FRACTION, the ceremonial breaking of the consecrated bread in the eucharistic service. As a basic part of the liturgy, it follows the
teaching and actions of Jesus Christ at the Last Supper: "Jesus took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, "Take, eat; this is my body'" (Mt. 26:26; see also Mk. 14:22; Lk. 22:19; 1 Cor. 11:23, 24).
Fraction is performed in two stages during the celebration of the Liturgy:
Immediately after the prayers of crossing the gifts, known also as the recitation of the words of institution, the officiating priest takes the Oblation and slightly divides it into one-third and two-thirds sections, without actually separating them. Using his thumbs,
and taking care not to touch the spadikon (the central part), he holds the one-third section in his right hand, and the two-thirds section in his left hand, saying, "He broke it; He gave it to His own saintly disciples and pure Apostles saying, "Take, eat ye all of it, for this is my Body.'" At this point the celebrant slightly breaks the top part of the Oblation with the tips of his fingers, and places it on the paten, carefully removing any loose particles off his fingers on the paten, and continues quoting Christ's words, "Which shall be broken for you and for many, and be given for the remission of sin. Do this in remembrance of me."
The second stage follows the EPICLESIS section of the Liturgy, and is accompanied with special prayers known as fraction prayers.
The rite of fraction consists of the following elements:
In the introductory prayer of thanksgiving for God's saving graces, the priest prays, "Again let us give thanks to God Almighty, the Father of our Lord and our God and our Savior, Jesus Christ, for He has made us worthy to stand in this holy place, and lift up our
hands and to minister to His holy name. Let us again pray Him that He accounts us worthy of the fellowship and participation of His
divine and immortal mysteries."
At the consignation, the celebrant takes the pure Body in his left hand and places his right forefinger next to the spadikon, saying:
"The Holy Body." Then he dips the point of his finger in the chalice and makes a sign of the cross on the Blood, saying, "And the
Precious Blood," to which the congregation responds by saying, "We worship Thine Holy Body" and "And Thy Precious Blood,"
The celebrant then crosses the Body twice with the Blood, once on the surface and once on the lower side, saying, "Which belong to
His Christ, the almighty Lord our God?" The congregation respond by saying, "Kyrie, eleison." These actions are a symbolic reference
to Christ's suffering on the cross and the flow of blood from His side (Jn. 19:34).
The fraction prayers accompany the actual process of dividing the Body. Each of the three liturgies in common use (according to Saint Basil, Saint Gregory, and Saint Cyril) has its fraction prayer.
The purpose of fraction prayers is primarily to serve as a prelude toward attaining the proper state of purification commensurate with partaking of the Holy Body and Precious Blood of Christ.
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