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Eight Short Essays: Article 2


Article 2: «Ubi caritas et amor» : what does this Hymn mean?

This latin text1 used to be always sung at the «Washing of the feet» part of the Solemn Evening Mass of Maunday Thursday. Here is my translation:

Antiphon Where are love and charity, there God is.
Verse Christ's love assembles us as one.
Verse Let us exult, and rejoice in him.
Verse Let us fear and love the living God.
Verse And from a sincere heart let us love each other.

I do not know when this Hymn was first sung, but its message is very close to the Gospel's. This Hymn says that God is love and that we find Him everywhere we find love, charity and the service of the other. By washing His disciples' feet, Jesus showed He was their Servant. He also told them to do likewise.

This message also comes out in John's first Epistle: «Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.»2

Let us assume for one moment that this last text's author is right. What does it imply? What does this text really says? It not only says that the child of God is a loving, caring, self-giving individual but also that any loving, caring, self-giving individual is a child of God, whether she recognizes herself as such or whether others recognize her as such. Another way to say the same thing is that the way we can tell if someone is of God is if she is loving, caring, self-giving, a servant to all. This is how everyone knows that Mother Theresa is of God, is a saint.

If this love exists between partners, God is in their union, because «love is of God». It does not matter if the partners are legally or religiously married or not, of different sexes or not, as long as this love, this self-giving, this service to the other, is well and truly present. Because, as John so aptly puts it, love is from God.

Hate on the other hand, hate of those who are seen as different for any reason, is not of God. Considering loving couples as evil because their members are gays or lesbians, divorced or unwed, this is not of God; as John so aptly put it: «He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.».

So as Catholic Christians, children of God, we do not have a choice in our conduct: we are to love the others, even when they are different; we have to rejoice in the fact that their union is just as holy as the ones between spouses of the opposite sex in a «regular Catholic marriage» as long as it is one of true love and service.

Solemnity of the Sacred Heart, June 18th, 2004.

1 Antiphon Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est.
Versum Congregavit nos in unum Christi amor.
Versum Exsultemus, et in ipsi jucundemur.
Versum Timeamus, et amemus Deum vivum.
Versum Et ex corde diligamus nos sincero.
The Liber Usualis , page 675. Desclée Company, Tournai (Belgium) - New York N.Y., 1961

2 1 John 4: 7-8; from the King James Version

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