An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church


The breaking of one bread into many pieces for communion. Christ broke the bread at the Last Supper, and “the breaking of the bread” became a name for the entire liturgy (Acts 2:42). Throughout the history of the church the manner and location of the fraction have varied. The 1662 Prayer Book directed that the fraction take place at the words “he brake” in the institution narrative of the eucharistic prayer, thereby emphasizing its relation to Christ's action at the Last Supper. This practice continued through the 1928 BCP. Marion Hatchett notes that the fraction is returned to its traditional place in the 1979 BCP, which places the fraction immediately after the Lord's Prayer (p. 364). The fraction should not be hurried, or cluttered with allegorical gestures. The BCP calls for silence at the initial breaking of the bread. This silence should continue as the celebrant replaces the bread on the paten. The celebrant then breaks the bread for distribution. This may be accompanied by a fraction anthem, also known as the confractorium, which may be sung or said. Other priests may assist the celebrant in breaking the bread, and deacons may also assist in the absence of a sufficient number of priests. The pouring of consecrated wine into additional chalices may also be done during the fraction anthem, prior to the celebrant's invitation for the people to receive communion. The breaking of bread for distribution is emphasized by use of one loaf or a few large wafers. See Fraction Anthem.

Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from “An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians,” Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.