How many times do we say “amen” when we pray? How many times do you say it on your own? How many times do we say “amen” together at Mass? I don’t know how many times you say “amen” on your own but I can tell you that at every Sunday Mass we say “amen” at least thirteen times (daily Mass – eleven).
Do you know what “amen” means? We say it often at the end of prayers. How much are you praying on your own? Has the Coronavirus pandemic led you to pray more often? Do you say “amen” multiple times in your prayer or just once as you end the prayer?
Because we say “amen” at the end of prayers, one might think the word “amen” means “the end.” It does not. “Amen” means “I believe.” In saying “amen”, we are saying we believe in what we (or the presider) just said/prayed.
Let’s examine this by looking at each time we say “amen” at Mass.
#1 – After the initial “Sign of the Cross” – We begin Mass with the Sign of the Cross. This is a simple action but it says a lot about our faith. The Cross is the place where Jesus, out of his love, gave his life for our sins. Including the words, “In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, we say we believe in a triune God, three persons yet one God. In saying “amen” after we make the Sign of Cross, we are saying that we believe that Jesus, sent by the Father, gave his life for us, and the Holy Spirit is with us always.
#2 – Penitential Rite – The priest invites us to “acknowledge our sins so as to prepare ourselves to celebrate these sacred mysteries.” After our response, the priest says, “May almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins, and bring us to everlasting life.” In saying “amen”, we are saying yes we believe that God is merciful and forgives our sins when we repent.
#3 – Gloria – Our “amen” at the end of the Gloria says yes to what we said/sang in the Gloria, Jesus is the begotten Son of the Father, that He takes away the sins of the world, that God alone is the most high just to name a few points.
#4 – Collect (Opening Prayer) – the words of the prayer vary from week to week and are taken from the Roman Missal. Our “amen” here says we share together in the prayer that the priest says. It is not just the priest praying. The priest says the prayer but it is the prayer of all of us.
#5 – Creed – There are two creeds we can say at Mass, the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed (generally it is the Nicene Creed that is used). We say this prayer together. The Creed states what we believe about the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It speaks of how they relate to one another. The creed ends with us stating our belief in “one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church” as well as our belief in forgiveness, resurrection, and eternal life. In saying “amen” we affirm that we truly believe what we have said. They are not just words we say. They profess what we believe.
#6 – General Intercessions (Prayers of the Faithful) – our “amen” at the end says these are not just the prayers of the person reading the prayers. We make them our prayer.
#7 – Offertory Prayer – this is the prayer said after the gifts of bread and wine have been brought to the altar and prepared. This prayer follows the same pattern as the Collect mentioned in #4 above.
#8 – Great Amen at the end of the Eucharistic Prayer – The priest says the Eucharistic Prayer which includes the prayers consecrating the bread and wine to be transubstantiatied into the Body and Blood of Jesus. The prayer is addressed to the Father, and asks the Holy Spirit to transform the bread and wine as well as to transform us into the Body of Christ. So, our “amen” at the end of the Eucharistic Prayer says that we believe in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist and that we count of God.
#9 – The Sign of Peace – The priest offers the prayer reminding us that Jesus offers us peace, asking God to look not on our sins and to bring us to unity. Our ”’amen” says we seek this unity with God and with our neighbor.
#10 & 11 – Receiving Communion – When we come forth to receive Communion, the minister says “The Body of Christ” and, if the cup is offered, “The Blood of Christ.” In both cases, we respond “amen”. This is not a “thank you.” Yes, we should be thankful for the gift of the Body and Blood of Jesus. We say “amen” to say yes I believe it is not just bread and wine. It truly is Jesus.
#12 – Prayer after Communion – this prayer also varies (see #4 & 7 above) from Sunday to Sunday. The general theme is that we embrace what we received and, strengthened by it, go out into the world to live as God calls us to.
#13 – Final Blessing with the Sign of the Cross – see #1 above.
It is hard to do justice to what all of our “amen’s” mean at Mass in this short article. It is not my intent here to summarize everything we believe at Mass. Rather, my goal here is to help you understand the significance of saying “amen” at Mass and in other prayers. Amen is a profound statement of our faith.