Please ponder this outstanding quote from Alexander Schmiemann’s book entitled, “The Eucharist”. (p. 48)
“Blessed be the kingdom of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit … “ Amen, answer the people. This word is usually translated as ‘so be it,’ but its meaning is really stronger than this. It signifies not only agreement, but also active acceptance. “Yes, this is so, and let it be so,” With this word the ecclesial assembly concludes and, as it were, seals each prayer uttered by the celebrant, thereby expressing its own organic, responsible and conscious participation in each and every sacred action of the Church. “To that which you are – say Amen,” writes St. Augustine, “and thus seal it with your answer. For you hear ‘the body of Christ’ and answer ‘Amen.’ Be a member of the body of Christ, which is realized by your Amen … Fulfill that which you are.”
In this paragraph the author reminds us of the meaning of this gigantic little word we are privileged to utter so often!
“Amen” is a transliteration of the Hebrew word meaning “truly.” When the baptized say “amen” with one voice they signify their agreement to whatever prayer or divine doctrine etc. that has just been given voice. In this way the worshiping congregation expresses “the unity of the Spirit” that it possesses in Christ. Whereas the world is in utter disarray, and always at war with itself, in God’s house the baptized achieve heavenly peace! Hallowed unity with one another, and with the kingdom of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. With him who gathers what sin, death and Satan have so recklessly scattered.
But the author reminds us that to utter “Amen” is more than just a “vote of confidence” so to speak. More than simple agreement. Instead, it signifies our active acceptance of the divine reality here expressed. That by saying “Amen” the baptized “seal” each prayer, and further affirm their own organic, responsible and conscious participation in the church’s every sacred action. Yes, that’s the right word: participation!
The quote from St. Augustine is especially apropos for us at Christ Lutheran Church. “To that which you are – say Amen,” writes St. Augustine, “and thus seal it with your answer. For you hear ‘the body of Christ’ and answer ‘Amen.’ Be a member of the body of Christ, which is realized by your Amen … Fulfill that which you are.”
When we moved into our new sanctuary some liturgical changes were made (with more to come), one of which was the distribution formula: the ancient formula we read above. We did not return to it, however, because it is old (that is rarely a good reason for liturgical change), but because of what St. Augustine says.
You hear those priceless words, “the body of Christ” as the holy flesh that was once given “for” you is now given “to” you (from the hand of the minister as if from the hand of Jesus himself). You hear golden words that awaken faith, and purify you from the deadly sins of the flesh till, in the words of the hymn, "all sorrow is forgot, and love’s purest joys restored.” (TLH #651). When we hear those life-changing words “the body of Christ,” our cleansed tongues can make no other reply except “Amen.” By which exclamation we “realize” and “fulfill” our membership in the glorified Lord Jesus.
In the one who suffered death on our behalf, but was raised and is now glorified as the King of kings, and Lord of lords. Who rules all things by the Word of his might! It is this Lord who graciously brings sinners into himself, and gives himself to the same.
Now the circle is complete. Salvation won. New life bestowed. The Serpent’s head crushed. The “last enemy” destroyed. “Sweet is the calm of paradise the blest.” (TLH #467) Your joyous “Amen” upon receiving the gospel, “the body of Christ” signifies all this and more.
And so in the words of St. Augustine, one the church’s greatest teachers, “Be a member of the body of Christ, which is realized by your Amen … Fulfill that which you are.”
The body of Christ. Amen.
The blood of Christ. Amen.