Today is sometimes referred to as the “Third Saturday of Souls” because the Church offers a memorial service at the end of Divine Liturgy. Technically speaking, it is not a Saturday of Souls, as only two days each year have that designation, on the Saturday before Meatfare Sunday and the Saturday before Pentecost. As we complete the first week of the Fast, the Church commemorates a historical miracle of faith. The Miracle of the Kollyva in 362AD, at the hands of Saint Theodore the Recruit, saved the faithful from defilement on the first week of Great Lent, thus we offer a memorial today. What does it matter whether or not we call today “Saturday of Souls” if we still offer a memorial service?
While it is always a blessing to remember and pray for our ancestors with memorials, the emphasis today should be placed on the reality that there still exist people in the world trying to defile us during seasons of prayer and fasting. They may not be sprinkling the blood of sacrifices on our vegetables, but they are attempting to defile our faith.
Again this year, as in most every year, the secular world will attempt to defile our Orthodox understanding of Jesus Christ by circulating another “made for TV” version of the life of Jesus Christ. The movie is produced by Nutopia, a secular company which describes itself as “creating a new genre of television – the ‘megadoc’ – which combines epic cinematography and action-driven drama with high-end documentary and A list talent.” Reading through the list of contributors and so-called experts, I could not find a single Orthodox Christian source, though I expect many scenes were filmed inside Orthodox Churches. I could ask, “How could any serious scholarship about the historical Jesus not include the Orthodox Church,” but I already know the answer.
What should we do? In the spirit of St Theodore and miracle of the kollyva, I urge you not to see the movie. Rather, watch videos produced by trusted Orthodox Christian sources. Consult with your Spiritual Father and He will suggest trusted online resources. Of course, Be Transfigured Ministries exists to promote such resources, so we will work to compile a brief list for your use. We may even “go live” to answer questions about the movie if time permits. Watch our Facebook and Twitter, and this website, for more information. Keep the faith and don’t watch this movie!
Julian the Apostate, knowing that the Christians purify themselves by fasting most of all during the first week of the Fast -- which is why we call it Clean Week -- planned to defile them especially at that time. Therefore he secretly commanded that during those days the markets be filled with foods that had been defiled with the blood of animals offered in sacrifice to idols. But by divine command the Martyr Theodore (see Feb. 17) appeared during sleep to Eudoxius, then Archbishop of Constantinople. The Saint revealed to him the tyrant's plan, then told him to call the faithful together immediately on Monday morning and prevent them from purchasing those foods, but rather to make kollyva to supply their needs. The bishop asked what kollyva might be, and the Saint answered, "Kollyva is what we call boiled wheat in Euchaita." Thus, the purpose of the Apostate was brought to nought, and the pious people who were preserved undefiled for the whole of Clean Week, rendered thanks to the Martyr on this Saturday, and celebrated his commemoration with kollyva. These things took place in 362. Wherefore, the Church keeps this commemoration each year to the glory of God and the honour of the Martyr. – From the Archdiocese of America website.