The lifting and breaking of the consecrated host by the Celebrant is called “the fraction”; one of the four basic elements of the Eucharist. The fraction is so intimately involved with Eucharist that the name “the breaking of the bread” has become a synonym for the entire Eucharistic liturgy. The fraction has occurred at various places in our Eucharist. From the 1662 Anglican prayer book until the publication of our 1928 Book of Common Prayer, the fraction occurred at the words in the Eucharistic prayer, “He brake”, spoken by Christ at the Last Supper. The fraction was moved to its present location following the Lord’s Prayer with our current Book of Common Prayer’s publication. A fraction anthem is often sung or said at the time of the fraction. Rite I lists two fraction anthems: 1) the first is called the pascha nostrum, which begins with “Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us”. The alternative is: 2) the Agnus Dei, beginning with “O Lamb of God, that takest away the sins of the world...”. Rite II not only lists “Christ our Passover”, but also states “some other suitable anthem may be used”. The Episcopal Book of Occasional Services provides fifteen fraction anthems for various occasions.
~ Dr. Gil Haas