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Where charity and love are, God is there

Today is Maundy Thursday, and tonight’s worship service is my favorite of the entire liturgical year. Have you ever taken part in a Maundy Thursday service?

A hymn that’s been part of Maundy Thursday for a long, long time is “Where charity and love prevail,” or Ubi caritas. Some scholars think the text goes back to the earliest days of the church, and that the familiar chant melody (it’s at #653 in Evangelical Lutheran Worship) goes back to sometime before the year 900. Martin Luther and Katharina von Bora Luther would have known this chant well from their days in the monastery and the convent.

Only the first three stanzas of the very long ancient text are generally sung these days, and some contemporary versions are even shorter. Whichever version you like best, I think this lovely, loving hymn makes a good prayer for any time of the year, not just Maundy Thursday. Would you agree?

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Here’s a very close English translation of the old Latin text.

Where charity and love are, God is there.
Christ’s love has gathered us into one.Let us rejoice and be pleased in him.
Let us fear and love the living God,
And may we love each other with a sincere heart.

Where charity and love are, God is there.
As we are gathered into one body,
Beware, lest we be divided in mind.
Let evil impulses stop, let controversy cease,
And may Christ our God be in our midst.

Where charity and love are, God is there.
And may we with the saints
See your face in glory, O Christ our God:
The joy that is immense and good,
Forever and ever. Amen.

Audrey Riley is director for stewardship for Women of the ELCA. Do you have a story to write about your faith, your doubt or your spiritual discoveries? Let us know by email.

Comments (3)
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Patti says:
Apr 13, 2017

Audrey, Maundy Thursday is one of my favorites also. I always enjoy the Seder meal and my congregation also has foot washing. The “Three Days” is the most special time for Christians.

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Carol Walter says:
Apr 13, 2017

Thanks so much for enlightening me about the history of this hymn, which we will sing at our service this evening.. It is good to be joined in both the past and the present of charity and love. May each of us carry Christ’s unending love into the future.

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Ann Friederich says:
Apr 13, 2017

Maundy Thursday has been an integral part of my worship journey – at least to now. I also appreciate the Seder meal and footwashing. After that, it has been the custom to hear the seven last words and to robe the sanctuary in black, which is meaningful to me, too. However, this year is much different. Our congregation is much smaller and the members do not come out and support these opportunities, so there was no Maundy Thursday Seder or Tenebrae service. We will have a Good Friday worship, and the pastor reads “Ragman” by Walt Wangerin, which is particularly meaningful.

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