Tuesday, February 19, 2008


General Instruction of the Roman Missal, #79h:
Final doxology: By which the glorification of God is expressed and is confirmed and concluded by the people's acclamation, Amen.

Jeffrey Tucker at NLM:
"The Amen need not be "great" but rather just two notes."

To this day, you'll be surprised how many people still call the Amen that concludes the Eucharistic Prayer the "Great Amen". Even in Jubilate Deo, there is only ONE Amen (tone as pictured here). Yet, the Amen you hear at Mass is usually a threefold to sixfold Amen, depending on which Mass setting you're using. Some even have unnecessary additional words, like "forever and ever" and that "a-word" that is forbidden right now.

Now, let's go back to the GIRM citation at the top of this post. Notice they only mention one word that concludes the Eucharistic Prayer - Amen. It doesn't even mention repetition here. Just Amen.

Here's another really good take - this one comes from Gavin, a former blogger who now posts at the Musica Sacra message boards:

Nothing in the GIRM, rubrics, or tradition (that I know of) requires the congregation to sing "Amen" more than once at any point in the Mass. Yet today every Catholic pewsitter knows that the IMPORTANT part of the Mass ISN'T the words "This is My Body" but when you have four chords and sing "A-A-MEN, A-A-MEN, A-A-A-MENNNN" and then repeat it. I've even heard catechists say that THAT is the point where the bread becomes the Body. Oh, and the scores for these "Great Amens" always have FFF as the closing dynamic. This HORRIBLY imbalances the Mass!
So when your priest sings "Through him, with him, in him" to the simple tone, just respond on the same note he used as the reciting tone: "Amen." If he uses the solemn tone (with the slurs on some syllables), respond according to the pitch he ends on "A-me-" and then move up a whole tone "-en." It's all so simple, no one can object to it if it's done routinely, and it makes SUCH a difference in how the Mass is perceived by the congregation.

Through this vision from Gavin, now you'll see the climax quickly shift (in the eyes of the average Joe/Jane in the pew) from the so-called "Great Amen" to the consecration and elevations.

Great posts, Jeffrey and Gavin!

PS: And the people say: AMEN!


Adrienne said...

My husband and I have always questioned the terminology of "great". Does that make all the other ones just ok?

Brian Michael Page said...

Since in the average liturgy, all the other "amens" are just said/sung once, yeah, just "ok" at best. (just kidding)

The really "great" points of the Mass (to me) are (in no particular order) the consecration, and the receiving of Jesus in the most Blessed Sacrament.

BTW, has anyone noticed the shift in definition of "Mysterium Fidei" between the 1962 and 1970 Missals?

In 1962:
Hic est enim Calix Sanguinis mei, novi et aeterna testimenti, mysterium fidei...
(This is the Cup of my Blood, the Blood of the new and everlasting covenant, the mystery of faith...)

In 1970:
Let us proclaim the mystery of faith: Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.


Adrienne said...

The consecration is the Mass (IMHO)

Jason Pennington said...

The "Great Ayemen" question came up at staff meeting a number of years ago. The flimsy theory that spiraled out of the discussion was that since the Roman Canon is composed of a series of shorter prayers (the endings of which are not always said aloud), that the Amen after the Per Ipsum, being the last, is in fact the "great" one, i.e. the final one. Since the prayer endings aren't always spoken aloud, the faithful who are less familiar with the Roman Canon may not realize that what they are hearing isn't just one long prayer, but a series of prayers, convoluting the term "great" for the actual last Amen. This however, doesn't explain why they "Great Ayemen" also comes after the other Eucharistic prayer texts which are indeed one long prayer. I think that the term found its way into use from the old Glory and Praise books which titled its "Amen alleluia" the "Great Amen", not for any reason other than it takes up a couple systems of staff. More than likely, the stoned G&P composers, after figuring out the guitar chords for the Aymen, commented to one another, "hey, dudes, that's really GREAT!" and the name stuck.


Motherhen said...

My old pastor used to want us to shout Amen at the "Great Amen" time. His theory was, we had no problems yelling at a LSU football game, so we should have the same sort of enthusiasm, at that point in the Mass.

While I understand his point, I thought it bizarre to yell in Mass. Hello, we're Catholic! Yet another reason why we searched for another parish.