Sit Tempus

The hymn "Ubi Caritas" dates from the late Eighth Century A.D., and is traditionally sung in the Western Church as one of the antiphons during the washing of the feet on Maundy Thursday of Easter Week. Here is a nice version of the traditional hymn.

The lyrics are as follows:

Latin text
English translation
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.

Where charity and love are, there God is.
The love of Christ has gathered us into one.
Let us exult, and in Him be joyful.
Let us fear and let us love the living God.
And from a sincere heart let us love each other (and Him).
Where charity and love are, there God is.
Therefore, whensoever we are gathered as one:
Lest we in mind be divided, let us beware.
Let cease malicious quarrels, let strife give way.
And in the midst of us be Christ our God.
Where charity and love are, there God is.
Together also with the blessed may we see,
Gloriously, Thy countenance, O Christ our God:
A joy which is immense, and also approved:
Through infinite ages of ages. Amen.

A few contemporary composers have rearranged the hymn or based longer works on the theme of the hymn. Three of my favorite contemporary works on this theme are by Norwegian composer Ola Gjeilo, a contemporary chorale and symphonic composer whose various compositions often "strike a chord" within me (pun intended). The following are versions of Gjeilo's "Ubi Caritas" and "Ubi Caritas II" (which he has stated are, to his mind, "bookends," meaning that they work as stand alone pieces or performed together in order), the first sung by the exquisite British a cappella group Voces8, and the second performed by the Central Washington University Chamber Choir, with the composer accompanying the choir with an improvised piano part. While choirs also perform the second piece without a piano accompaniment, I usually think that it's interesting to see the composer of a piece perform it. I hope that readers enjoy these versions as much as I do. The advertisements are annoying, but a small price of admission, I think.

As much as I love versions I and II, I most love Gjeilo's third variation on this theme, entitled "Sacred Heart (Ubi Caritas III)." The following version is sung by the Dutch professional chamber choir Cantatrix, with orchestral accompaniment. The pictures that are featured in the video are well-suited to the music. As we approach Christmas day, I hope those of you whose hearts are open to it are touched to some degree by the beauty of this music.

Sit tempus (Blessed be the moment).

The Cult Of The Shadow

God leaves us free to be whatever we like. We can be ourselves or not, as we please. We are at liberty to be real, or to be unreal. We may be true or false, the choice is ours. We may wear now one mask and now another, and never, if we so desire, appear with our own true face. But we cannot make these choices with impunity. 

Causes have effects, and if we lie to ourselves and to others, then we cannot expect to find truth and reality whenever we happen to want them. If we have chosen the way of falsity we must not be surprised that truth eludes us when we finally come to need it! 

Our vocation is not simply to be, but to work together with God in the creation of our own life, our own identity, our own destiny…. 

The seeds that are planted in my liberty at every moment, by God's will, are the seeds of my own identity, my own reality, my own happiness, my own sanctity…. 

Every one of us is shadowed by an illusory person: a false self. 

This is the person that I want myself to be but who cannot exist, because God does not know anything about him. And to be unknown to God is altogether too much privacy. 

My false and private self is the one who wants to exist outside the reach of God's will and God's love - outside of reality and outside of life. And such a self cannot help but be an illusion. 

We are not very good at recognising illusions, least of all the ones we cherish about ourselves - the ones we are born with and which feed the roots of sin. For most of the people in the world, there is no greater subjective reality than this false self of theirs, which cannot exist. A life devoted to the cult of this shadow is what is called a life of sin. 

All sin starts from the assumption that my false self, the self that exists only in my own egocentric desires, is the fundamental reality of life to which everything else in the universe is ordered.

Thus I use up my life in the desire for pleasures and the thirst for experiences, for power, honour, knowledge and love, to clothe this false self and construct its nothingness into something objectively real. And I wind experiences around myself and cover myself with pleasures and glory like bandages in order to make myself perceptible to myself and to the world, as if I were an invisible body that could only become visible when something visible covered its surface…


We have the choice of two identities: the external mask which seems to be real...and the hidden, inner person who seems to us to be nothing, but who can give himself eternally to the truth in whom he subsists.
--Thomas Merton, "New Seeds of Contemplation"

I think that so many of us spend our lives in the cult of the shadow, wearing our masks and wondering why, even if others buy the facade, we--in our heart-of-hearts--do not. Come home to reality, before it's too late.

To High Places By Narrow Roads

A hymn composed in 1841 by poet, actress, and hymn writer Sarah Flower Adams, Nearer My God to Thee was arranged about seven or eight years ago by a Mormon named James Stevens, the then-artisitc director of a men's acapella vocal group at Brigham Young University, BYU Vocal Point. Stevens added a chorus of Latin background vocals, using the Vulgate, or Ecclesiastical, Latin pronunciation, the pronunciation used in the Catholic Church liturgy and in modern spoken Latin. It's closer in sound to modern Italian than to classical Latin. For example, in the line "Caelitus Mihi Viries," "Caelitus" is pronounced "Chaelitus" rather than "Kaelitus," and "Viries" as "Viries" rather than "Wieries." That might sound like a difference only a nerd could love, and perhaps that's correct. On the other hand, it displays an in-depth knowledge of a faith not his own that the marks the composer (to me, at least) as a person both learned and interesting.

In this season of Advent, I'll let anyone who's interested surrender to an unexpected arrangement of a 19th Century hymn, one both modern and yet, in many ways, classic.

The English translation of the Latin lyrics: "At the moment of death/My strength is from heaven/God helping, nothing should be feared/Forever/Direct us, O Lord/To high places by narrow roads/Such is the path to the stars/Ever upward."

This particular video has been viewed (to date) over 28 million times. I guess even the non-religious appreciate the very human yearning for the transcendent, at least when it's expressed so well.