The Prayers at the Foot of the Altar are a mandatory set of preparatory prayers for the Sacred Ministers in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite. One may see their removal in the Missal of Paul VI as minor, but this is incorrect.
The Prayers at the Foot of the Altar begin with the recitation of Psalm 42, Judica me Deus. Said in recitation between the Priest and other Sacred Ministers, the Psalm begins with the Antiphon, "Introibo ad altare Dei. Ad Deum qui laetificat juventutem meam: I will go unto the altar of God. To God who giveth joy upon my youth." This Antiphon, along with the entirety of the Psalm, is said to prepare the mind and soul to give praise to the Lord at His altar. The Psalm closes with the recitation of the Gloria Patri and the repetition of the Antiphon. The removal of this Psalm alone can be seen as detrimental. With this, priests no longer have a mandatory prayer of preparation before ascending to the altar, which has allowed room for priests to be unprepared for mass, ad-libbing at the altar before the opening prayers of the Mass.
Immediately following the Psalm, the priest says, “Adjutorium nostrum in nomine Domini: Our help is in the name of the Lord.” This is a very common opening to prayers within the Roman RIte. The Sacred Ministers then respond, “Qui fecit caelum et terram: Who made Heaven and Earth.” This Versicle invokes the name of God just before an important prayer is made.
Thus the priest then begins the Confiteor. The Confiteor is retained in the Novus Ordo Missae, but is watered down greatly. The priest makes his confession with the people and multiple saints previously named directly are removed. After the priest makes his confession, the Sacred Ministers make their confession on behalf of all present. After the Confiteor, the priest says the Absolution, absolving all of their venial sins. This is absent in the Novus Ordo! The priest still says the Misereatur, but no longer says the absolution itself, that is, the Indulgentium.
The priest then, bowing moderately, begins the Versicle: “Deus, tu conversus vivificabis nos.” To which the Sacred Ministers respond. “Et plebs tua lætabitur in te.” and the Versicle continues, “Ostende nobis Domine, misericordiam tuam. Et salutare tuum da nobis. Domine, exaudi orationem meam. Et clamor meus ad te veniat. Dominus vobiscum. Et cum spiritu tuo. Oremus.” This Versicle is an admission of guilt, and shows our repentance for our sins. The priest calls upon God asking for His mercy .After receiving fuller reconciliation with God, the heart finds its peace and joy in God, we rejoice in God, our Savior. In order that we may attain this happy end, we beg the Lord that He extends to us His mercy and lets it rule over us, and that He sends us our salvation.
The priest then silently prays one last prayer of preparation: “Take away from us our iniquities, we beseech Thee, O Lord, that we may be worthy to enter with pure minds into the Holy of Holies. Through Christ our Lord. Amen,” while he ascends to the altar. These prayers foster an absolute devotion to our Lord, while acknowledging fully our sinfulness. These prayers assist the priest in devoting the Liturgy to our Lord, and not to himself.
The Prayers at the Foot of the Altar (Latin/English, Sancta Missa)