Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.

4/15/2013 (1 year ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The word Amen is not static.  It is in fact dynamic, because it is a two-way, double-faceted, word.  It is a two-arrowed word.  One might even say that, at the Annunciation, it became an "incarnate" word.  It is a word that, when uttered in faith, is spoken by two people--God and man---and at the same time.

Highlights

By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

4/15/2013 (1 year ago)

Published in Living Faith

Keywords: amen, Eucharist, Hebrew, prayer, great amen, christian life, spirituality, Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.


CORPUS CHRISTI, TX (Catholic Online) - Amen is perhaps one of the most common words on a Christian's lips.  It is a direct transliteration--not translation--from the Hebrew word אמן, amen, a word the Greek Scriptures themselves transliterate: ἀμὴν, amēn.

We generally tend to see the word as a clausula, a caesura, a period, a seal at the end of our prayers: ". . . but deliver us from evil, Amen."  ". . . now and at the hour of our death, Amen."  ". . . is now, and ever shall be, world without end, Amen." 

In this sense, the word might be translated something along the lines of: "So be it," or "Let it be so," or "Be it firm," or "Be it so established."

Not only do prayers end with "Amen," but so does the Catholic Creed.

Along these same lines, the word Amen is the last word of the Bible, as if it were a knot tying together the last lines of the book of Revelation:  "The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God's people.  Amen."  (Rev. 22:21)

We might get the impression, from its use at the end of prayers, creeds, and scripture, that the word Amen is static, that it acts sort of like a bookend, a final twist, a knot.  But this would be a big mistake.  Despite its common use, it is therefore a word worth exploring in this series on the three sacred languages, Tres Linguae Sacrae.

The word Amen is not static.  It is in fact dynamic, because it is a two-way, double-faceted, word.  It is a two-arrowed word.  One might even say that, at the Annunciation, it became an "incarnate" word. That's why Blessed John Paul II, in his Encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia, tied the word "Amen" to Mary's Fiat: "[T]here is a profound analogy between the Fiat which Mary said in reply to the angel, and the Amen which every believer says when receiving the body of the Lord." (No. 55)   It is a word that, when uttered in faith, is a word spoken by two people--God and man--and at the same time.

The dual nature of the word Amen is expressed, for example, when Amen is used in reference to the Creed.  There, it takes a meaning more along the lines of "I believe!"  "Thus the Creed's final 'Amen' repeats and confirms its first words: 'I believe,'" says the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  "To believe is to say 'Amen' to God's words, promises, and commandments, to entrust oneself completely to him who is the 'Amen' of infinite love and perfect faithfulness."

The Catechism continues: "The Christian's everyday life will then be the 'Amen' to the 'I believe' of our baptismal profession of faith."   CCC 1064.

As the Catechism explains, Amen "comes from the same root as the word 'believe,'" that is to say the Hebrew word אָמַן, aman.  The Catechism continues: "This root expresses solidity, trustworthiness, faithfulness, and so we can understand why 'Amen' may express both God's faithfulness towards us and our trust in him."  CCC 1062 (emphasis added).

It is therefore a two-way word, a mediatory word, an "I-Thou" word, a word which of itself and in itself is a simultaneous dialogue between God and man: "I" speaks to, or believes in, "Thou" and "Thou" speaks to, or reveals himself to, "I," and at one-and-the-same-time.  It expresses at one-and-the-same-time God's fidelity and our fidelity in that fidelity.

The Roman Catechism also known as the Catechism of the Council of Trent observes that it is important that we should know "why we close our prayers with this word, and what it signifies, for devotion in concluding our prayers is not less important than attention in beginning them."

The Roman Catechism suggests that the Amen we use at the end of our prayers, though we certainly utter it, is not so much our prayer or its closure, but God's response.  Amen, which may be translated "know that your prayers are heard," says that Catechism, "has the force of a response, as if God answers the suppliant, and graciously dismisses him, after having favorably heard his prayers."

This is dramatically symbolized in the Communion rite of the Extraordinary Form of the Mass, where the server--who symbolizes the people--recites the entirety of the Lord's Prayer except the Amen.  The priest--who stands in persona Christi, in the person of Christ--responds to the server's recitation with the Amen.

Taking this insight to heart, when we say Amen at the end of our prayers, especially the Lord's Prayer or the great Eucharistic Amen, we might say that it is more along the lines of God speaking to us, and not so much as us speaking to God. 

This mediatory aspect of the word Amen is particularly vividly expressed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church which draws on St. John's Revelation, where Jesus is referred to as "the Amen." (Rev. 3:14) 

"Jesus Christ himself is the 'Amen.'  He is the definitive 'Amen' of the Father's love for us.  He takes up and completes our 'Amen' to the Father."  CCC 1065 (emphasis added). 

Again, we have here a two-way theme: the "Amen" is Christ, both true God and true man, the mediator between God and man.  We say Amen, but Christ the Amen completes and perfects and takes it to the Father.  It is in this manner that St. Paul uses Amen in his second letter to the Corinthians: "For all the promises of God find their Yes is in him [Jesus].  That is why we utter the Amen through him, to the glory of God." (2 Cor. 1:20)

One can say that this meaning of Amen becomes literally and really true in our worthy reception of the Body and Blood of Christ in communion, what might be called our personal Eucharistic Amen.  The priest or extraordinary minister offers to us "The Body of Christ"--that is, the Body of Jesus the Amen--or "The Blood of Christ"--the Blood of Jesus the Amen--and our answer is, "Amen!"

Jesus, the Eucharistic Bridegroom, stoops down from the heavens physically and spiritually to consummate as it were a marital union with us, who are his Eucharistic brides.  This is the meaning of communion--a repair of disunion, a bringing together of what originally was one but has become separate.  "For he who has become your husband is your Maker; his name is the LORD of hosts; your redeemer is the Holy One of Israel, called God of all the earth.  The LORD calls you back, like a wife forsaken and grieved in spirit, a wife married in youth and then cast off." (Isaiah 54:5-6)

"Yes indeed," Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI observed at a Sermon at the Mass of the Lord's Supper, "the Eucharist is more than a meal, it is a wedding-feast."  "Certainly, through this gift of his love," that is found in Jesus giving himself to us in the Eucharist Benedict XVI continued, "he transcends all distance and makes us truly his 'partners'--the nuptial mystery of love is accomplished." 

My individual Eucharistic Amen is par excellence a word for two, a word which makes partners, even a marriage, of God and me.  "This is a great mystery, a great sacrament, but I speak in Christ and the Church."  (Cf. Eph. 5:32)  At this moment of consummation, of communion, Jesus and I are like Tobias and the beautiful, but demon-haunted Sarah, who together prayed before their nuptials and together ended their prayer with "Amen, amen." (Tobias 8:8).  Jesus, in giving himself to me, is Tobias.  I, in receiving the Lord who gives himself to me, am Sarah.  I might be sure, that in my Eucharistic Amen, Jesus and I are together, saying "Amen, amen." 

Jesus, the Amen, gives himself to me, we say Amen together, the Amen being more Jesus' response than my prayer, and I become--by grace--Amen.  This Eucharistic Amen is the ultimate in divine and human dynamism and divine and human union.  It is no wonder that Blessed John Paul II found in that Eucharistic Amen an analogy to Mary's Fiat.  "Be it done to me according to your word."  (Luke 1:30-35)

-----

Andrew M. Greenwell is an attorney licensed to practice law in Texas, practicing in Corpus Christi, Texas.  He is married with three children.  He maintains a blog entirely devoted to the natural law called Lex Christianorum.  You can contact Andrew at agreenwell@harris-greenwell.com.

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for November 2014
Lonely people:
That all who suffer loneliness may experience the closeness of God and the support of others.
Mentors of seminarians and religious: That young seminarians and religious may have wise and well-formed mentors.



Comments


More Living Faith

Two bishops dine and dialogue with peace activists

Image of War doesn't decide who is right, just who is left.

By Tony Magliano

During the recent U.S. Catholic bishops fall assembly in Baltimore, two bishops decided to forego the military chaplains dinner sponsored by the U.S. Army Chief of Chaplains Office, and attended instead a simple supper and discussion on peacemaking. On the evening of ... continue reading


'God always forgives, but the earth does not,' Pope warns Watch

Image of The Pope urged the world's leaders to rein in their greed and help the hungry.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A doomsday scenario in which Mother Nature would exact her revenge is possible, even likely, Pope Francis warns. The pontiff was speaking out against the exploitation of natural resources for profit. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The Pope urged the world's ... continue reading


Pope Francis' special message: Why Poverty? 'And while we speak of new rights, the hungry remain, at the street corner, We ask for dignity, not for charity.'

Image of When we give our loaves and fishes to Christ, there is no end to the Good that can come from it.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Pope Francis has asked the world to do more to help those who suffer from hunger and malnutrition. Despite gains made in infrastructure and outpourings of food, too many people with plenty have done too little to help. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - With ... continue reading


How do you raise a good, upstanding child? With daily prayers, weekly church attendance and the knowledge of God Watch

Image of Billy Graham, now 96, has reached out to millions with his joyous words of the truth of God and Jesus Christ.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Reverend Billy Graham, the world famous television evangelist and founder and chairman of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, has said that the reason the world seems to be in such dire straits is that children are not being raised right. LOS ANGELES, CA ... continue reading


Learning Lessons for Life from Zaccheus and that Sycamore Tree Watch

Image of Zaccheus climbed that tree in order to see the Lord, not to be seen by Jesus. He did not care what the crowd thought of a grown man climbing a tree! He went after the encounter with Jesus Christ with a childlike simplicity and a reckless abandon. Do we?

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

The Sycamore tree created a clear line of vision for Zaccheus. It helped him to rise above the crowd and see the Lord clearly. It placed him in the right position for the invitation that would follow. Jesus told him to come down for he was coming to his house! ... continue reading


Jesus Weeps and Calls us to Recognize His Visitation Watch

Image of The Cross, an instrument of torture, will become the sign of peace, for those who find their refuge under its shadow and embrace the One who stretches out His arms to embrace the whole world. There Jesus will deal definitively with the great enemy of peace, the sin which impedes it in each of our lives. With tenderness He looks out from the Mount of Olives and sees the Holy City of Jerusalem. How he loves that City. Then, Jesus weeps. He knows the City will soon be overtaken and destroyed by the armies of Titus. He weeps the tears of Love and cries compassion from His Sacred Heart

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

Jesus shows His disciples - and He shows us us, because we are His disciples in this hour - the pattern of living in a continual communion with the Father. He invites them - and He invites us - into this very communion of love which He has with the Father, in the ... continue reading


Children deserve both father and mother, Pope Francis says Watch

Image of Children have the right to be raised by a mother and a father, Pope Francis said, emphasizing that

By CNA/EWTN News

Children have the right to be raised by a mother and a father, Pope Francis said, emphasizing that "the family is the foundation of co-existence and a remedy against social fragmentation." Vatican City (CNA/EWTN News) - The Pope made these remarks on Nov. 17 at ... continue reading


Here are 10 Very Interesting Facts About the Catholic Church You Probably Didn't Know! Watch

Image of Pope Francis commands the world's smallest professional army.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

How much do you know about the Catholic Church? Here are 10 fun facts you might not know. See how many you know and post your result in the comments! 1.    Vatican City has the highest crime rate in the world! With a population around 500 people and a ... continue reading


Study: Latin Americans abandoning Catholic Church for evangelical, Protestant churches Watch

Image of Protestants now make up 19 percent of the Latin American population, while another eight percent now profess no religious affiliation, a figure reaching 37 percent in Uruguay.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The Catholic Church is losing members in Latin America at an increasing rate. According to the Pew research Center, many Latin Americans are leaving the church for Pentecostal, Protestant churches. There is even a growing number of Latin Americans who now ... continue reading


Living Faith: Learning How to See from a Blind Man Watch

Image of

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

The people to whom we are introduced in the Gospel accounts have been selected from among many others who encountered Jesus - for a real purpose. They can put us in touch with the Lord, with ourselves, and with the meaning of our own lives.Through prayerful ... continue reading


All Living Faith News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Revelation 11:4-12
4 These are the two olive trees and the two lamps in ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 144:1, 2, 9-10
1 [Of David] Blessed be Yahweh, my rock, who trains ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 20:27-40
27 Some Sadducees -- those who argue that there is no ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for November 22nd, 2014 Image

St. Cecilia
November 22: In the fourth century appeared a Greek religious romance on the ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter