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posted Oct 23, 2011, 8:04 AM by Unknown user   [ updated Aug 25, 2015, 5:41 PM ]
Literally meaning So be it; truly, this declaration of affirmation is of Hebrew origin, and in Judaism dates back to its earliest texts.  It derives from the same ancient root as a three consonant verb which meant to strengthen or confirm, and it’s one of a small number of Hebrew words which the early Christians imported into their liturgy.  “So frequent was this in the mouth of Our Saviour” observes the Catechism of the Council of Trent, “that it pleased the Holy Ghost to have it perpetuated”. 

St. Justin Martyr describes the Christian liturgy around the year 151:
As soon as common prayers are ended and they (the Christians) have saluted one another with a kiss; bread, wine and water are brought to the president, who receiving them gives praise to the Father of things by the Son and Holy Spirit and makes a long thanksgiving for the blessing which He has vouchsafed to bestow upon them, and when he has ended the prayers and thanksgiving, all the people that are present forthwith answer with acclamation ‘Amen’”
                                                                    (Justin, I Apol., lxv, P.G., VI, 428)

Today, the great consecrating prayer, or “action” of the Mass still ends with Amen; often called the Great Amen because of its importance, though many scholars and liturgists argue that no Amen is greater than another.  When we sing it, we give our assent as the definitive conclusion to the Eucharistic Prayer and its doxology, symbolized by the fact that the priest does not lower the chalice and paten until we conclude our Amen

It is most commonly pronounced ah-men when singing, as it is in Hebrew, Greek or Latin.  The change to ay-men was introduced in the 15th century’s Great Vowel Shift; a major revolution in the pronunciation of the English, German and Dutch languages following the migration caused by the Black Death and the shifts in social structure as a middle class began to emerge.