Today, the first Saturday of Great Lent, the Church commemorates the Miracle of the Kolyva by Saint Theodore the Recruit. It is a historical event which remembers when Christians were the target of hatred. Knowing that Christians were fasting for the first week of Great Lent, the pagans sprinkled blood over all the fresh food in the marketplace to contaminate the food with blood from idols. This was done boost the practice of paganism in the fourth century. Through the guidance of Saint Theodore the people didn’t eat the contaminated food.
Instead of eating the food that had been tainted with idol blood, the Christians were told (by St Theodore) to eat koliva (boiled wheat) instead. They did as they were instructed and were saved. There are two thoughts about this I wish to share for our Great Lenten Journey. First, the historical celebration reminds us that our Great Lenten Fast is not a new tradition, but an very ancient practice. Secondly, that the Fast brings temptation and jealousy from our spiritual enemies, but that it was in fact the Fast that ended up saving the people and it will save us.
God often uses fasting as a tool for our salvation. In the case of the historical miracle, it was life saving in a physical manner, but in the case of our Great Lenten Journey it saves our hearts and souls from jealousy and spiritual contamination. Keep in mind the Christians needed to trust in St Theodore if they were to be saved. They had to trust that God was working through the St for their salvation, and place their future in God’s hands. In the same way, we can use fasting as a way for us to trust that the Church is working for our salvation and not simply to control our lives. If the people hadn’t trusted, they would have eaten and been tainted.
Finally, it should be noted that as part of the commemoration of the miracle, the faithful bring kolyva to Church. Since kolyva is synonymous with memorials, many submit the names of loved to be included in the prayers. In some circles, it has become known as the “Third” Saturday of Souls for Great Lent, but in fact, it is not a Saturday of Souls in the Church which is a specific commemoration of the entire ancestry of the Church. Saturday of Souls are limited to only twice per year. The day before Meatfare Sunday and the day before Pentecost. You may see today listed as the “Third” Saturday of Souls, but this is more out of casual custom rather than actual Church teaching. It isn’t bad, per se, to refer to the day in this way, but here at Be Transfigured Ministries we prefer to set the record straight on our traditions so they have meaning for the future rather than empty customs.