Wednesday, January 29, 2020

MOGA (Make Octaves Great Again): Photos from the Christmas Octave of Solemn Masses in St. Louis

As Candlemas approaches, and the final days of the Christmas season slip away, let’s look back on a unique liturgical event that took place this Christmas in St. Louis. Below is a brief account from one of the members of the Schola of St. Hugh.

It all started with a conversation between two seminarians last summer. Both St. Louis natives, these friends met for dinner and pondered the upcoming academic year. One of them, who has a devotion to St. Stephen, mentioned how great it would be if they could assist together at a Solemn Mass in honor of his Saint’s feast day on December 26th. Better yet… Why not have Solemn Masses for the entire Christmas Octave?

Thus, the plan for a Solemn Christmas Octave in St. Louis — lovingly nicknamed MOGA (Make Octaves Great Again) — was born.

While these seminarians studied during the fall, a lay friend of theirs kept the idea alive. He worked with the rector of the Oratory of Ss. Gregory and Augustine to schedule Masses at the oratory for each of the Octave days. Things escalated during Advent with a flurry of choir rehearsals, clergy training, server training, and volleys of emails to keep everyone informed.

St Luke’s Church in St. Louis Missouri, home of the Oratory of Saints Gregory and Augustine.
Finally, the beautiful midnight Mass of Christmas arrived, and it was followed by seven glorious Solemn Masses. Throughout the Octave, various clergy from across the archdiocese ministered to over 1000 lay faithful who assisted at these Masses. Many of the lay faithful commented on how the solemn liturgies deeply moved them and drew them into the mysteries of Christmas. Some of the lay faithful even made it a point to come to every one of the Octave Masses.

Feast of St Stephen
The oratory’s regular choir collaborated with the Schola of St. Hugh, a small task force of musicians from both the Archdiocese of St. Louis and the Bellville diocese, to provide polyphony, organ fanfares, and chant. Some of their musical selections included Victoria’s O Magnum Mysterium, Palestrina’s Alma Redemptoris Mater, and the rarely heard chant settings III and V from the Kyriale.

Some readers may ask if a solemn octave was really necessary and assert that Low Masses are perfectly acceptable. To understand what motivated the participants of the Solemn Octave, one must first recall that divine worship is the supreme act of religion, which is the highest of all moral virtues and a part of justice (Summa theologiae, q. 81, aa. 5-6). A thirst for justice leads to the desire to worship God with the greatest possible solemnity.

The Church needs an abundance of solemn liturgies because the Church needs justice. She needs priests, deacons, subdeacons, masters of ceremonies, processions, incense, chant, and the rich rubrics of the solemn liturgies because it is in these that She praises God with worship par excellence. If a lack of ministers and choristers precludes a Solemn Mass or at least a Sung Mass, then a Low Mass is good and, of course, always a great blessing. But when clergy and gifted musicians find themselves spurred on by a hunger to give their utmost in divine worship, then this inspiration should not go unheeded.

The organizers of the Solemn Christmas Octave were grateful to pay court to their newborn King and, according to their abilities, render Him His due. The Solemn Christmas Octave was the occasion of many graces, and plans are already underway for a Solemn Easter Octave in St. Louis.
On the feast of St John

All photos by Katherine Blanner and an anoymous participant.

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