Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.

4/15/2013 (3 years 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 (3 years 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'


Copyright 2016 - Distributed by THE CALIFORNIA NETWORK

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for May 2016
Universal:
Respect for Women: That in every country of the world, women may be honored and respected and that their essential contribution to society may be highly esteemed.
Evangelization: Holy Rosary: That families, communities, and groups may pray the Holy Rosary for evangelization and peace.



Comments


More Living Faith

Christians stand your ground: Graduating class recites The Lords Prayer in defiance of atheist hate group Watch

Image of East Liverpool's class of 2016 recited The Lord's Prayer at graduation ceremony against an atheist hate group's attempts to silence them (Bob Hill/Screenshot).

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Notorious atheist group Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) has struck again, this time at an East Liverpool high school in Ohio. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The Ohio school district was forced to ban The Lord's Prayer after the FFRF complained the prayer ... continue reading


Pope Francis delivers special jubilee Mass for deacons Watch

Image of Deacons enjoy special jubilee Mass (@catholicsthelen/Twitter).

By Elise Harris (CNA/EWTN News)

On Sunday Pope Francis celebrated a special jubilee for deacons, telling them that a good servant is one who forgets themselves, letting go of their own plans and humbly placing their lives at the disposal of those to whom they are called to minister. Vatican City, ... continue reading


First time in 400 years - 61 cloistered nuns go to prison Watch

Image of Nuns (not pictured) asked permission to speak to those God loves (David Maung).

By (CNA/EWTN News)

A group of 61 cloistered nuns from six monasteries in Santiago, Chile made an historic visit to the local Women's Prison Center to spend time with the inmates and attend Mass with them. Santiago, Chile (CNA/EWTN News) - "I don't know if in the 400 years of the history ... continue reading


'I felt that Jesus called me to this': Pope Francis uses drowned refugee girl to share the heart of God Watch

Image of Pope Francis used the death of an innocent to preach to youths (Reuters).

By Ann Schneible (CNA/EWTN News)

The story of a young migrant girl who drowned at sea was at the heart of Pope Francis' address to some 400 children who on Saturday had traveled to the Vatican from the southern Italian region of Calabria. Vatican City, Italy (CNA/EWTN News) - Speaking off the cuff to ... continue reading


WARNING: Exorcist claims demon is targeting families Watch

Image of An exorcist claims a demon continues to attack family members of all ages (Mama/Fandango).

By (CNA/EWTN News)

There's a demon that specializes in attacking the family, said exorcist César Truqui, a priest who participated in a course on exorcism held in Rome last year. Rome, Italy (CNA/EWTN News) - Fr. Truqui warned that everything that is harming the family, including ... continue reading


Vatican liturgy chief calls for priests to face east during Mass Watch

Image of The Vatican's liturgy chief asks priests to celebrate Mass facing east (@Card_R_Sarah/Twitter).

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

During an interview, Cardinal Robert Sarah explained the importance of priests facing east during Mass. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - In an interview with French Catholic magazine Famille Chrétienne, Cardinal Sarah, who is the prefect of the Congregation for ... continue reading


'It is abuse of anti-conversion laws': 3 Christians arrested for converting Hindus Watch

Image of Three Christians are the latest victims in ongoing Indian persecution (dph).

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Rev. V. A. Anthony, of Brethren Assembly Church in Satna, his wife Prabha and one unnamed woman have been arrested in Aber, India after being accused of "forced conversions" and blaspheming against Hinduism. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - According to Christian ... continue reading


Like Bartimaeus, We Are Blind: Cry out to Jesus, Lord Help Me to See! Watch

Image of The healing of the Blind man

By Deacon Keith Fournier

The same Jesus who passed by Bartimaeus is alive today. The Good News is that no matter what has happened in our past, Jesus walks into the dusty streets of our lives this day. We simply need the eyes of living faith to see Him and the renewed heart to follow Him ... continue reading


:-D MILLENNIALS REJOICE! New emoji Bible translation is coming! Watch

Image of The Bible has been translated into a less-conventional, more approachable language: emoji (pix11/WPIX-TV).

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

In an attempt to make the Bible more interactive and entertaining to millennials, the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible has been translated with help from popular emoticons. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - According to The Memo, the new Bible, marked as ... continue reading


New study reveals Catholics hold highest retention rate - but no one is converting Watch

Image of Catholicism retains believers but is losing the conversion battle (Pinterest).

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

A new study revealed Welsh and English Catholics hold the highest retention rate of any denomination but maintain the lowest conversion rates. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The report, titled the "Contemporary Catholicism in England and Wales," was issued by the ... continue reading


All Living Faith News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

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

Subscribe to Catholic OnlineYouTube Channel

the FEED
by Catholic Online

  • WARNING: GRAPHIC IMAGES Killer nanny asks judge for freedom because ...
  • Advent Prayer HD Video
  • The Visitation Continues. Learning to Evangelize from Mary
  • Daily Readings for Tuesday, May 31, 2016
  • St. Mechtildis: Saint of the Day for Tuesday, May 31, 2016
  • Daily Reading for Wednesday, June 1st, 2016 HD Video
  • Christians stand your ground: Graduating class recites The Lords ...

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Zephaniah 3:14-18,
14 Shout for joy, daughter of Zion, Israel, shout aloud! Rejoice, exult ... Read More

Psalm, Isaiah 12:2-3, 4, 5-6
2 Look, he is the God of my salvation: I shall have faith and not be ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 1:39-56
39 Mary set out at that time and went as quickly as she could into the ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for May 31st, 2016 Image

St. Mechtildis
May 31: Benedictine abbess and miracle worker. She was ... Read More