Although not trained as a musician, Rivers was inspired by his experiences as the first Black priest in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, and the opportunities provided by Vatican II, to compose music for liturgy. God is Love was his first work, and became part of "An American Mass Program", released by the World Library of Sacred Music, in which Rivers aimed to integrate traditional Black spirituals with Gregorian chant approaches to sacred music.
Rivers sang this hymn in the first official English-language Mass in America, at the National Liturgical Conference in 1964.
The lyrics are a collection of scripture verses and phrases from liturgical sources: the chorus is from John 4:16, while verses are based on:
- The antiphon from Ubi Caritas (translated),
- John 13:35,
- Romans 13:8-9
- Galatians 6:2
- 1 Corinthians 10:16
- 1 Corinthians 10:17
- John 6:50
Sheet music is likely to have been included in a number of collections - but the very generic title and verses that are direct scriptural quotes makes it difficult to identify which ones. It was definitely included in the Irish publication Alleluia! Amen - with a note that it is best performed unaccompanied.
The tune is unnamed, and in Common time. The melody and meter of each verse is different - and in a free style.
Image credit: "Agape" by Marcelino Rapayla Jr. License info.
LyricsGod is love,
And he who abides in love abides in God,
And God in him.
1 The love of Christ has gathered us together
Let us rejoice in him and be glad.
2 Be this shall all know that we are his disciples
If we have love, one for another.
3 Owe no man anything except to love one another
For he who loves his neighbour will fulfill the whole law.
4 O carry one another's burdens
And so you will fulfill the law of Christ.
5 The cup of blessing which we bless
Is it not fellowship in the blood of Christ?
6 The bread which we brea,
Is it not fellowship in the body of Christ?
7 We many are one bread, one body,
For we all partake of the one bread.
8 This is the bread that came down from heaven,
He who eats this bread live forever.