Where charity and love prevail,
there Christ is ever found;
brought here together by Christ’s love,
by love are we thus bound.
The text of this hymn is a translation of a Gregorian chant of the early Christian church, “Ubi caritas et amor, ubi caritas, Deus ibi est,” (Where there is charity and love, God is there), based on 1 John 4:16:
We have known and have believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and those who remain in love remain in God and God remains in them.
In the Roman Catholic liturgy, the chant was set as the last chant of the Latin liturgy for Maundy Thursday, and when used in that context, it also drew from John 13:34:
“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.”
On Maundy Thursday, it is especially appropriate for foot-washing services, as the act of Jesus washing the feet of the disciples is an act of charity and love that we, as his disciples, so humbly strive to emulate.
Outside of the Holy Week liturgy, this hymn is appropriate for any worship focusing on the unity of Christ. The first stanza stresses that those gathered in Christ are “brought together by Christ’s love,” and we are called to magnify Christ’s love through our relationships with each other. Christian charity requires the act of mutual reconciliation, and following the example of Christ’s model prayer, we “Forgive… each other’s faults as we our faults confess,” The sixth stanza makes explicit a theology of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965): “Love can exclude no race or creed/if honored be God’s name.” The ecumenical spirit implied in this stanza is a model for all congregational song.
References: gbod.org, C. Michael Hawn; The Companion to the United Methodist Hymnal, Carlton Young; The Canterbury Dictionary of Hymnology, JRW