIRCUMspection, something with which I am quite familiar.
    Actually, I thought my anal-ysis of the Beethoven Effect (being trademarked as I type) spoke to something very primal within the human soul, triggering some sort of "dorfin" affect. But, my bearings are a bit off (I did have a disclaimer.)
    I have two first communions starting in an hour, and I'm just now taking in the DVR of the Will/Kate spectacle, the kwah's singing a Whitacre/Lauridsen/Tavernesque "Ubi Caritas" that doesn't have a "tum tum tum TUM!" So, I might need a second cup of Joe.
    However, THIS might sound grumpy: has Westminster Cathedral ever looked more Disney? Or is it just the "guests?"
    One redeeming quality: the couple seems genuinely steeped in love and humility. And as I type that, they unleash "JERUSALEM" with a cut to Elmer Fudd looking befuddled over the text as he warbles, no wait, that's Elton....
    Principle celebrant tempers the presence of the Cookie Monster. Still looking, however, for Rowan Atkinson and his holy spigot.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,951
    The Disney effect could have been from both. I thought the greenery looked a bit strange. Elton DOES look a bit Fuddish, now that you mention it. Also, the neutered, PC texts were equivalent to anything the U.S. Catholic big three publishers have produced.

    I mentioned on another forum (eastern) that it is amusing to watch clergy and people going through the elaborate ceremonies of a faith they mostly don't believe or practice. But that would be true most anywhere, not just in England.
  • Ralph BednarzRalph Bednarz
    Posts: 491
    "I say we just ger over it" and sing the propers.
  • Mark P.
    Posts: 248
    I've read a lot lately about going through elaborate ceremonies that the partcipants don't believe or practice. Couldn't some of them believe a little? Couldn't some of them be led to faith by participating in such ceremonies? I'm kind of with Jewish practice here: do the right thing and let intention follow. Even if there's a hint of faith and/or good intent, that's enough for me. To suggest otherwise seems Puritanical. God alone can read hearts.
    Thanked by 1IanW
  • I need to get hold of a copy of the Korean lyrics of I am the bread of life. Does anyone know where can I find it. We are going to sing this hymn in English, Spanish and Korean. I have the Spanish lyrics and desperately need the Korean. God bless you and Happy Easter to all
  • Scott_WScott_W
    Posts: 468
    Offer up the sufferings caused by IATBOL for the conversion of sinners.
  • My e-mail address is berthaclaraus@

  • Thanks a lot Andrew
  • IanWIanW
    Posts: 756
    However, THIS might sound grumpy: has Westminster Cathedral ever looked more Disney? Or is it just the "guests?"

    I don't know about grumpy, Charles, or Disneyfication, or the amusing implication that the congregation were dragged there kicking and screaming, but it was Westminster Abbey (currently occupied by amiable heretics), not Westminster Cathedral (built and still held by the One, Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church the last time I looked).
  • What do the three refrain melodies of IOTBOL/OEW/HGTA have in common? "tum tum tum TUM! ! There is just something within the human neural hardwired soul that responds in affirmation to the use of that device to set words.

    Or, in the case of Beethoven's 5th, not set to words.
  • francis
    Posts: 10,703
    rest, quarter, quarter, quarter... yuck!

    what is iotbol
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 5,164
    I Am The Bread of Life ... no IOTBOL is sooooo much better. :)
  • Earl_GreyEarl_Grey
    Posts: 892
    I think we're on to something here. A new coping mechinism for church musicians to tolerate sanctopop by associating it on a primal level to an actual masterwork. Now, can anyone think of a good Ruth Duck hymn that uses the rhytmical motive from eine kleine Nachtmusik?
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 3,177
    I just threw-out the last remaining hymnals we had in the choirloft with IATBOL, Prayer of S Francis, etc. It was one of the most joyful experiences of my life!

    I had to play PoSF (and Amazing Grace) at a funeral on Monday (they were requested); they sounded to pitiful in comparision to the other music:

    Introit: Requiem Aeternam
    --Serdeczna Matko
    Psalm 23
    Alleluia: Eternal rest
    Offertory: Out of the Depths (SEP)
    --Amazing Grace
    Sanctus & Agnus XVIII
    Communion: Lux Aeterna
    --Prayer of St Francis
    --Panis Angelicus (Lambillotte)
    In paradisum
    --Witaj Krolowo nieba
    Thanked by 1Gavin
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    Well... maybe not compared to Lambillotte....