Gift of Finest Wheat

Author: Omer Westendorf

Omer Westendorf, one of the earliest lyricists for Roman Catholic liturgical music in English, died on October 22, 1997, at the age of eighty-one. Born on February 24, 1916, Omer got his start in music publishing after World War II, when he brought home for his parish choir in Cincinnati some of the Mass settings he had discovered in Holland. Interest in the new music being published in Europe led to his creation of the World Library of Sacred Music, initially a music-importing firm that brought much of this new European repertoire to U.S. parishes. Operating out of a garage in those early years, Omer often joked about the surprised expressions of visitors who stopped by and found a wide range of sheet music in various states of “stora… Go to person page >

Notes

Scripture References:
ref. = Ps. 81:16, John 6:35
st. 1 = John 10:14-16
st. 2 = Ps. 34:1
st. 3 = 1 Cor. 10:16
st. 4 = Col. 1:27
st. 5 = John 13:14-15

This beautiful song has become widely recognized as one of the finest recent Lord's Supper hymns, primarily because of its use of biblical images (see Scripture references). The stanzas introduce each of these images in turn, and the refrain repeatedly brings us back to the hymn's controlling thought: God's "gift of finest wheat" is Christ, "the bread of life" (Ps. 81:16; John 6:35). The solid theological text aptly presents many of the central meanings of the sacrament of the Lord's Supper.

Cincinnati poet and publisher Orner Westendorf (b. Cincinnati, OH, 1916) submitted "Gift of Finest Wheat" to a eucharistic-hymn competition that judged it the best out of more than two hundred entries. Westendorfs text and the tune BICENTENNIAL were then printed on a song sheet for use at the 41st Eucharistic Congress, a Roman Catholic convention on the eucharist held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1976 (the year of the USA's bicentennial). Both text and tune have recently been published in various hymnals.

Westendorf has had a rich and varied career in music. Educated at the College Conservatory of the University of Cincinnati, he served as organist and choirmaster of St. Bonaventure Church in Cincinnati (1936-1976). His freelance Bonaventure Choir appeared in many concerts and made numerous recordings. He also taught music in several Cincinnati schools and founded the World Library of Sacred Music in 1950 and I World Library Publications in 1957. Since 1976 he has operated his own consulting agency on church music. Westendorf has written some thirty-five hymn texts and compiled four hymnals, including the People’s Mass Book (1964), which was the first vernacular hymnal in the United States to implement the changes in Roman Catholic worship that Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) had approved.

Liturgical Use:
Lord's Supper, especially during distribution of the bread and wine.

--Psalter Hymnal Handbook

Tune

BICENTENNIAL

Robert E. Kreutz (b. La Crosse, WI, 1922; d. Golden, Colorado, 1996) carefully crafted BICENTENNIAL for this text in Denver, Colorado, in 1976. Though the meter changes frequently, the sung text flows very naturally, with the changing meters unified by melodic and rhythmic motifs. Singing the refrai…

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Timeline

Instances

Instances (24)TextImageAudioScoreFlexscore
Celebrating Grace Hymnal #468Image
Chalice Hymnal #429Text
Christian Worship: supplement #744Text
Church Hymnal, Fifth Edition #452
Church Hymnary (4th ed.) #671Text
Evangelical Lutheran Worship #484Image
Gather (3rd ed.) #940Image
Gather Comprehensive #815Text
Gather Comprehensive, Second Edition #816
Glory to God: the Presbyterian Hymnal #523TextImageAudio
Hymnal Supplement II #43
Lead Me, Guide Me (2nd ed.) #757
Lift Up Your Hearts: psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs #815ImageAudio
Lutheran Service Book #641Text
Presbyterian Hymnal: hymns, psalms, and spiritual songs #521TextImage
Psalms for All Seasons: a complete Psalter for worship #81A(alt)Image
Psalter Hymnal (Gray) #300TextImageAudio
Renew! #217TextImage
The Covenant Hymnal: a worshipbook #560
The United Methodist Hymnal #629TextImage
Together in Song: Australian Hymn Book II #539
Voices United: The Hymn and Worship Book of The United Church of Canada #478Text
With One Voice #711Text
Worship and Rejoice #705TextImage