The Syrian Fraction

In his book The Nature of Christ H.H. Pope Shenouda III states
As we say in the Syrian Fraction, concerning the death of Christ "The soul left the body
but His Divinity never departed neither from His Soul nor from His Body. His Soul
likewise, whilst united with His Godhead, descended into hell to preach those who died
in the faith and to open to them the gates of Paradise and let them enter. Yet His Body,
also united with His Godhead, remained in the grave. "
1) What is meant by the Syrian Fraction? Is this the Syrian Orthodox Fraction? Or the Coptic Orthodox Syrian Fraction? Or something else?

2) How many Fractions are there in the Coptic Orthodox Church? Also, can you name some?

3) What is meant by Fraction?

4) I also found The Syrian Fraction under Liturgy here where I found

Thus truly the Logos of God suffered in the flesh and was sacrificed and broken on the Cross. His soul parted from His body,

while His divinity in no way parted either from His soul or from His body.

He was pierced in His side with a spear; blood and water flowed from Him for the forgiveness of the whole world. His body was smeared in them, and His soul came and was reunited with His body.
Which is close to what H.H. wrote in wording but not exactly. I couldn't seem to find the exact wording that is in H.H.'s book. Does anyone know why?

5) Regarding the quote from The Syrian Fraction under Liturgy here quoted above, does anyone know what is meant by "His body was smeared in them"? I don't understand what is meant by "in them"?

6) Do Coptic Orthodox churches, in general, use only Coptic Orthodox Liturgies or do they sometimes use other Liturgies, like Syrian Orthodox Liturgies or Armenian Orthodox Liturgies or other Oriental Orthodox Liturgies? If they sometimes use other ones, which other ones do they sometimes use? Only Oriental Orthodox ones?

Please excuse my ignorance.


  • i can't answer all your questions, but there are usually some differences in translation.
    because there are not many people (ophadece excluded of course!) who speak both really good coptic and really good english, the coptic liturgies are translated into arabic, and then someone who does not (usually) know good coptic translates them into english.

    we are only allowed to use the liturgies of saints basil, gregory and cyril. the exception is the british orthodox church (and maybe the french, i don't know) who is allowed to use the liturgy of saint james of jerusalem.

    the one they use is copyright, and not available online, but this is a similar one:
    i know the source is not very reliable, but it gives you a vague idea about the liturgy.
  • Dear Copt_believer,

    1) The "Syrian Fraction" is a prayer within the Liturgy prayed in the Coptic Orthodox Church. It is one of many "Fraction Prayers" that the priest may choose to pray during the Liturgy.The priest selects a Fraction Prayer that matches the occasion (eg Christmas etc). If there is no specific occasion, the priest selects any Fraction prayer. I don't know why it is called Syrian. The Coptic church venerates many Syrian saints (eg Saint Severus, who is mentioned in the commemoration; Mar Ephram and others). It is possible that one of them wrote this prayer (I am just guessing).

    2) I know of 28 Fraction prayers but there may be many more. Usually, at the back of the Kholagy (Liturgy book), several Fraction Prayers are written. There is a Fraction Prayer to suit most Church occasions (eg Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Resurrection etc).

    3) The Fraction Prayer is a prayer the priest prays while breaking the Holy body into pieces (hence the word fraction), so it is ready to give to the congregation as Holy Communion.

    4) They are the same thing, just a different translation. The person who translated the Fraction Prayer is probably a different person to the one who translated His Holiness' book.

    5) The phrase says that His body was smeared in the blood and water that came out of His pierced side. I am sorry but I don't know what the spiritual significance of this is.

    6) I believe mabsoota has answered this question.

    I hope that helps
  • In my copy of the Liturgy of St. Basil (English/Coptic/Arabic, copyright 1993), the following fractions are listed, in the back as mechaiel said:

    Fraction for the Nativity, Fast & Feast
    Fraction for Theophany
    Fraction for Theophany and the Feasts of St. John the Baptist
    Fraction for the Holy Great Fast (Lent)
    Fraction for Palm Sunday
    Fraction for Covenant Thursday
    Fraction for Bright Saturday
    Fraction for the Resurrection
    Fraction for the Apostles' Fast
    Fraction for the Feasts of the Virgin and the Angels
    Fraction for the Feasts of our Lord
    Fraction to the Son for Anytime

    I don't know this may match or differ from subsequent or previous printings of the Liturgy. I am assuming that this is but a small sample of what is actually used at any given time.
  • In my kholagy, the divine liturgies of the saints basil, gregory, cyril by the southern diocese ofthe u.s., it says, the syrian fraction for the feasts of the cross and standard days but it says that the fraction is from the liturgy of Antioch.
    My question is, why did we adopt this fraction?
    God bless, Pray for me,
  • Hi Cyril,

    I don't know the answer to your question, but my guess is this:

    This prayer is suitable for the Feasts of the Cross because it makes several references to the Cross:

    "Thus truly the Logos of God suffered in the flesh and was sacrificed and broken on the CROSS."

    "On behalf of the sins of the whole world, the Son died on the CROSS."

    "Through the blood of his CROSS..."


    There are no other Fraction Prayers that make as many references to the Cross, so it is unique in that respect. The Coptic Church is known for using hymns/prayers from other churches as long as they are Theologically correct. Examples are the Greek hymns "Khristos anesti" for Resurrection, Agios and "Ee-parthenos" for Nativity. Subsequently, there is nothing wrong with using a Prayer from the Liturgy of Antioch.
  • In the past the Orthodox Church of Alexandria (it was not called the Coptic Orthodox Church then) was very close to the Orthodox Church of Antioch (it was not called the Syrian Orthodox Church then). Many of the bishops who were driven from their sees by persecution came to Egypt. Among them was St Severus of course, who stayed in various monasteries in Egypt throughout his exile, and was the spiritual leader of all those who rejected the Council of Chalcedon. The areas of the major Sees were not limited by language. So at the very least, there were Greek speaking Antiochians, Syrian speaking Antiochians, Greek speaking Alexandrians and Coptic speaking Alexandrians. (And many other languages too). The Church was IN A PLACE and not associated with a language. So in Egypt there were Greeks, Copts, Armenians, Syrians, Ethiopians etc etc who would all have considered themselves as part of the Church of Alexandria. It was only due to centuries of persecution that the Church of Alexandria became rather more mono-cultural and became the Coptic Orthodox Church. Indeed I would be interested to know when that name was first used, and became commonly used.

    If I recall correctly, at least two Patriarchs of Alexandria were from the See of Antioch. And there was always a large contingent of Syrians in the Desert, as well as Armenians. Deir al-Surian reminds us of the communities of Syrians in Egypt.

    St Severus wrote hundreds of hymns, and liturgies, including O Monogenes. Therefore it is not surprising that there is at least one fraction which recalls the Syrian presence in Egypt. The Fast of Nineveh was also introduced from the Antiochians where it was first kept. There was a complete inter-change because both communities were members of one Orthodox Church and not different ones.

    We need to recapture that sense of belonging to one Church, and being members of the Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria, or of Antioch.

    Father Peter
  • Amen,
    why did our churches split from each other?
    I heard the orthodox adn catholics split ove political views. Is that true?
  • Which Churches do you mean split?

    The Antiochian and Alexandrian Patriarchates are still the same Church. But we need to act more like it. We are also the same Church as the Armenian, Ethiopian, Eritrean and Indian.

    I very much enjoy visiting and worshipping with the other communities in our Church.

    The separation from the Roman Catholic Church was over doctrinal matters, although of course political, ethnic and social issues also played a part.

    Father Peter
  • Yes, I was talking about Catholics VS Orthodox.
    Are the Antioch, Eritrean, Indian... churches the EXACT same us us,
    but they just worship in different laguages? Does that mean as a Copt,
    I would be able to take communion in their churches?
    Also, I know that this sounds wierd but how would you you great another church leader i.e a priest
    from the catholic church or from the antiochian church? Would you kiss their hands as you would
    a coptic priest?
    Thanks for clearing things up,
    God bless, Pray for me,
  • Father Peter, I am really glad that you are an administrator for these forums. While most members of offer their personal opinion (including myself), I feel comforted to see the opinion of a priest (ie an opinion that reflects the Church's official position on the subject at hand).


  • Dear Cyril

    These Churches are all part of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church...

    Armenian Orthodox Church
    Coptic Orthodox Church
    Eritrean Orthodox Church
    Ethiopian Orthodox Church
    Indian Orthodox Church
    Syrian Orthodox Church

    and French Coptic Orthodox Church and British Orthodox Church.

    Generally speaking any Copt may receive communion in any of the Churches within the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church depending on speaking with the local priest etc etc.

    I think I have received communion in all of these Churches over the years. When I meet a priest or bishop of any of these Churches I greet them exactly as if they were a Coptic Orthodox priest or bishop, since they are all priests and bishops of ONE Church.

    The Eastern Orthodox Church are not in full communion with us, but we have varying degrees of close fellowship with many. The Roman Catholic Church is obviously not in communion with us at all, but again we have varying degrees of fellowship.

    Father Peter
  • My NEW question is why aren't we in communion with each other? (Catholics- Orthodox- Protestants)
    I know that their are differences with all our churches, but is their any way to find the "real story" if you will.
    I mean what really is the rites for... and for...
    (Stricktly my opinion)How can we be loving and teaching love, if we as a religion can't all agree on whether girl
    can be a priest or not, divorce yes-no... stuff like that.
    Please don't tell me that his would be too big of a change for people because, I don't think it was easy-er for
    the split to happen in the 400's.
    The same way that we know that Jesus rose from the dead like 2000 yrs ago, we should be able find the original rites
    as it was some 1700 yrs ago.
    God bless, Pray for me,
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