The Great AMEN: Say It Like You Mean It

Mosaic of Christ instituting the Eucharist

True confession time! For some time I’ve been troubled when the AMEN at the end of the Eucharistic prayer is said in such a lackluster manner in some churches that I wonder why we bother.

Look in the Book of Common Prayer at Page 363. The “Amen”, called The Great Amen is in ALL CAPS! I remind us that if one writes an email in all caps it means SHOUTING! All caps are very deliberate here.

The Rt. Rev. Shannon Johnston explains it thus: “Our Anglican tradition is very clear in the teaching that it is the entire Eucharistic Prayer (not just particular moments within it) that consecrates the bread and wine. We also hold that it is through the role of the whole assembly—to be sure, with a priest as its essential celebrant—that the Holy Spirit effects consecration. Both of these foundational points are expressed in the “Great Amen” (the AMEN so printed) at the end of every Eucharistic Prayer in the Book of Common Prayer. That is the “moment” when we acknowledge consecration, and it is the whole assembly that says it. Such is the theological importance of this “AMEN” (= “so be it”) that if it is not said, the consecration of the bread and wine has not taken place.”

So–the next time you are at worship shout out the Great Amen like you really mean it!

Ellen Johnston is Director of the Center for Liturgy and Music.