“The Sacrifice of the Mass is the Sacrifice of the Cross itself; and in it we must see Our Lord nailed to the Cross; and offering up His Blood for our sins, to His Eternal Father...The Priest leaves the Sacristy, and goes to the Altar, there to offer up the Holy Sacrifice. He is clad in the sacred vestments, which are appointed for the celebration of the Sacrifice. Having reached the Altar, he makes due reverence before it” (Dom Gueranger, The Holy Mass)
The first post in this series laid out the six movements of the Traditional Latin Mass according to the Doctor of the Church, Saint Alphonsus Liguori. Keeping in mind that we as the laity ought to be participating in the Mass with our silent responses, and keeping in mind the dictum lex orandi, lex credendi, lex vivendi (the law of prayer is the law of belief is the law of life), we will now turn our attention to the first movement of the mass.
The Prayers at the Foot of the Altar commence once the Priest genuflects and the server kneels on the Epistle side (to the right of the Priest). Neither dare to ascend the steps without first imploring God to “distinguish my cause from the nation that is not holy” and to “send forth Thy light and Thy truth.” The sign of the Cross and the antiphon commence the prayers. Psalm 42 (Psalm 43 in the masoretic numbering) is then prayed between the Priest and the server, which ends with the lesser doxology (the Glory Be). At the end of the Psalm the antiphon is repeated and the Confiteor (I confess) begins shortly thereafter. Then the final prayers are spoken to God by the Priest with the server responding. This first movement ends with the Priest ascending the steps and preparing to say the Introit.
The Prayers at the Foot of the Altar:
Just before the priest enters the sanctuary and signs himself with holy water, he says, Adjutorium nostrum in nomine Domini (Our help is in the Name of the Lord), to which the server responds, Qui fecit caelum et terram (Who hath made heaven and earth). Thus, the very last act preceding the Mass is a call to God, who has authority over all creation. Venerable Fulton Sheen give us the following beautiful words to meditate upon as the Priest and server make their way to the foot of the altar:
“Picture then the High Priest Christ leaving the sacristy of heaven for the altar of Calvary. He has already put on the vestment of our human nature, the maniple of our suffering, the stole of priesthood, the chasuble of the Cross. Calvary is his cathedral; the rock of Calvary is the altar stone; the sun turning to red is the sanctuary lamp; Mary and John are the living side altars; the Host is His Body; the wine is His Blood. He is upright as Priest, yet He is prostrate as Victim. His Mass is about to begin”
In Nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti:
Then, the celebrants genuflect and kneel before either ascends the steps of the altar, and the priest begins the prayers: In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti. Amen, officially inaugurating the Mass with the sign of our salvation by making the sign of the cross (signum crucis) and invoking the one who alone has the authority to offer up the sacrifice. St. Alphonsus points out that a sacrifice is not possible unless the one who offers it is the one who has power over the life and death of the victim. This is why only the priest can affect the sacrifice of the Mass, since he alone has the authority as the one who is sacramentally in persona Christi (in the person of Christ). A man has the power to sacrifice animals, since he has dominion over the life and death of animals; but only God has the power to sacrifice God, since He alone has dominion over all things. Thus, the priest invokes the Trinitarian authority that he might “offer the sacrifice by the authority of the three Persons”.
Introibo Ad Altare Dei:
The priest then introduces the antiphon with the words, Introibo ad altare Dei (I will go in unto the altar of God), to which the server responds, Ad Deum qui laetificat juventutem meam (To God, Who giveth joy to my youth).
Judica Me, Deus:
After the antiphon is pronounced, the priest begins with Psalm 42 . This Psalm opens with the following lines: Judica me, Deus, et discerne causam meam de gente non sancta: ab homine iniquo, et doloso erue me (Judge me, O God, and distinguish my cause from the nation that is not holy: deliver me from the unjust and deceitful man) . This prayer sets the Priest apart from the unjust who offend God in their lack of religion and belief. As we move forward, we will see that the Psalms chosen for the Mass rely heavily on the call to justice. This is fitting, since justice is that virtue which disposes man to habitually give back to each that which is rightfully his due, and the Mass is the height of justice between God and man, as it alone gives back to God that which is due to Him. With this in mind, the Priest petitions God to separate us from the unjust man; otherwise, we would be performing an act of justice (i.e., giving God that which is due Him in the perfect Sacrifice of His Son) as deceitful men who are ourselves not just. Thus, the Priest humbly ask God to “distinguish” him from the unjust so that his actions not be in discord with his person.
The rest of the Psalm 42 is recited by the Priest, with his server (who stands for the faithful present) responding. It then vacillates in a kind of internal struggle between God and the individual, who effaces himself in humble supplication. The first stanza asks why the soul is saddened “whilst the enemy afflicteth me,” with the second stanza retorting that the afflictions have “led me and brought me unto Thy holy hill, and into Thy tabernacles.” As we meditate on these words of King David, we begin to imitate the “man after God’s own heart” and properly dispose ourselves for the sacrifice of which the entire Mass is centered. It then ends with an invocation for the individual to take courage and “hope thou in God, for I will yet praise Him: Who is the salvation of my countenance, and my God” .
Gloria Patri (The Lesser Doxology)
Finally, the psalm concludes with what is called the “lesser doxology.” This doxology originates in the Gospel of Matthew 29:19, and reciting it at the end of every psalm is a custom that took root at least as early as the fourth century, starting with Pope Damasus . Thus, in the Traditional Latin Mass, Psalm 42 continues to be recited at the foot of the altar and concludes with the following doxology, keeping us grounded in the traditions of the Church and the Communion of Saints: Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto / Sicut erat in principio et nunc, et semper / et in saecula saeculorum. Amen (Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost / As it was in the beginning, is now / and ever shall be. Amen). The priest and the server then repeat the antiphon as they did at the start of the Psalm.
The priest and the server then proceed to successively recite the Confiteor. We quote the English in full to demonstrate how the Priest and all present rely on God, the prayers of Our Lady, and the communion of saints before entering into the Sacrifice of the Mass:
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, Father, that I have sinned exceedingly, in thought, word and deed: 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, Father, to pray to the Lord our God for me.
Gueranger remarks that this prayer is itself a sacramental with the power to remove all venial sins if said with a contrite heart: “Thus it is, that God, in His Infinite Goodness, has provided us with other means, over and above the Sacraments of Penance, whereby we may be cleansed from our venial sins” . St. Alphonsus adds that, “affrighted by the grandeur of the act he is about to perform, and by the thought of his unworthiness, the priest asks God’s help in the name of Jesus Christ; and acknowledging himself guilty, he accuses himself of his sins, not only before God, but before the Blessed Virgin and all the saints, who on the last day with Jesus Christ, will pronounce judgment upon sinners” .
After the priest completes his confiteor, the server then begs God’s mercy upon him who is about to enter into the most sacred sacrifice, lest the anger of God be enkindled against him. Likewise, the server repeats the confiteor with the priest responding, “May Almighty God have mercy upon you, forgive you your sins, and bring you to life everlasting.” Although the partaking of the Holy Eucharist even once in faith is enough to merit for us eternal life, the priest petitions God on our behalf, that we may not receive Him with a dead faith, “eating and drinking judgment upon ourselves” . This is why the prayers at the foot of the altar end with the Priest and the minister continually asking God to pardon them and remit their sins.
The last dialogue between the priest, the minister who stands for all present, and God begins with the Indulgentiam and the sign of the cross, which is, as Gueranger says, a "blessing whereby the Priest asks, both for himself and his brethren, pardon and forgiveness of their sins...and uses the words nobis [the first person plural] and not vobis [second person plural], for he puts himself on an equality with his Ministers, and takes his share in the prayer that is said for all...He [then] says: Deus, tu conversus vivificabis nos (Thou, O God, with one look, wilt give us life); to which the server answers: Et plebs tua laetabitur in te (And thy people will rejoice in thee)" . These versicles, taken from Psalm 84, end with the Priest saying: Dominus vobiscum (The Lord be with you) and the server responding: Et cum spiritu tuo (and with your spirit).
At this point, Gueranger compares the Priest to Moses who takes leave of the people to enter into the cloud of mystery. In other words, the Priest’s last words before he calls us all to prayer are a kind of farewell to the people who are about to partake in the mystery of the sacrifice. When the Priest finally descends the altar to feed us again, he will not bear the stone tablets of Moses but the incarnate law made perfect in the flesh: Et Verbum caro factum est. The Priest then ends the prayers by saying Oremus (Let us pray). Finally, he ascends the Holy Mountain, the altar of sacrifice, which has won for us so great a salvation.
 This is from Sheen’s book Calvary and the Mass as quoted in Treasure and Tradition, which is an excellent guide to the Latin Mass that can be found here: http://staugustineacademypress.com/epages/b9279dcf-f5d4-4322-8442-90642f0120ca.sf/en_US/?ObjectPath=/Shops/b9279dcf-f5d4-4322-8442-90642f0120ca/Products/639366
 It should be noted that singing and praying the psalms are acts that are exhorted many times in Sacred Scripture, for example, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you abundantly, in all wisdom: teaching and admonishing one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual canticles, singing in grace in your hearts to God” (Col 3:16).
 Being distinguished from the “deceitful man” is a common theme in the Psalms and is fitting for this part in the Mass, since we are about to approach Truth Himself: “Domine, libera animam meam a labio inquo, a lingua dolosa” (O Lord, free my soul from lying lips and a deceitful tongue) Psalm 119
 St. Alphonsus points out that it has been a custom of the Church to recite this psalm at the foot of the altar since at least the 7th century: “Innocent III attests that the recitation before Mass of the psalm Judica me was the custom of...the twelfth century; and Cardinal Lambertini, afterwards Benedict XIV, assures us that it was recited before the eighth century” (The Holy Eucharist, 29).
 “It was Pope St. Damasus who ordained that each psalm should be concluded in this manner. It is, however, believed that the Gloria Patri was introduced by the Council of Nice [i.e., Nicea], or, as we are told by Baronius and St. Basil, even by the Apostles, The Council of Nice having added only these words, Sicut erat, etc” (The Holy Eucharist, 29).
The Encyclopedia of Britannica admits that the lesser doxology takes its origin from Matthew 19 and also states that, while some authorities have concluded that Nicea added the sicut erat, it cannot be substantiated (Encyclopedia of Britannica: A Dictionary of Arts, Sciences, and General Literature. Vol. 7, p. 384). However, it does seem likely that a form of the lesser doxology would have been mentioned around that time, since the Arians tried to authorize the following ambiguous form: “Glory be to the Father, by the Son, and by the Holy Ghost.” Their thinking was to change the preposition from ‘to’ to ‘by’ so as to interpret it according to the teachings of the fourth century heretic, Arius, who taught that only the Father was eternal and essentially God; the Son was merely the greatest created being and not God himself. In this we see demonstrated the great power of Lex orandi, Lex credendi, Lex vivendi (i.e., the law of prayer is the law of belief is the law of life)
 The Holy Mass, 5
 The Holy Eucharist, 29
 “Therefore whosoever shall eat this bread, or drink the chalice of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and of the blood of the Lord. But let a man prove himself...for he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh judgment to himself, not discerning the body of the Lord. Therefore there are many infirm and weak among you, and many sleep” (1 Corinthians 11:27-30)
 The Holy Mass, 8
The authors of this blog are the tutors of Saint John of the Cross Academy: