The Prayers at the Foot of the Altar

One notable difference between the Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms of the Mass is apparent at the very outset of the liturgy: instead of processing directly to the altar and from there to the sedilia, the priest and ministers halt at the entrance to the sanctuary and say the prayers at the foot of altar, consisting of (1) a prayer built around Psalm 42 and (2) the confiteor (which may be said in its revised form as one of the “penitential rite” options in the Ordinary Form).

The prayers can be observed below:

Things to note:

  1. The priest and the ministers generally say these prayers quietly, amongst themselves; the choir is singing the introit.
  2. The priest and the other ministers say the confiteor separately, rather than together.
  3. Observe the priest and deacon/subdeacon in turn nod toward each other: they do so at the two places in the confiteor where the speaker addresses a person there with him: “I confess to Almighty God . . . and  to you, brethren,” and “Therefore I beseech blessed Mary ever Virgin . . . and you, brethren, to pray . . . .” for the priest and “I confess to Almighty God, . . . and to you, Father,” and “Therefore I beseech blessed Mary ever Virgin . . . and you, Father, to pray . . . .” for the other ministers.
  4. The ministers all make the sign of the cross at the end of their confiteor: the priest pronounces an absolution.*

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* Cf. the Ordinary Form: “May Almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins, and bring us to everlasting life, Amen.” The practice of making the sign of the cross at this point endures among some Catholics, but it appears to be a hold over from the traditional missal, where the sign of the cross was rubrical.

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