St. Jerome in his commentary on St. Matthew rightly calls this word what it really is, the seal of the Lord's Prayer. As then we have already admonished the faithful with regard to the preparation to be made before this holy prayer, so we deem it necessary that they should also know why we close our prayers with this word, and what it signifies; for devotion in concluding our prayers is not less important than attention in beginning them.
The faithful, then, should be taught that the fruits, which we gather from the conclusion of the Lord's Prayer are numerous and abundant, the greatest and most joyful of them being the attainment of what we ask. On this point enough has already been said.
By this concluding word, not only do we obtain a propitious hearing from God, but also receive other blessings of a higher order still, the excellence of which surpasses all powers of description.
For since, as St. Cyprian remarks, by prayer man converses with God, it happens in a wonderful manner that the divine Majesty is brought nearer to those who are engaged in prayer than to others, and enriches them with singular gifts. Those, therefore, who pray devoutly, may not be inaptly compared to persons who approach a glowing fire; if cold, they derive warmth; if warm, they derive heat. Thus, also, those who approach God (in prayer) depart with a warmth proportioned to their faith and fervour; the heart is inflamed with zeal for the glory of God, the mind is illumined after an admirable manner, and they are enriched exceedingly with divine gifts, as it is written: Thou hast prevented him with blessings of sweetness.
An example for all is that great man Moses. By intercourse and converse with God he so shone with the reflected splendours of the Divinity, that the Israelites could not look upon his eyes or countenance.
Those who pray with such vehement fervour enjoy in a wonderful manner the goodness and majesty of God. In the morning, says the Prophet, I will stand before thee, and will see; because thou art not a God that willest iniquity.
The more familiar these truths are to the mind, the more piously do we venerate, and the more fervently do we worship God, and the more delightfully do we taste how sweet is the Lord, and how truly blessed are all who hope in Him.
Encircled by the most clear light from above we also discover our own lowliness and how exalted is the majesty of God, according to the saying of St. Augustine: Give me to know Thee: give me to know myself. Distrusting our own strength, we thus throw ourselves unreservedly upon the goodness of God, not doubting that He, who cherishes us in the bosom of His paternal wondrous love, will afford us in abundance whatever is necessary for life and salvation. Thus we shall turn to God with the warmest gratitude our hearts can conceive and our lips express. This we read that holy David did, who commenced by praying: Save me from all them that persecute me, and concluded with these words, I will give glory to the Lord according to his justice, and will sing to the name of the Lord the most High.'
There are innumerable prayers of the Saints of the same kind, whose beginnings are full of fear, but which end with hope and joy. This spirit, however, is eminently conspicuous in the prayers of David.
When agitated by fear he began his prayer thus: Many are they who rise up against me: many say to my soul, There is no salvation for him in his God; but at length, armed with fortitude and holy joy, he adds: I will not fear thousands of the people surrounding me.
In another Psalm, after he had lamented his misery, we see him towards the end, reposing confidence in God and rejoicing exceedingly in the hope of salvation: In peace in the selfsame, I will sleep, and I will rest.
Again, with what fear and trembling must the Prophet not have been agitated when he exclaimed: O Lord, rebuke me not in thy indignation, nor chastise me in thy wrath! Yet, on the other hand, what confidence and joy must not have been his when he added: Depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity; for the Lord hath heard the voice of my weeping!
When filled with dread of the wrath and fury of Saul, with what lowliness and humility does he not implore the divine assistance: Save me, O Lord, by thy name, and Judge me in thy strength! and yet, in the same Psalm he adds these words of joy and confidence: Behold, God is my help; and the Lord is the helper of my soul.
Let him, therefore, who has recourse to holy prayer approach God his Father, fortified by faith and animated by hope, not doubting that he will obtain those blessings of which he stands in need.
The word amen, with which the Lord's Prayer concludes, contains, as it were, the germs of many of these thoughts and reflections which we nave just considered. Indeed, so frequent was this Hebrew word in the mouth of the Saviour, that it pleased the Holy Ghost to have it retained in the Church of God. Its meaning may be said to be: Know that thy prayers are heard. It has the force of a response, as if God answers the suppliant, and graciously dismisses him, after having favourably heard his prayers.
Thisinterpretation has been approved by the constant usage of the Church of God. In the Sacrifice of the Mass, when the Lord's Prayer is said she does not assign the word amen to the server who answers: But deliver us front evil. She reserves it as appropriate to the priest himself, who, as mediator between God and man, answers Amen, thus intimating that God has heard the prayers of His people.
This practice, however, is not common to all the prayers, but is peculiar to the Lord's Prayer. To the other prayers the server answers Amen, because in every other this word only expresses assent and desire. In the Lord's Prayer it is an answer, intimating that God has heard the petition of His suppliant.
By many, the word amen is differently interpreted. The Septuagint interprets it, So be it; others translate it, Verily: Aquila renders it, Faithfully. Which of these versions we adopt, is a matter of little importance, provided we understand the word to have the sense already mentioned, namely, that when the priest (pronounces Amen), it signifies the concession of what hag been prayed for. This interpretation is supported by St Paul in his Epistle to the Corinthians, where he says: All the promises of God are in him, "it is"; therefore also by him, amen to God, unto our glory.
To us also this word is very appropriate, containing, as it does, some confirmation of the Petitions which we have already offered up. It also fixes our attention when we are engaged in holy prayer; for it frequently happens that in prayer a variety of distracting thoughts divert the mind to other objects.
Nay, more, by this word we most earnestly beg of God that all our preceding Petitions may be granted; or rather, understanding that they have been all granted, and feeling the divine assistance powerfully present with us, we cry out together with the Prophet: Behold God is my helper; and the Lord is the protector of my soul.
Nor can anyone doubt that God is moved by the name of His Son, and by a word so often uttered by Him who, as the Apostle says, was always heard for his reverence.