Consecration at a Distance

Author: Father Edward McNamara


Why No "Amen" at End of the Our Father

ROME, 7 NOV. 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. ZE06110740

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Follow-up: Why No "Amen" at End of the Our Father [11-21-2006]

Several readers responded to our comments on the missing "Amen" at the end of the Our Father (Nov. 7).

One interesting comment hailed from an eminent Anglican who wrote: "Father McNamara ... doesn't say — and I had always thought — that modern practice was, broadly, to add 'Amen' to prayers said by others —— signifying assent — but not to prayers one said oneself. Thus, in the Roman rite, the prayer of preparation said by the priest immediately before Communion has no 'Amen' whereas the main orations (which the congregation hears) have an 'Amen' added. Mutatis mutandis, the 'Hail Mary's in the Angelus — or when used in the Prayer of the Faithful — tend not to have an 'Amen.' The great exception to this rule is that the Gloria and Credo are recited by all and have an Amen but, no doubt, that is in recognition of the ancient nature of the texts and their musical settings."

This comment regarding the nature of the "Amen" as a response to prayers said by others would offer a further explanation as to why it was omitted from the Our Father recited at Mass.

As our reader points out, it is a broad rule and there are several exceptions. For example, the "Amen" is omitted after the Our Father recited during Morning and Evening Prayer of the Divine Office. But it is included in the "Glory be to the Father" recited by all at the end of each psalm in the Office.

Likewise, the liturgical practice is not necessarily carried over into personal prayer and official collections of prayers, such as the Enchiridion of Indulgences, and the Compendium of the Catechism, almost always include the "Amen" at the end of the orations with no distinction made for private or group recitation.

A reader from Kansas asked: "I would also like to know why the last word of the Our Father is also omitted. That word is 'one,' i.e., 'deliver us from the evil one.'"

The Catechism makes clear in Nos. 2850-2854 that the petition to be freed from evil is not an abstraction but refers to a person, Satan, the evil one. The original Greek text, however, admits both translations ("from evil" or "from the evil one") and the present English translation respects the traditional rendition which is already found in the 1611 King James version.

Finally, a reader asked how to pronounce the word "Amen."

Many foreign words entering into English take on a life of their own and end up bearing little resemblance to the original pronunciation. As English rules of pronunciation are somewhat fluid, it is hard to say if there is really a correct way of pronouncing this word in English.

All told, the Hebrew word "amen" has survived fairly intact even though there are regional differences of pronunciation.

Beyond the United States most English speakers tend to say AH-men. In the United States the form AY-men is perhaps most common, but even there the form AH-men is almost invariably used when singing or reciting prayers in Latin. Some Eastern-rite chants sound closer to AH-min than to AH-men.

In the end, it is more important to assent heart and soul to the liturgical prayers than to accent them with perfect diction. ZE06112121

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