Thursday, April 21, 2011

Jesus Christ Superstar

The Christian world today commemorates what is commonly referred to (in the English-speaking world) as Maundy Thursday; the Catholic Church refers to it as “Holy Thursday”. In both Protestant and Catholic churches, the day is commemorated as the date of the Lord’s last supper with his apostles prior to his betrayal, trial, crucifixion and death.

I have vague memories from my Catholic childhood of going to Holy Thursday Mass and, as an altar boy, assisting the priest as he washed the feet of twelve men selected from the parish for this purpose.  The service commemorates the institution of what is referred to in the LDS Church as the “sacrament” as well as the other events of that night so long ago.

I recently ran across a piece of music with which I wasn’t previously familiar called Ubi Caritas.  I discovered that it is an ancient hymn of the western Church, long used as one of the antiphons for the washing of feet on Holy Thursday. The Gregorian melody was composed sometime between the fourth and tenth centuries, though some scholars believe the text dates from early Christian gatherings before the formalization of the Mass. It is traditionally sung on Holy Thursday evening at the Mass of the Lord's Supper.  

Here is a recording of the Gregorian melody, followed by the Latin text and English translation.  Following the text is a recording of Maurice DuruflĂ©’s modern choral arrangement of the old Gregorian melody.

Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est.                  Where charity and love are, God is there.
Congregavit nos in unum Christi amor.          Christ's love has gathered us into one.
Exultemus, et in ipso jucundemur.                Let us rejoice and be pleased in Him.
Timeamus, et amemus Deum vivum.             Let us fear, and let us love the living God.
Et ex corde diligamus nos sincero.                And may we love each other with a sincere heart.

Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est.                 Where charity and love are, God is there.
Simul ergo cum in unum congregamur:          As we are gathered into one body,
Ne nos mente dividamur, caveamus.             Beware, lest we be divided in mind.
Cessent iurgia maligna, cessent lites.           Let evil impulses stop, let controversy cease,
Et in medio nostri sit Christus Deus.             And may Christ our God be in our midst.

Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est.                 Where charity and love are, God is there.
Simul quoque cum beatis videamus,              And may we with the saints also,
Glorianter vultum tuum, Christe Deus:          See Thy face in glory, O Christ our God:
Gaudium quod est immensum,                      The joy that is immense and good,
atque probum,
Saecula per infinita saeculorum. Amen.         Unto the ages through infinite ages. Amen.

Gethsemane – Jesus Christ Superstar

Now, for something completely different.  Years ago, I saw Jesus Christ Superstar, the movie.  I gather it was somewhat controversial in some quarters when it first came out (after the huge success of the Broadway musical), but the music and message resonated with many young people.  I recall being particularly affected by the song sung by Jesus during his night in Gethsemane.  Here’s a clip.  If you haven’t seen it before, it is “different,” but it is powerful.


  1. I love Jesus Christ Superstar. The soundtrack is a staple of my music-listening year round. And I love watching the musical every year, around this time.

    Actually, I have a number of movies about Jesus in my collection... King of Kings, The Last Temptation of Christ, etc. Another of my favorites is Pasolini's Gospel According to St. Matthew. Beautiful film.

  2. I love JCSS, and I have always found the Gethsemane scene very moving. This particular song comes to my mind surprisingly often (considering that I'm an atheist), but I love the whole musical.

  3. Good to hear there are others out there who like JCSS! My second favorite song, I think, is "I Don't Know How to Love Him."