Saturday, March 19, 2016

What Does Kolyva (Boiled Wheat) have to do with Great Lent?

On the first Saturday of Great Lent, the Church offers a memorial service using the traditional boiled wheat mixed with sugar and spices and decorated in many beautiful ways. This special wheat is known as Kolyva. Unfortunately many people do not know why the Church celebrates a memorial service on the first Saturday of Great Lent, because it is commonly MISnamed a Saturday of Souls. In ignorance the Church uses the terms first, second and third Saturday of Souls for the three Saturdays ending with the first Saturday of Great Lent, but in actuality only the first of these is a Saturday of Souls. You may not think the terms is important, but for a Saturday of Souls (there are only two in the year) the Church commemorates the ENTIRE life of the Church through the centuries. On the other two Saturdays, including today’s Saturday, a “normal” memorial service is offered and the Church commemorates the names of those family members and community members whose families have brought a Kolyva. But the question still exists, “Why a memorial service on the first Saturday of Lent? What does kolyva have to do with Great Lent?”

In the year 362, during the first week of Great Lent, the Emperor Julian the Apostate (the word apostate means he left the Church rejecting her teachings) attempted to poison the Christian faithful. Knowing they were fasting for the first week of Great Lent, he gave orders to poison the food sources with blood that had been offered to idols, knowing the Christians wouldn’t eat the food and be forced either to starve or eat the blood from idols. Saint Theodore the Recruit (also known as Tyre or Tyron) visited the Archbishop in the dream warning the people not to purchase or eat the food from the market. Instead they should eat only kolyva. Known now as the miracle of the kolyva, the Church commemorates this historical event with a memorial service using kolyva.

We can learn two things (if not more) from this annual commemoration. First that God will protect us when we are living the Faith dedicated to His glory and seeking salvation. Second, and just as important, this historical event reminds us that for more than 1700 years the Church has experiencing the Great Lenten Journey much the same as we do today with prayer, fasting, increased Church services, and almsgiving. If you are taking your journey seriously this year, remember you are joining along with the historical saints, known and unknown, that have been experiencing this journey centuries. It is something that you can trust will bring you closer to Christ if you desire it. It has been tried and tested, and as the miracle of the kolyva proves, endorsed by God.

As a reminder today, the fast is “eased” since Saturdays (except Holy Saturday) are not strict fast days. Oil is permitted on Saturdays and Sundays during Great Lent. If you have been wondering what difference a few drops of oil would make in your soup, try adding a teaspoon of oil to your bean soup today. You will then understand the difference in richness the oil provides.

No comments: