Have you ever wondered what the word “amen” means? Having been raised Protestant it was always used at the end of a prayer and I always assumed that it meant “I am done.” Dear Lord, please give me what I want (grant me…). I am done (amen!). In some of our more colorful denominations it is often used as an affirmation. The Lord God is great! Can I get an AMEN?
Yet we see it used many times in the New Testament to begin a sentence, many times by Jesus himself when he is officially teaching. “Amen, amen I say to you…” In some translations of the bible we see it translated as “Truly, truly I say to you…” So used in that fashion it can’t be a conclusion to a prayer or an affirmation to a statement. So what does amen actually mean?
Hebrew is a vocabulary deficient language, which means they do not have a lot of words to explain things. Many Hebrew words hold deep meaning. The number seven, for instance, was a number that held great significance. It was used to swear an oath, something sacred. Old Testament Israelites wouldn’t say, “I swear to you…” they would say, “I seven you…”
Amen is also an oath used in much the same fashion that the word/number seven was used. It was an oath that was meant to convey that what was going to be said next was the absolute truth or that you believe what was just said was the absolute truth. “Amen, amen I say to you…” was the way that Jesus said, “Listen up people. What I am about to say I swear to you is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” Anything said after “amen, amen” that wasn’t truth was a lie and you reneged on your oath. We have seen through this series on the sacraments how reneging on an oath brings death upon yourself.
Likewise, when you say amen at the end of a prayer in Mass you are swearing an oath that you agree with the words of the prayer. When said at the end of the creed you are swearing an oath that you believe that the creed is absolutely 100% true and that you will live by the words of that creed. How many times do you say “amen” as part of the Mass? How many times do you swear an oath to the death and don’t realize what you have vowed to do? To leave the Mass and live contrary to the oaths you just took causes you to renege on those oaths and the collateral pledged is your very life. For this reason Jesus teaches us in Holy Scripture that is it better not to swear an oath than to fail to live up to one.
Pay attention to your actions and the words you use. Words have meanings and actions have consequences. Pay attention during Mass and ask yourself if you truly believe what you are saying is 100% true. Would you put your life on it? If you have said “Amen” that is exactly what you have done.
Thanks to Father Seraiah for the use of his blog as reference material on this oath.
Be a blessing to all you meet and allow them to be a blessing to you.