The History And Meaning Behind Ubi Caritas Sunday May 8 2022, 2:45 PM
Yona Marie
Singer, Songwriter, Producer.
The History And Meaning Behind Ubi Caritas

The History Of Ubi Caritas

The origins of this popular Gregorian chant are covered in mystery, but the text is attributed to priest, theologian, poet, and scholar Paulinus of Aquileia near 800 AD.

Some music scholars claim that this chant, also known as plainsong, was created before the Catholic mass. Now, it is commonly used as a chant during the Catholic Church's washing of feet ceremony on Holy Thursday.

In more recent history, composers began turning this unison chant into lovely choral compositions. Maurice Duruflé released the most popular rendition in 1960.

Choir compositions of this piece can be absolutely beautiful, but the simplicity of the chant itself without much harmony is still breathtaking and unmatched.

A decade or so later, Ubi Caritas also became of the chants used in the daily common prayer of the Taizé Community in France. Now, the chant can be found in current Anglican and Lutheran hymnals.

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Latin Text For Ubi Caritas

Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est.
Congregavit nos in unum Christi amor.
Exsultemus, et in ipso jucundemur.
Timeamus, et amemus Deum vivum.
Et ex corde diligamus nos sincero.

Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est.
Simul ergo cum in unum congregamur:
Ne nos mente dividamur, caveamus.
Cessent iurgia maligna, cessent lites.
Et in medio nostri sit Christus Deus.

Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est.
Simul quoque cum beatis videamus,
Glorianter vultum tuum, Christe Deus:
Gaudium quod est immensum, atque probum,
Saecula per infinita saeculorum. Amen.


English Translation For Ubi Caritas

Where charity and love are, God is there.
Love of Christ has gathered us into one.
Let us rejoice in Him and be glad.
Let us fear, and let us love the living God.
And from a sincere heart let us love each other.

Where charity and love are, God is there.
At the same time, therefore, are gathered into one:
Lest we be divided in mind, let us beware.
Let evil impulses stop, let controversy cease.
And in the midst of us be Christ our God.

Where charity and love are, God is there.
At the same time we see that with the saints also,
Thy face in glory, O Christ our God:
The joy that is immense and good, Unto the
World without end. Amen.

The Meaning Behind Ubi Caritas 

The hymn "Ubi Caritas" expresses the theme of Christian love and unity. It focuses on the virtue of charity and the selfless love that Christians are called to embody.

The text emphasizes the importance of love and unity among believers, encouraging them to love one another as Christ loves them. It speaks to the idea that where there is love and charity, God's presence is found.

The text is pretty straightforward when it comes to interpretation, but it is important to pay attention to the small details that can be found within the message. The overall point is to love and give sincerely to one another.

It emphasizes the importance of people joining together as a family in Christ and allowing the presence of God in our spirits, hearts, and within our relationships to shine through.

Love and giving should be so powerful and sincere that evil temptation will be rejected.  

The hymn is often associated with acts of service and caring for others, reflecting the spirit of Christian charity. It reminds believers of their responsibility to show love and compassion to their fellow human beings, particularly those in need.


The Takeaway For Ubi Caritas 

One thing to pay attention to here is how much God's presence should be felt throughout this journey of life, with brothers in Christ and non-believers alike.

God is there when we are giving selflessly to one another. God's presence can bring joy to us so easily if we let it.

His presence brought us all here today. His presence is in our love for one another. We'll be celebrating with God in our presence and get to see His face once we reach the end of this earthly journey. 

Another thing to take note of is the emphasis on sincerity and love.

We can all be gathered for charity purposes and rejoicing in God, but what if you're not sincere with your actions and they aren't truly backed by love? The text then warns against evil impulses, as if written for those with false sincerity in mind.

In the second edition of the current Roman Missal published in 1975, the chant was altered to read "Ubi caritas est vera, Deus ibi est," after early transcripts of the text had been revealed, which emphasized this point.

The text translates as: "Where true charity is, God is there", instead of: "Where charity and love are, God is there." Love is meant to be read as synonymous with sincerity here. This is because it's important to remember, love is genuine. 


Popular Arrangements Of Ubi Caritas 

Here are a few versions that you can check out that link to Youtube performances. Be sure to check out the version composed by Norwegian composer Ola Gjeilo, which is my favorite rendition currently.

They all sound lovely, but when sung well, this one speaks to my soul. I've even heard a few atheists say this song does something magical to their hearts!

Maurice Durufle, Quatre motets sur des thèmes grégoriens op. 10 (1960) Performed by The Cambridge Singers

Paul Mealor (2011) Performed by Paul Mealor, Tenebrae

Audry Assad, Inheritance (2016) Performed by Audry Assad

Ola Gjeilo (1999) performed by Voces8 "Abbey Road x Decca Classics Sessions" [My favorite rendition!]

Ivo Antognini, Commissioned by the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire (2015)Performed by the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire's Concert Choir

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Yona Marie

As a session singer, writer, and producer that has worked with over 300 clients to provide high-quality jingles, singles, and features, Yona spends her time creating and marketing new music and helpful resources for creators. Check out Yona’s latest releases on her Spotify, her Youtube and share if you like it!

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