Contemplata aliis Tradere

A meagre contribution to the mission and work of the Order of Preachers: my reflections, thoughts, ideas and the occasional rant on matters mainly theological, philosophical and ecclesiastical, drawn primarily from my reading and experience of life and the world. Striving to be always Catholic, firmly Christian and essentially Dominican, flavoured with dashes of Von Balthasar.

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Location: Oxford, United Kingdom

A son of the English Province of the Order of Friars Preachers (Dominicans); born in Malaysia but have lived in the USA, Singapore, the UK & the Philippines for varying durations. A pilgrim and way-farer, a searcher for Truth on the journey of Life... "Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine, There’s always laughter and good red wine. At least I’ve always found it so. Benedicamus Domino!" - Hilaire Belloc

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Ubi caritas et amor...

"Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est.
Congregavit nos in unum Christi amor.
Exultemus, et in ipso iucundemur.
Temeamus, 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 flock.
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:
Let 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.

This beautiful antiphon is traditionally sung during the Mandatum or 'Washing of Feet' on Maundy Thursday (above, in an icon from the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America). The Gregorian chant tune, which dates to the 5th century is memorable and simple and has been beautifully harmonized by Durufle, a gem of sacred music. To listen to this sublime motet, which is probably one of my favourites to sing, click here. I think the words of this antiphon and the serene music it is sung to speak eloquently of the simple joy and tranquility that may be found when Christians live and love together in the harmony and unity of Christ. As such, they are worth mulling over this weekend as we consider the Scriptures fed to us in today's Liturgy; it is this love of God and neighbour, that St Paul calls the Romans to in today's Second Reading.

A similar idea of Christian unity and concord is found in the Gospel of this Sunday's Liturgy wherein the Lord exhorts us to agreement in prayer and to gather in His name (cf Mt 18:16-17). This is essentially a call to unity, which is what it means to gather in the name of the One God. Hence, when we come to Mass together and begin in the name of the Triune God, we establish our common faith and as it were, agree to come together, united in prayer and love of God and one another. This is vital, for as the antiphon above says, where we gather in love and in charity, God Himself is found in the midst. As such, we are called to approach the altar in peace and joy and to put aside our quarrels, strife and divisions.

It is a source of great sadness that the Eucharist which is our sacrament of unity in Christ has been so often a source of disagreement in the Church. Why is this? Perhaps, more often than not, we harden our hearts (cf Ps 95) to the will of the Lord which is for love and unity. Perhaps also, some are prideful and unable to see the Truth; in such cases, there is a need for 'fraternal correction', as Ezekiel attests to in the First Reading.

This issue of fraternal correction is seldom spoken of today and yet it is at the core an act of great love and compassion. What person, seeing a brother or sister who is in physical danger, would not come to their aid? Or if a person was lost and had no map, would one not help the person find their way or provide a map? What father allows a child to drown or dwell in error, believing that '2+2=5'? Therefore, it is also love, compassion and concern for the welfare of the other that moves a Christian to lead a person out of error, spiritual danger and ignorance. This compassion (which I have written about here) was at the core of St Dominic's life and I believe motivates the Order of Preachers in their search for Truth and their eagerness to preach the Truth. Hence, when the Church teaches the Truth, she does so as a loving Mother who desires the best for her children. No wonder then, that 'fraternal correction' is considered a 'Spiritual Act of Mercy'. However, it is noteworthy that this act of love must also be done in love. There is no room for smugness or self-righteousness or an over-bearing sense of superiority. Rather, fraternal correction has to be motivated by love and thus borne out in love. And, as we well know (but perhaps seldom practice), "Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, (love) is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth" (1 Cor 13:4-6).

On a final note, it is well that the Lord calls us to witness to His love in groups of two or three. Again, recalling the Maundy Thursday antiphon, when we gather in love, Christ is present in our midst. This is also a reminder that we are called into a community as Christians, we are incorporated into the Church by baptism. This communal aspect of Christian life, espressed in the Liturgy is vital. As I have written, ours is not a Faith of individualism or solitary paths to God; Christianity is not a "private" religion. This communion of love, which we are called to as a Church is essentially built upon the communion of love that is God - Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Thus, when we come to Mass and when we pray, invoking the Holy Trinity, we are again reminded of the fact that we are called to communal life and faith and that we are called to live this in love and unity among ourselves and with Christ.

Today's Liturgy gives us space to pause and reflect on how well we appreciate this fact and what we may do to remove the barriers to true love and unity in our lives, in our relationships and within the Church. When the strife, dissension and divisions cease, we see Christ and share in the blessed joy of the saints (cf Ubi caritas, verse 3).

May Mary, Mother of the Church bring us closer to this goal, by her example of love, humility and obedience.


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