John Alexander, director of music ministry

No matter how many styles of music that I listen to, I am regularly drawn back to the simplicity and beauty of Gregorian chant. One of my favorite chants to listen to for both the music and the text is “Ubi Caritas.”

I was first introduced to this chant sitting in the back row of the choir room at FPC during my first year as a music intern, and it is one of a few pieces that I still vividly remember experiencing for the first time. This is also one of the pieces that my wife and I chose to have sung by our combined choirs at our wedding in the sanctuary at First Presbyterian. This chant, written sometime before the 12th century, is contained in the Liber Usualis, a large collection of chants that journeys through the liturgical year.

This chant is sung during the humbling liturgical movement of foot-washing on Maundy Thursday. Every time that I revisit this text, I experience it differently. It feels especially powerful this year as we long to worship in the same room, reminding us that “by the love of Christ we are brought together.” We are experiencing deep divisions within our nation, yet this text reminds us to pray: “Let evil impulses stop, let controversy cease, and may Christ our God be in our midst.”

As we conclude our Lenten journey of exploring all the places that Christ is present, the refrain, “Where charity and love are, God is there,” serves as a poignant reminder. I invite you to find one of the numerous recordings of this chant online (I love the original chant and Maurice Duruflé’s choral setting of the chant), tune out the noise around you, and pray with this text as we begin our journey into these three days of reflection and remembrance, looking toward the joy of Easter.

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 let us 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 also,
See Thy face in glory, O Christ our God:
The joy that is immense and good,
Unto the ages through infinite ages. Amen.