“Ubi caritas et amor, deus ibi est.”
— 8th Century
“Love abounds in all, from the depths exalted
and excelling over every star.
Loving tenderness abounds for all,
from the darkest to the most eminent one beyond the stars.”
–Antiphon of the Holy Spirit/Divine Love by St. Hildegard
Caritas Abundat –
Fall into the arms of Caritas;
be embraced, sheltered by the arms of Her,
Divine Love and Wisdom;
rest, rest, rest there….
— Rita Simon, September 17, 2022
Many of us have sung the Taizé chant “Ubi Caritas” in the Catholic liturgy, especially during the Holy Thursday liturgy. This Latin phrase is usually translated as “Where charity and love are, God is there.” This statement first became well-known during the 8th Century as the Great Love, the all-encompassing love of God.
All-encompassing love… what do we think of when we hear this phrase? What does this mean to each of us?
As I was immersed in studying St. Hildegard of Bingen more deeply this fall, this question was one I pondered and still reflect upon. It seems that we can easily recognize the presence of the all-encompassing Great Love with acts of kindness, compassion, and peacefulness in ourselves and others. But is the Great Love still present when we see acts of hatred, violence, abuse, and non-caring? Is the Great Love somehow there as well? Is the Great Love only present in humanity? What about in nature and the Earth? What about in the whole of the Cosmos?
St. Hildegard was declared by Pope Benedict XVI to be a Doctor of the Church in 2012, almost 850 years after her death in 1179. This means that the Church declared both her visions and her teachings to be authentic and valid.
Through Hildegard’s Vision of Divine Love, she saw that Love has its origin and source in the Divine. She envisioned God reaching out with his holy wings, embracing everything with this all-encompassing Love. She saw this Divine Love as empowering human beings to trample out any discord they may have in their lives. She recognized that all things in all of creation are connected through Divine Love, and that there are no exceptions to this all-encompassing connection with the GREAT LOVE!
Hildegard saw Divine Love shimmering and flaming throughout the world, and she saw that divine love manifesting itself in the world as Living Light. Through this vision, she understood that the Great Love established the “pillars that hold up the earth,” and that people, created in God’s own image and likeness, share in God’s work. We are co-creators with God! The power of the Earth to reveal this Great Love stunned Hildegard! Hildegard saw the Light and Energy of the Great Love everywhere, and in everyone and everything!
As you sit in the beautiful, soft silence and peaceful darkness of this winter season, ponder Hildegard’s vision of the Great Love. Allow yourself to fall into the all-encompassing arms of the Great Love. Allow yourself to rest there. Imagine being connected to everyone and everything with no exceptions, then take this with you into your days and nights, now and always.
May you experience in greater fullness the all-encompassing Great Love during this blessed Advent and Christmas season, and carry it in your heart and into the world.