Monday, March 7, 2011

The Prayers at the Foot of the Altar

Notes from a non-theologian layman:

I managed to attend a High Mass again yesterday for Quinquagesima Sunday. I get more and more out of it each time I go, and this time was notable because the only time I got lost was the time that I noticed my little booklet was missing the page for the Consecration. Obviously that threw me off a bit, but it wasn't really my fault, so I count that as not getting lost at all.

Something that struck me especially this Sunday was the prayers at the foot of the Altar.
I've been looking around on the internet for  the text of the prayers (I don't own a missal), and I found a great little resource at Fisheaters.com.



Here's the full text from that section:



Prayers at the Foot of the Altar
Júdica Me and the Confiteor
The priest returns to the foot of the Altar.
Stand
The priest genuflects at the foot of the Altar and recites the "Júdica Me," a part of Psalm 42 written by an Israelite priest 800 years before our Lord was born and which speaks of his yearning to worship on the holy hill of Jerusalem. The Júdica Me is omitted from Passion Sunday to Holy Saturday inclusive and in Masses for the Dead.

Then he will say the Confiteor, confessing and begging God's forgiveness for his sins. The server, speaking for the people -- the unordained royal priesthood -- then says the Confiteor on our behalf as we mentally accuse ourselves of our sins and ask the Saints to pray for us. The priest then absolves us (this does not obviate private Confession).
Kneel
In nómine Patris, et Fílii, + et Spíritus Sancti. Amen.
In the Name of the Father, + and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
Introíbo ad altáre Dei. S.Ad Deum qui lætíficat juventútem meam.
I will go in unto the Altar of God. S.To God, Who giveth joy to my youth.
Júdica me (Psalm 42):
The priest joins hands and says:
Júdica me, Deus, et discérne causam meam de gente non sancta: ab hómine iníquo, et dolóso érue me.
Judge me, O God, and distinguish my cause from the nation that is not holy: deliver me from the unjust and deceitful man.
S.Quia tu es, Deus, fortitúdo mea: quare me repulísti, et quare tristis incédo, dum afflígit me inimícus?
S.For Thou, O God, art my strength: why hast Thou cast me off? and why do I go sorrowful whilst the enemy afflictech me?
P.Emítte lucem tuam, et veritátem tuam: ipsa me deduxérunt, et aduxérunt in montem sanctum tuum, et in tabernácula tua.
P.Send forth Thy light and Thy truth: they have led me and brought me unto Thy holy hill, and into Thy tabernacles.
S.Et introíbo ad altáre Dei: ad Deum qui lætíficat juventútem meam.
S.And I will go in unto the Altar of God: unto God, Who giveth joy to my youth.
P.Confitébor tibi in cíthara, Deus, Deus meus: quare tristis es, ánima mea, et quare contúrbas me?
P.I will praise Thee upon the harp, O God, my God: why art thou sad, O my soul? and why dost thou disquiet me?
S.Spera in Deo, quóniam adhuc confitébor illi: salutáre vultus mei, et Deus meus.
S.Hope thou in God, for I will yet praise Him: Who is the salvation of my countenance, and my God.
P.Glória Patri, et Fílio, et Spirítui Sancto.
P.Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost.
S.Sicut erat in princípio et nunc, et semper, et in sæcula sæculórum. Amen.
S.As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
P.Introíbo ad altáre Dei.
P.I will go in unto the Altar of God.
S.Ad Deum qui lætíficat juventútem meam.
S.Unto God, Who giveth joy to my youth.
Adjutórium nostrum + in nómine Dómini.
Our help + is in the Name of the Lord.
S.Qui fecit cælum et terram.
S.Who hath made heaven and earth.
Confiteor by the Priest first, and then the People:
The priest enters the Throne Room of God. He humbles himself and makes a public confession, bowing down to say the Confiteor for his own sins:
Confíteor Deo omnipoténti, beátæ Maríæ semper Vírgini, beáto Michaéli Archángelo, beáto Joanni Baptístæ, sanctis Apóstolis Petro et Paulo, ómnibus Sanctis, et vobis, fratres: quia peccávi nimis cogitatióne, verbo et ópere: He strikes his breast three times mea culpa, mea culpa, mea máxima culpa. Ideo precor beátam Maríam semper Vírginem, beátum Michaélem Archángelum, beátum Joánnem Baptístam, sanctos Apóstolos Petrum et Paulum, omnes Sanctos, et vos, fratres, oráre pro me ad Dóminum Deum nostrum.
I confess to Almighty God, to blessed Mary ever Virgin, to blessed Michael the Archangel, to blessed John the Baptist, to the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, to all the Saints, and to you, brethren, that I have sinned exceedingly, in thought, word and deed: He strikes his breast three times through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault. Therefore I beseech blessed Mary ever Virgin, blessed Michael the Archangel, blessed John the Baptist, the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, all the Saints, and you, brethren, to pray to the Lord our God for me.
S.Misereátur tui omnípotens Deus, et dimíssis peccátis tuis, perdúcat te ad vitam ætérnam.
S.May Almighty God have mercy upon you, forgive you your sins, and bring you to life everlasting. .
P.Amen.P.Amen
We enter the Throne Room of God and, standing before Him, accuse ourselves of our sins. The server says the Confiteor on our behalf:
Confíteor Deo omnipoténti, beátæ Maríæ semper Vírgini, beáto Michaéli Archángelo, beáto Joanni Baptístæ, sanctis Apóstolis Petro et Paulo, ómnibus Sanctis, et tibi, Pater: quia peccávi nimis cogitatióne, verbo et ópere: mea culpa [strike breast] , mea culpa [strike breast] , mea máxima culpa [strike breast]. Ideo precor beátam Maríam semper Vírginem, beátum Michaélem Archángelum, beátum Joánnem Baptístam, sanctos Apóstolos Petrum et Paulum, omnes Sanctos, et te, Pater, oráre pro me ad Dóminum Deum nostrum.
I confess to Almighty God, to blessed Mary ever Virginto blessed Michael the Archangel, to blessed John the Baptist, to the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, to all the Saints, and to you Father, that I have sinned exceedingly, in thought, word and deed: through my fault [strike breast]through my fault [strike breast]through my most grievous fault [strike breast]. Therefore I beseech blessed Mary ever Virgin, blessed Michael the Archangel, blessed John the Baptist, the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, all the Saints, and Thee Father, to pray to the Lord our God for me.
The priest joins hands and grants us absolution of our venial sins:
P.Misereátur vestri omnípotens Deus, et dimíssis peccátis vestris, perdúcat vos ad vitam ætérnam.
P.May Almighty God have mercy upon you, forgive you your sins and bring you to life everlasting.
S. Amen.
S. Amen.
P.Indulgéntiam +, [cross yourself] absolutiónem, et remissiónem peccatórum nostrórum tríbuat nobis omnípotens et miséricors Dóminus.
P.May the Almighty and merciful God grant us pardon +,[cross yourself] absolution, and remission of our sins.
S.Amen.S.Amen.
Deus, tu convérsus vivificábis nos.
Thou wilt turn, O God, and bring us to life.
S.Et plebs tua lætábitur in te.
S.And Thy people shall rejoice in Thee.
P.Osténde nobis, Dómine, misericórdiam tuam.
P.Show us, O Lord, Thy mercy.
S.Et salutáre tuum da nobis.S.And grant us Thy salvation.
P.Dómine, exáudi oratiónem meam.P.O Lord, hear my prayer.
S.Et clamor meus ad te véniat.
S.And let my cry come unto Thee.
P.Dóminus vobíscum.P.The Lord be with you.
S.Et cum spíritu tuo.S.And with thy spirit.
P.Orémus.S.Amen.




The aspect that strikes me first of all is the solemnity and deliberateness of this entire section. Whereas in the Novus Ordo, there is no ceremony to approaching the Altar itself, here the priest is physically separated from it until he has first begged to be made worthy to approach. For me, this really underscores the fact that this is a holy place, and that we are all sinners.
The Altar was in this case raised three or four steps above the rest of the area in which the priest was standing (forgive me, I don't know the proper name for it [probably the sanctuary?]). I don't know if this is true of all High Altars, but it has been the case of every one I can currently recall. Since the priest has not yet ascended to the Altar, he is still at (almost) the same level as his parishioners, which says to me that he is praying with us (maybe more accurately for us) to be made worthy, and that as he prays to be made worthy of his role, he truly prays to represent his entire congregation.
The entire scene makes me consider standing before God Himself. It makes me think about being before such an awesome and incomprehensible Presence. I think the Mass itself considers the same thing when the priest says "I will go in unto the Altar of God: unto God, Who giveth joy to my youth."
The last thing that strikes me is the action of actually ascending the Altar after the prayers. Without having studied in depth the theology of the Mass, it seems to me that this action represents the priest taking on the role of alter Christus, another Christ. It may not be that exact moment that this is considered to be the case, but it certainly means something significant that the priest is going "in unto the Altar of God", physically rising above the congregation to where Christ is in the tabernacle, to the Altar where the Sacrifice of the Mass will again be offered in worship of God.

All in all, the prayers at the foot of the Altar is another aspect of the EF that I believe emphasizes reverence and fear of God far better than is done today in the Novus Ordo. We will all be judged before the Altar of God.
"Judge me, O God, and distinguish my cause from the nation that is not holy: deliver me from the unjust and deceitful man."

Please also see my addition to this post, at this link.

5 comments:

  1. It is truly amazing. That's just the first part of the Mass too! There is so much reverence and solemnity involved. I think it's extremely important that the priest understands his own insignificance, that he is unworthy to even approach the alter. It brings to mind the prayer that is said before Communion "Domine, non sum dignus, ut intres sub tectum meum: sed tantum dic verbo, et sanabitur anima mea." "Lord, I am not worthy that Thou shouldst enter under my roof; say but the word, and my soul shall be healed."

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  2. I could write a whole other post on just that one prayer too! That's another thing that strikes me every time.
    Thank God that part at least was preserved in the Novus Ordo. It gets me thinking every single time. Domine, non sum dignus..... I find myself saying that sometimes throughout the day.

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  3. I find it amazing how much the actions of the EF mass speak so loudly the truth of what is going on there. And it is able to do that without the use of the vernacular!

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  4. I love the traditional, Latin High Mass as well. We have one church in the entire city of New Orleans that has it. We often travel and hour and a half to participate, and it is so worth it!

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  5. In my city we have one diocesan parish that allows the FSSP to say Mass daily (which is a great blessing), as well as an SSPX chapel elsewhere which I won't attend yet, but may be an issue when they become normalized.
    It is a truly wonderful thing. :)

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