About this blogger:
A theorist, organist, and conductor, Jeff Ostrowski holds his B.M. in Music Theory from the University of Kansas (2004), and did graduate work in Musicology. He serves as choirmaster for the new FSSP parish in Los Angeles, where he resides with his wife and children.
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"Like all other liturgical functions, like offices and ranks in the Church, indeed like everything else in the world, the religious service that we call the Mass existed long before it had a special technical name."
— Rev. Adrian Fortescue (1912)

Finding A Liturgical Context
published 3 June 2015 by Jeff Ostrowski

680 Columbus Map NE HUNDRED YEARS from now, people looking back might not know what an “Indian Reservation” is. They might be similarly confused by “indian chief” or “indian tribe,” not to mention “West Indies.” Everyone today, of course, knows their meaning, and why Europeans coming here used those terms. We can argue about whether these terms should be retired—but I refuse to enter into such discussions here. The point is that historians in 100 years have an obligation to find out what was meant by “indian.” If they associate these terms with people from the (Asian) country of India, they will be confused.

We have often mentioned professional “liturgists” who refuse to do their homework and make silly errors. In the old CMAA journals, they referred to such errors as PICCOLUOMINI LOGIC, but I’ve come to believe that label is inflammatory and shouldn’t be used. Perhaps “false logic” would work. “Superficial logic” might be even more appropriate.

Using this “superficial logic” in another context, we might deduce thusly:

“It goes without saying his father’s name was Jack. After all, his name is Robert Jackson, right? Use common sense.”

The problem is that forcing Jack-Son to refer to a parent/child relationship is not “common sense.” This type of logic became fashionable immediately before the Second Vatican Council and many still cling to the “common sense” conclusions. 1

WHEN I STUDIED LATIN in college, the students often asked, “Why is Latin like that? It seems illogical to us.” The teacher often replied: “Sorry; usage rules.” In other words, our opinions don’t matter. How they spoke the language is all that matters. Whether we might have chosen a different solution doesn’t matter. (And don’t get me started on French!)

I recall that several students didn’t like how an accent could change the meaning of a Latin word. For example, the following words mean different things:



The only difference is an accent, which is why several of us insisted that the accents must be included in the Jogues Pew Lectionary and Campion Hymnal.

SUSAN BENOFY HAS PUBLISHED an article in the most recent ADOREMUS BULLETIN of which everyone should be aware. We mentioned in January 2014 that Sacrosanctum Concilium eliminated many footnotes in the final version, but Susan’s article challenges the reason we gave. We had cited what Monsignor Francis P. Schmitt said about the missing footnotes—and Schmitt was a church music consultant for Vatican II. Susan cites Fr. Pierre-Marie Gy regarding why the footnotes were eliminated. It’s not a case where only one reason must be accepted; both could be correct. Susan’s article is on pages 8-9 here:

    * *  PDF Download • ADOREMUS BULLETIN (Spring 2015)

Understanding the context of Sacrosanctum Concilium will help us avoid making absurd statements about the liturgical changes called for by the Second Vatican Council. Susan has done an excellent job.

Speaking of absurdities, I detest daylight savings. I don’t know whether this is an authentic quote, but I strongly agree with the message:

714 daylight savings


1   I’m not going to repeat all the instances we’ve discussed over the years. I feel our blog has done a pretty good job covering the major ones, which were usually an attempt to “recover” an alleged “pristine” tradition. There are also LESSER EXAMPLES of liturgical “superficial logic” you might not expect, such as: The KYRIE ELEISON is a remnant of when Mass was first offered in Rome since the liturgy was originally said in Greek; The COMMUNION at the Requiem Mass still has its ancient verse from the time when all such chants had their psalm verses; the GOOD FRIDAY COLLECTS are the original Prayer of the Faithful; When there were numerous Epistles in the early centuries, the chants were interspersed between each, like they are in the New Rite; the VENI SANCTIFICATOR is the ancient Epiclesis of the Roman Rite. On a superficial level, these seem to be “common sense,” but the true history is much more complicated and occasionally shrouded in mystery. Without question, the most common flaw in liturgical scholarship is to locate one liturgical book or fragment and automatically assume that all Christendom did it that way. If we look backwards at history, we pay the price. In the year 2015, we have ample documentation of everything, paper is cheap, and a large percentage of our people are literate, but this was not always so…