Why No 'Amen' at End of the Our Father
And More on the "Pray, Brethren …"
ROME, NOV. 8, 2006 (Zenit) - Answered by Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.
Q: Why has the "Amen" been dropped from the "Our Father" at the Holy Mass? (it is not in the missalette.) My understanding is that "Amen" means "I believe." I have come to believe that the additional prayers that were added to the Our Father in the Mass where the Amen is omitted, have now trained our faithful to omit it when we pray the rosary and the Chaplet of Mercy with our prayer group -- or anytime we pray the Our Father in a group. I have also noticed this at Communion services where only the Our Father is prayed -- the Amen is omitted -- and on the Catholic radio station in my area. I firmly believe that we are doing something seriously wrong. -- M.W., Forest Grove, Oregon
A: Our reader has made a very interesting point and illustrates an example of an unintended consequence of the liturgical reform of the Second Vatican Council.
Before the reform the Our Father recited at Mass included the "Amen," a term which may be roughly translated "so be it." At solemn Masses the priest would sing the Pater Noster alone; at simple Masses he would recite it with the server but only the priest would say "Amen" in a low voice.
In 1958 the instruction "De Musica Sacra" laid down rules for the direct participation of the faithful, including permission for the assembly to recite or sing the Pater Noster in Latin with all saying "Amen" at the end.
The liturgical reform extensively reordered the Communion rites and this led, not so much to dropping the "Amen" after the Our Father but to its postponement.
One significant change was that a shortened version of the embolism: "Deliver us Lord from every evil …," formally a prayer said silently by the priest while breaking the host, was now to be said aloud, taking its cue from the last words of the Our Father.
At the end of this prayer, instead of "Amen" the people respond with the acclamation: "For the Kingdom, the power and the glory are yours, now and for ever."
This acclamation was a new addition to the Communion rites and was probably added for ecumenical reasons. This phrase, although not found in the Gospel text, has traditionally functioned as a final verse of the Our Father in both the Eastern and Protestant traditions. In some rites all recited this verse while in others, such as the Byzantine, the priest alone adds it after the choir finishes the Our Father.
After this acclamation we find the prayer for peace. This prayer was formally a private priestly prayer recited after the Agnus Dei and before the sign of peace, which was exchanged only at solemn Masses and among the clergy alone. It is now recited aloud by the priest and has consequently been changed from the singular to plural (no longer look not on "my" but on "our" sins).
Finally, after all this, we have the "Amen" said by all, which in a way concludes the Our Father and the prayers that follow.
From a strictly liturgical point of view, this postponement of the "Amen" obeys a certain logic. It is unlikely that the formulators of the rite fully grasped this change's capacity in forming the prayer habits of the faithful over time.
As our correspondent points out, many practicing Catholics habitually omit the final "Amen" from the Our Father, and this fact is probably attributable to the new liturgical practice.
That this "Amen" does form part of the Lord's Prayer in non-liturgical contexts is shown, for example, by its inclusion in the common prayers found in the new Compendium of the Catechism.
Since it is highly unlikely that the liturgical text is going to change, the only solution is to pay attention when we pray the Our Father during the rosary and similar situations and form a habit of saying the "Amen."
Catholic media, especially radio, can have a positive effect in this effort and should be politely encouraged to correct any oversights which have slipped in by force of habit.
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Prayer, Mass, McNamara, Amen, Father
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