Saturday of the First Week, and the Sweetness of Boiled
On the Saturday of the first week of Great Lent, we commemorate an event
which occurred in the year 356—a miracle of Great Martyr Theodore the Tyro ("the
Recruit"), which continues to have great significance for Orthodox Christians
even today, perhaps especially today.
* * *
Fifty years after the death of St Theodore, the emperor Julian the Apostate
(361-363), wanting to commit an outrage upon the Christians, commanded the
city-commander of Constantinople during the first week of Great Lent to sprinkle
all the food provisions in the marketplaces with the blood offered to idols. St
Theodore appeared in a dream to Archbishop Eudoxius, ordering him to inform all
the Christians that no one should buy anything at the marketplaces, but rather
to eat cooked wheat with honey (koliva).
In memory of this occurrence, the Orthodox Church annually celebrates the
holy Great Martyr Theodore the Recruit on the first Saturday of Great Lent. On
Friday evening, at the Divine Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts following the
prayer at the ambo, the Canon to the holy Great Martyr Theodore, composed by St
John of Damascus, is sung. After this, kolyva is blessed and distributed to the
faithful. The celebration of the Great Martyr Theodore on the first Saturday of
Great Lent was set by the Patriarch Nectarius of Constantinople (381-397).
* * *
The Life of Great Martyr Theodore the Tyro
Commemorated on February 17
St. Theodore the
Tyro The Holy Great Martyr Theodore
the Recruit (Tyro) was a soldier in the city of Alasium of the Pontine district
(northeast province of Asia Minor, stretching along the coast of the Euxine,
i.e. the Black Sea), under the command of a certain Brincus. They commanded him
to offer sacrifice to idols. St Theodore firmly confessed his faith in Christ
the Savior in a loud voice. The commander gave him several days to think it
over, during which time St Theodore prayed.
They charged him with setting a pagan temple on fire, and threw him into
prison to be starved to death. The Lord Jesus Christ appeared to him there,
comforting and encouraging him. Brought to the governor, St Theodore boldly and
fearlessly confessed his faith, for which he was subjected to new torments and
condemned to burning. The martyr Theodore climbed onto the fire without
hesitation, and with prayer and gave up his holy soul to God.
This occurred in about the year 306 under the Roman emperor Galerius
(305-311). Unharmed by the fire, the body of St Theodore was buried in the city
of Euchaita, not far from Amasium. His relics were afterwards transferred to
Constantinople, to a church dedicated to him. His head is in Italy, in the city
From: Official Website of
the Orthodox Church in America
Koliva is also prepared in the Orthodox Church for services to commemorate
the dead, especially in the Greek tradition. It carries an important symbolism
of the resurrection of the dead, and a foretaste of Pascha.
* * *
Koliva: A Symbol of The Resurrection of the
Blessed art Thou, O Lord, teach me Thy
statutes. Give rest, O God, to Thy departed servants and place them in Paradise,
where the choirs of the saints and the just, O Lord, shine like stars. Give rest
to Thy servants who have fallen asleep, overlooking all of their
Koliva in cups for distribution to the faithful at
the Saturday service. Christ said, "Unless a
wheat grain falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it
bears much fruit." (John 12:24)
When planted, the wheat is buried in the soil, but when the season is right,
a new plant will grow. So we believe that the Christian will be raised in a new
body in the resurrection. Wheat symbolizes the eternal cycle. People like wheat,
must be buried to grow and have new life.
Q. What is in Koliva?
A. It is boiled kernels of wheat mixed with dried fruit and nuts. It also can
be sweetened with sugar and spices, and covered with powdered sugar to resemble
a tomb or grave.
Q. When is it prepared?
A. Preparation begins one day before the scheduled memorial service. Most
services are at the end of the Sunday liturgy. Therefore, the wheat needs to be
boiled and set to dry on Saturday evening. Invite your family and friends to
gather and assemble the other ingredients; share stories and complete the
preparation of the Koliva.
Q. Why is it important that we remember those who have fallen asleep?
A. It is important to remember and pray for those who have passed on, to keep
their memory alive and to help us heal. As Orthodox Christians, we believe that
intercessions on behalf of the dead are possible through the fervent prayers of
those remaining on earth (see Matthew 25). We are a church made up of both the
living and the dead.
Q. When are memorial services usually observed?
A. The fortieth day after the death of a loved one and the first anniversary
of the death are the most commonly observed memorials. Memorials may also be
observed on the third, sixth, and ninth months as well as the yearly
anniversary. The departed may also be remembered during the scheduled Soul
Saturdays throughout the church calendar.
But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have
fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe
that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep
in Jesus. For this we say to you by the work of the Lord, that we who are alive
and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are
asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the
voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will
rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with
them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with
the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words (1 Thessalonians
1lb. Whole Wheat Berries (hulled/shelled is
preferred but not a necessity) [In the Russian Church, boiled rice is also
1 package or 1 cup crushed Arrowroot Biscuits or
Graham Crackers [ND: Ugh! Tastes mushy]
1 cup chopped Walnuts
2 cups confectionery sugar
Ground Cinnamon (to taste)
Powder Vanilla (to taste)
Jordan Almonds (assorted colors) for decoration
Optional ingredients (These should reflect your family’s preferences and
heritage and you may use any or all of the ingredients):
1/3 cup Sesame seeds
2 tsp coriander
2 tsp cumin
1/2 cup Pine nuts
1/2 cup Apricot (dried and chopped)
1/2 cup Golden Raisins
1/2 cup dried sweetened cranberries
1/4 cup chopped mint or parsley
Preparation of the wheat (The night before or at least 6 hours before
memorial) [The Greek tradition makes a slightly more ornate koliva than the
wheat well in colander with cold running water. Place in large stainless steel
pot. Fill with water within 3 inches from the top and bring to a gentle boil
Stir frequently for 45 minutes to 1 hour (the wheat berries should be "al dente"
or chewy but not too soft). Drain-off water and rinse boiled wheat in the
colander. Allow to drain in colander for about 1 1/2 hours Toss gently the
boiled wheat with rubber spatula to loosen. Prepare a 12 X 17 inch pan lined
with clean cotton pillow-case or dish towel. Pour the wheat into pan. Spread the
boiled wheat to cover pan and allow drying out 6 to 8 hours or overnight
To assemble for church:
Place the following in a large bowl for gentle mixing:
Cooked wheat, walnuts, or your choice of optional add-ins. Gently combine.
Line display platter or bowl with paper doily and top with plastic food wrap.
Pour koliva mixture onto the platter or bowl and pack down to make firm mound.
Sprinkle lightly the cinnamon and powder vanilla on the koliva mound. Sprinkle
ground crackers on top of the cinnamon and continue packing. Top with sifted
confectionery sugar. Place plastic wrap over mound and pat gently since (this
makes packing rather uniform). Repeat and add another layer of sifted
confectionery sugar. Decorate with Jordan almonds on the top in the sign of the
Cross. On the top right quadrant, place the Greek letter "A" (Alpha means:
Christ is the beginning). On the top left quadrant, place the Greek letter "W"
(Omega means: Christ the end). On the bottom right quadrant, place the deceased
first initial. On the bottom left quadrant, place the deceased last initial.
Finally, a candle should be placed in the center of the mound and then presented
to the memorial table at church.
For Thou, O Christ our God, art the resurrection, the life and the repose
of your departed servants, who have fallen asleep and Thee do we glorify
together with Thy eternal Father and Thine all-holy, good and life-giving
Spirit, now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen
From: Holy Trinity
02 / 03 /
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