Amen that concludes the Eucharist Prayer

In Paul Turner's Blog by Paul Turner

Q: Thank you for this service—for your calm, reasonable voice. 

In my limited exposure to the celebration of Mass outside of my usual settings, I have noticed the “Amen” that concludes the Eucharist Prayer very much reduced from what I have thought is appropriate. In two cases the presider sang many other prayers in the Mass, and the assembly responded with a common three note sung Amen to every one. That same “Amen concluded the Eucharist Prayer in both examples. This did not seem like a “great amen.” 

My question: does the Amen that concludes the Eucharistic Prayer have any particular significance is traditional liturgical practice or in theology of liturgy? Was highlighting this Amen simply a fashion or trend without tradition or theological justification? It the name “Great Amen” traditional and solid—or is it a passing approach?


A: Thanks for your comments on my blog.

The amen that concludes the eucharistic prayer is important because it gives the people full voice in assenting to the most important prayer of the Mass. They have already entered the prayer vocally in the Sanctus and the memorial acclamation. Here they add their voice to confirm their participation in all that the priest has said.

To that end, when we received the revised liturgy, many people started speaking of this acclamation as the “great amen,” even though the missal never calls it that. Many composers set beautiful musical settings, usually repeating the amen several times, to align with its significance, but the missal assigned the same three notes that go with any other amen of the people, always one word, a single time.

In my view, a repeated, ornate amen best expresses its meaning and the participation of the people. But at my daily Mass, where we have no instrumental accompaniment, we sing the simple 3-note chant to conclude the eucharistic prayer every day. To me, it makes it special without striving to do too much. It’s hard to sing an exciting amen every day.

But if you can, then you are supporting the significance of the prayer and of the participation of the people.