Rare Fraction for the Fast & Feast of St Mary

edited December 1969 in Hymns Discussion
Dear All

As we approach the fast of our Lady the Virgin St. Mary I recently came across a Fraction I used to hear a lot and with the help of some others we have translated this into English. I have put this online under the section on Fractions and perhaps some priests would like to pray this during the Fast or on the Feast as it is completely focused on Saint Mary throughout as opposed to a brief mention. This is not an old historic Fraction prayer hence why there is no Coptic.

Here is a direct link to the Fraction prayer http://tasbeha.org/hymn_library/view/2559 ;

May her intercessions be with us all!


  • is this made or written by the church? because usually the fraction is an open discussion with the father or the son... which this does, but I don't know why I'm not too accepting to it, only due to the fact that it talks only about saint Mary... I know I'm completely wrong to think that way, and will cause an uproar to many by saying this, but I feel like we are almost becoming like the Catholic church, by giving TOO much praise to Mary... just a thought...

    Also, the reason the church never made a fraction for the fast of saint Mary earlier, is due to the fact that this fast was not originally for saint Mary, but rather it was for the virgins... and it was started by the Assyrians (followers of Nestorius). I love Saint Mary, and she is the reason for many gifts, including my life it self, but she is "just" a saint, the highest in the rank of saints and angels, but she is just a saint, a human. there are hymns and theotokias, and I'm not opposing that... but don't you think we are taking it a bit over board?
  • Andrew,

    I have an edited version of that fraction (arabic and english).....i hope you don't mind if replace your text with mine on the text library.

    BAM, the fraction can be found in the arabic kholagy of the Mahabba Bookstore. I think the english may also be an Abouna Tadrous Fraction book.
  • I don't agree that Fraction prayers are only about the Father or the Son. Yes they all have some sort of link or reference but look at the Fraction of the Apostles Fast it is very much story telling about the lives of Peter and Paul.

    This is not a Fraction as new to be created by myself I used to hear it in Cairo a lot years ago by Fr Yessa Rizk and never found the words until recently.

    Mina - when you say you have an edited version what do you mean exactly? The Arabic text I have not touched and if you have a better English translation then please go ahead and replace.

    P.S Just as a side note Fr Sawerus Markos told me numerous times that his father (who was Fr Markos Girgis Shenouda who recorded the liturgies with HICS) always used to go to El Sourian monastery and hand write Fraction prayers from various old books and scripts and chant them in his church. There exists a lot of Fraction prayers which have no original Coptic text.
  • I just realised that this Fraction probably is in Fr Tadros' Fraction book as it only hit me when Mina said it but I am sure that is the book Fr Yessa used. Well I am sure that translation will be better so if someone can replace it that would be good.
  • any links to an audio recording?
  • Drew, and others...

    Yes, we do have many fraction prayers found and written only in Arabic (same with reconciliation prayers, and even prayers of the veil), and yes, some of these prayers may have been printed in recent, popular books like Mahaba Kholagy, and used by famous clergy such as Fr. Yassa and Fr. Saweres

    But, how does this answer the theological question raised? Are we simply responding based on precedent? Regardless of who prayed this prayer, whether a priest, bishop, or His Holiness himself, the only proper way to engage with this question is to ask oneself, what is the function of a fraction prayer from a theological standpoint...what is the theological and spiritual idea intended for a prayer during this part of the liturgy and during which the body is broken by the priest?

    I would suggest we engage with prayers theologically first....the discussion will be more beneficial this way.
  • Dearest Ramez

    I was not attempting to respond to any argument or start a discussion. I was merely posting text of something that exists in our church. I love theology although I do not pretend to be a theologian.

    Discussion and debate is good and to be encouraged as it is something we in the West enjoy. The issue I have with discussing parts of the liturgy, in particular priests parts, is what can it or will it change? This dies not mean I think we should all keep quiet  and follow like sheep but rather the argument, if you want to call it that, is something that's priests should query with their bishop, colleagues or diocese seminars/meetings.

    On a very basic level I see the fraction as a prayer and have no issue with it being addressed to others or rather referring to others such as the mother of God.  Although it is when the body is fractioned or broken it is not the first and more important breaking which takes place during the institution narrative.

    As a response to BAM I fully agree that Saint Mary was a human. However I don't think we are right in saying she is 'just a saint'. This woman was chosen by God to give birth to the Word incarnate. There exists nobody equal to her and there never will be. Now I am not saying she is equal to God but at the same time she is to be praised (not worshipped) above any other saintly being.
  • [quote author=drewhalim link=topic=14569.msg165556#msg165556 date=1375809267]
    Mina - when you say you have an edited version what do you mean exactly? The Arabic text I have not touched and if you have a better English translation then please go ahead and replace.

    I always add some tashkeel in some arabic words and i think my english text might be different.
  • Drew,

    Believe me, I am not trying to pick on you or engage in cyber-debate, but there are some points that need to be addressed:

    Exploring and reflecting on the theology of the prayers is not nearly the same as debate, the kind that "we enjoy in the West" as you put it. You make it seem like merely a hobby, whereas in fact it is the one main important thing to consider when it comes to any discussion of tradition. The first purpose of such reflection is not to change or hope to change anything, but rather to better understand the various manifestations of our faith more deeply. The attitude you are expressing robs generations of youth of understanding their Orthodox spirituality, and instead encourage a descent into a superstitious adherence, perpetuated throughout ages of ignorance; an adherence that ultimately presents a very weak Orthodoxy unable to explain itself, and therefore unable to feed its children....forgive the strong language.

    Now, an in ideal setting, the discussions of educated laymen can and should be heard by responsible ecclesiastical bodies and should play a role in influencing the life of the Church. A theologian laymen indeed has the responsibility to bring the bishops' attention to theologically unsound texts that detract from a proper liturgical theology. However, you and I understand how often futile these efforts are.

    Finally, no prayer in the liturgy is simply a prayer. If that were true for all prayers, we would have no claim for a liturgical theology of any kind, whose very raison d'etre is to elucidate the theological content of liturgical texts in their context. To use an absurd example, one cannot simply use Ps. 50, one of the midnight canticles, or one of the priest's baptismal prayers as a Fraction prayer and argue it is just a prayer...Hence, why I am raising the discussion to the question of the purpose of Fraction prayers, because only then can we give an intelligent answer as to why in fact a priest can't use one of the above examples as Fraction prayers.
  • I personally think that to accuse me of robbing youth of anything is ludicrous and absurd but that is just my opinion.

    I also think that what puts a lot of people off from posting on these forums is the way they are always hijacked and turned into full heated debates. I posted a link to a fraction prayer and that was all. I do not have to respond to questions about is it theologically sound and fraction prayers should be directed to God alone as this was not the idea of the thread. If somebody then wants to open a new topic on the meaning of the fraction prayer etc then that person should take the initiative to do so.

    If you want to explore and reflect on the theology of fraction prayers then that is a positive thing but quite frankly there are many here who are not able to reflect on anything and hence why a lot of threads turn into full on arguments with individuals each attempting to prove they are correct clinging on to whatever source they can. I know this to be true as I have followed the forums for many years and this is what I and many others have observed.

    I was genuinely surprised at BAM's reaction to the fraction text like we have no other fraction prayers similar to it. What about the fraction for the Feast of Theophany which is all about St. John the baptist or as I previously said the Apostles fast which strangely is all about Sts. Peter and Paul and not even the other apostles. These are interesting points but not the point or purpose of this thread.

    As to where this thread goes after this is entirely up to you.
  • Dear Andrew,

    Again, forgive my strong language and perhaps I should clarify. I did not mean necessarily that you are robbing anyone of anything, but that the attitude expressed in your post does. It is an attitude that you are certainly not responsible for, but a general trend that I am sure you and countless others have experienced. I am speaking of the general reaction of: Don't think...it is not up to you.

    I certainly agree that discussions here are more often than not frustrating and pointless. The problem is not even those who lack knowledge, but those who think they are knowledgeable simply because they have a source or two (be it a discussion of rites, hymns, patristics, or even dogma).

    However, please keep in mind that you chose to respond to BAM's concerns with what was - in my opinion - an inadequate response. You could have simply said what you said last: "I am simply sharing a prayer I enjoyed years ago and recently found...not inviting a theological discussion". I guess I misunderstood and thought you were also interested or open to a discussion of the prayer.
  • Ok let's all enter this blessed fast with calmness and this I say to myself before anybody else.

    I would be interested in reading evidence or historical comments (not modern opinion) on the purpose of the fraction and whether it is fact that it should be addressed to God alone or whether the mention or address of Saints is permitted. I would hope that this discussion does not side track into whether Glorification's for Saints are permitted during the distribution as I know already many clergy say no as Christ himself is present while many others standby 'Praise God in all His Saints'.

    Let's stick to Fraction prayers only.
  • Drew, your contributions here and on coptichymns.net were always appreciated and welcomed. You speak with a knowledge of rites and hymns that few people can grasp. Do not take anything as a personal attack on yourself. 

    I will address a few points. While Fr Yassa and Fr Sawirus' and others' efforts to revitalize old prayers and fractions is admirable, they have often overlooked the ramifications of reintroducing these prayers. Based on published and unpublished articles, I can posit that multiple local hymnological traditions and rites were used throughout Egypt. At some point in time, there was a unification attempt. A liturgical format was chosen and hymns that were not compatible with this format were removed or modified. For example, some local traditions of the Pascha rite did not have 5 hours in each Pascha prayer. Some didn't have Old Testament prophecies. Some didn't have Gospels. Some had multiple Gospels. Different local traditions had different gospel readings for the same hour. Under a Bishop Botros (I forget from where), the Pascha was formatted to include the common characteristics that we have all come to know. Under Bishop Athanasius of Beni-Suef in the 1950's, when the 1920's printed books ran out, he reintroduced an older tradition (which is reflected in the Pascha Books from Connecticut and Jersey City while the other tradition reflected in the LA book was practiced more commonly than the reintroduced tradition). Now we are faced with a situation where two rites are used simultaneously to this day. There is always confusion in every church.

    This doesn't even take into consideration the theological ramifications of reintroducing lost hymns and prayers. The problem we now have is that many cantors, priests and even bishops did not consider theological ramifications and we are living with the consequences. We have hymns like Is there magi that no one knows if we're praying since there is no coherent text nor any translation. We have prayers in Kiahk that are theologically questionable and scripturally inaccurate. I heard a story once of a priest in Upper Egypt who reintroduced a fraction prayer that was written only in Coptic. Everyone was "praying" without knowing what they were saying. It turned out to be an old bill of sale for cattle. These are extreme cases. But we continue to use liturgical phrases without knowing what we are saying theologically.

    After I looked at the fraction prayer you posted. The first thing that came to my mind was the phrase "He took flesh, having a human soul, uniting with it in one hypostasis and one nature and the Logos was born of her, who was and is, the blessed God forever." The context doesn't tell us who "He" is in the phrase, "He took flesh". We can assume it was the Logos but the sentence looks like it is talking about two people, one who took flesh and the Logos who was born of her and possibly the blessed God is a third person in the same sentence. Now we know that all three subjects in the sentence are one and the same. But you don't get that from the context of the fraction.

    Additionally, what exactly does "The Logos was born of her, who was and is the blessed God forever" mean? You can't have verb tenses in the past and present in the same sentence. Does it mean the Logos was God and is God at the same time? One can't exist and not exist at the same time. The scripture passage that I believe this phrase is based on is Revelations 1:8: "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,” says the Lord, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” Notice, the context of the chapter describes the slain lamb and God, not God who exists and doesn't exist at the same time. So syntactically, Revelations 1:8 says, "[I am]...[the lamb] who is [alive] and who was [slain] and who is to come."  Our passage, therefore, would mean "The Logos - who was [incorporeal], who is the eternally blessed God and [who] will not cease [to exist] - was born from her." This is not simply a matter of translation, but a problem among Copts to use ambiguous language that results in poor theological understanding.  If a non-Coptic Orthodox or a non-Orthodox Christian or a liturgical scholar reads the sentence (i.e., "He took flesh, having a human soul, uniting with it in one hypostasis and one nature and the Logos was born of her, who was and is, the blessed God forever") any number of meanings are possible since it is poorly written. Some meanings will probably be heretical.

    Consider that in the sentence "one hypostasis" syntactically cannot be exactly the same as "one nature". If it were, then why mention it twice? It's like saying, "He took flesh, uniting his human soul in one X and one Y." If x=y, then it would mean "He took flesh, uniting his human soul in one X and one X" or "He took flesh, uniting his human soul in two X's" or "He took flesh, uniting his human soul in one X twice." If you replace X with "hypostasis" and/or "nature", all three resulting sentences would be heresies. Therefore, there must be a distinction with "hypostasis" and "nature". Syntactically, there is no way around it. This was the theological contention with Chalcedonians. To them, it shows that our lex credendi confuses hypostasis with nature and justifies condemning us as monophysites. However, we know from much debate that the Alexandrians understood nature and hypostasis to mean the same thing and the Chalcedonians did not. They were exact synonyms and the phrase was understood by Alexandrians as "He took flesh uniting his human soul in one hypostasis which is understood as one nature". Without explanations like this, our liturgical texts sometimes do not actually reflect our Orthodox faith but it reflects an increasing trend to accept and use heterodox practices. This is the danger in introducing or reintroducing hymns and prayers without careful examination. 

    Now I'm not saying this fraction is the only liturgical text that confuses theological terminology. I just believe that given theological inadequacies, it is either better to leave the text buried (ie, out of liturgical use) or firmly edit or explain the text in a proper Orthodox understanding with a foot note or something. Unfortunately, our Church sometimes prefers to use ambiguous text as is and deal with the consequences later. This results in a generation of Copts who are not disciplined in or don't care about the Tradition and the Orthodox faith that was handed down. This is what robs the youth of a true Orthodox foundation. 

    Sorry this post is long. I know you only meant to post the fraction and nothing more. I think it is healthy for us to discuss our reaction to the text in this thread. Finally, I want to reiterate, Drew, given my own experiences in learning from you, I personally thank you for all you have done on these forums.
  • I enitrely agree with Ramez, I always benefit from his insightful posts. And i ddon't like this fraction, even without someone saying it, this fraction is clearly not from a Coptic original as it contains theological ideas and elaborations not authentic to the patrisitc period (not arguing that all liturgical prayer had to have been written before 700AD to be authentic, nor am I arguing that we can't write theological pieces to be prayed today) but this fraction strikes me as being very western theology and I don't like it (I know someone will say something like I am way too against the west but what can I say, to me Sts. Athanasius and Cyril are the giants, not Augustine and Aquinas)

    Pray for me
  • thanks, remnkemi for your long and very interesting post.
    this explains my confusion during Holy Week when one set of readings was being read and another one was in the book!
  • Dear Andrew and George,

    First, I wanted to echo George's remarks. My comments were not intended as a personal attack at Andrew, whom we all have known for years. Please excuse the strong language...it is merely meant to address an issue I feel strongly about, and not at any one person in particular. At any rate, I am glad we can start a healthy discussion about history, theology and liturgy :)

    Ok, so I like George's comments about theological ambiguity. I need to go back and examine the examples he brought up more closely before I can make an educated response. For now, allow me to share my own thoughts on this.

    Let's first of all ask ourselves what is the purpose of a fraction prayer. Isn't it interesting that in the anaphora, the only prayer subject to change by season is the fraction? What is about fractioning the body that makes it particularly appropriate for seasonal change? In my observation, it seems that seasonal fraction prayers altogether came as later developments for unknown reasons. Besides, the Fraction prayer seems to be really just a prayer to introduce a context for Our Father. Take for example the Fraction prayer of the Anaphora of St. Basil in its Sahidic text preserved in the White Monastery:

    "O Lord God of our fathers and Lord of mercy, the life of everyone and the hope of the hopeless, the help of the helpless, Who manifested this prayer. Make us worthy with a sanctified conscience and a love appropriate for children to be bold and call out to you, crying with one voice with your saints and saying: Our Father..."

    This text is dated to the 7th cent is perhaps the oldest version of the Coptic St. Basil known. The title of the prayer itself in the manuscript is "Eshleel emPater Emon" or "The Prayer of Our Father" pointing to its purpose and function. Just wanted to share an example of this ancient prayer, which to me shows a conciseness, simplicity, and unity of purpose not to be found in later elaborate and -dare I say- contrived fraction prayers. Keep in mind that according to Taft, the Our Father itself was not a fixed part of the Eucharist until the late 4th cent at the earliest, which explains why we don't find Our Father or any prelude prayer in the Euchology of St. Sarapion (early 4th cent) or other non-Egyptian sources from the same era.

    By comparison, here is the entire prayer leading up to Our Father in the Byzantine anaphora of St. John Chrysostom:

    We entrust to You, loving Master, our whole life and hope, and we ask, pray, and entreat: make us worthy to partake of your heavenly and awesome Mysteries from this holy and spiritual Table with a clear conscience; for the remission of sins, forgiveness of transgressions, communion of the Holy Spirit, inheritance of the kingdom of heaven, confidence before You, and not in judgment or condemnation. And make us worthy, Master, with confidence and without fear of condemnation, to dare call You, the heavenly God, Father, and to say, Our Father...

    And here is the one from Byzantine Basil:

    Our God, the God who saves, You teach us justly to thank You for the good things which You have done and still do for us. You are our God who has accepted these Gifts. Cleanse us from every defilement of flesh and spirit, and teach us how to live in holiness by Your fear, so that receiving the portion of Your holy Gifts with a clear conscience we may be united with the holy Body and Blood of Your Christ. Having received them worthily, may we have Christ dwelling in our hearts, and may we become the temple of Your Holy Spirit. Yes, our God, let none of us be guilty before these, Your awesome and heavenly Mysteries, nor be infirm in body and soul by partaking of them unworthily. But enable us, even up to our last breath, to receive a portion of Your holy Gifts worthily, as provision for eternal life and as an acceptable defense at the awesome judgment seat of Your Christ. So that we also, together with all the saints who through the ages have pleased You, may become partakers of Your eternal good things, which You, Lord, have prepared for those who love You. And make us worthy, Master, with confidence and without fear of condemnation, to dare call You, the heavenly God, father, and to say: Our Father...

    Notwithstanding the extensive textual embellishment of the Byzantine prayers compared with the Coptic simplicity and straightforwardness, we can see that all three prayers are:

    1- Prayers as a prelude to Our Father
    2- Prayers that look ahead to partaking of the Eucharist
    3- Prayers acknowledging that to approach the Eucharist and to call God Our Father both are acts of confidence, impossible without God granting such confidence to us.

    Now granted, all three themes are present in all our fraction prayers including the one discussed here for St. Mary. However, there is a significant difference between the prayer from the White Monastery and the ones from the Byzantine tradition. It seems that within the Byzantine liturgy, the prayer before Our Father is a summation/conclusion of all the post-epiclesis intercessions/litanies that precede it. The church prays for the departed saints, the living, the safety of the place....etc and finally asks God to be able to "commit ourselves, and one another, and our whole life to Christ our God" thus leading to the prayer before Our Father. In short, there is a context and a logical progression. In the Sahidic Basil from the White monastery on the other hand, the prayer is self-contained, referencing mainly the fact that Christ handed down this prayer. In short, this Coptic ancient fraction prayer is a stand-alone, not logically progressing from preceding prayers.

    Ok, so here is my theory:

    1- The Egyptian tradition preserves an older, more conservative tradition, when Our Father itself was artificially inserted into the liturgy as a pre-communion ritual, as we can see from the lack of context of the prayer before our Father (the fraction)
    2- In other traditions such as the Byzantine, things developed further and the prayer introducing Our Father was given a context connected to what precedes it. Both Byzantine anaphoras are known to be later than the Coptic Basil, and I generally feel Byzantine prayers and rites are not as conservative and fixed as Coptic ones.
    3- Because the Coptic tradition retains this isolation of the prayer before Our Father, it became easy in later centuries for other stand-alone seasonal prayers to develop. This would have been difficult had the prayer been written to match its context, derived from the preceding prayers.

    I understand this is very general talk, and is not specifically addressing the fraction of St. Mary, but I wanted to show basically that the function of this prayer is to introduce Our Father and to prepare us with the proper mindset before approaching the "dread mysteries". To me, the Fraction of St. Mary, and indeed many of our current fraction prayers, seem to artificially dwell on tangents related to the season. However, I need to take a look at more fraction prayers (and even other rites) to see when these "seasonal themes" are truly tangential and distracting, maybe even obscuring the themes I identified, and when they are actually beautifully interwoven and show a profound connection between the season, the Eucharist, and preparing us for communion.

    Sorry for the super long post.
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