SATURDAY OF SOULS
(St. Theodore the Tyro and the Kollyva Miracle)
Kollyva is an Image of the Resurrection
Part III: Department of Religious Education (DRE)
On the Saturday of Souls as well as other similar occasions, the faithful offer kollyva. Kollyva is a sort of sweet offering made primarily from wheat and includes some or all of the following: raisins, nuts, pomegranate, cinnamon and powdered sugar. It is often formed in the shape of a mound to resemble a grave and decorated with candy in the sign of a cross. The custom of preparing kollyva predates Christianity and is believed to have started in Ancient Greece, where a dish of wheat and nuts was offered to the dead.
Each family brings a prayerfully prepared kollyva dish on the Saturday of Souls and places it in front of the icon of our Lord. Candles are lit and inserted in the kollyva dish. Toward the end of the Liturgy, the service with the special memorial hymns and supplications is conducted. The priest calls out the names of those who have fallen asleep. Everyone then chants together, “Eternal be their memory.” After the service, the kollyva is distributed among the faithful, and then family and friends visit the gravesite of their beloved who have fallen asleep. If a priest is present, it is customary for him to conduct a Trisagion service and also pour some kollyva (and wine, depending on the custom) on the gravesite.
Kollyva is an image of the Resurrection. The wheat, which is planted in the earth and grows into something new, is a symbol for those who have passed on in the expectation of revival. As the Apostle Paul explains: “So also is the resurrection of the dead. The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body” (1 Corinthians 15:42-44).
On the first Saturday of Lent, we commemorate the miracle of Saint Theodore the Tyro. Saint Theodore was called Tyro, from the Latin tiro, because he was a newly enlisted recruit in the Roman army. He eventually suffered a martyr’s death for confessing Christ. In a difficult time for Christians, Saint Theodore had appeared to the Archbishop of Constantinople and asked him to prepare kollyva to feed the Christians during the fast in order to shield them from the food in the market which was intentionally defiled by the authorities. Since then, we also offer kollyva when we celebrate a feast of a Saint and commemorate the names of the living. This continues to be a sign of our communion with Christ, the Theotokos, and all Saints through the Resurrection.
May Saint Theodore continue to intercede on our behalf, and eternal be the memories of those who have fallen asleep!
NOTE: This is Part 3, the final part, of an article authored by Bishop Athenagoras of Nazianzos, PhD (Director, DRE) and published in DOXA, Orthodox Times, and Doxalogia Infonews. The DRE expanded the original article to provide additional information for the purposes of religious education.
If you missed the 1st + 2nd parts, you can read them here:
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