The Significance of Koliva (Boiled Wheat)

In Saint John’s Gospel we find this quote, “Christ said, ‘Unless a wheat grain falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (St. John 12:24). As Orthodox Christians we are awaiting the Second Coming of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and the General Resurrection of the dead, through Christ we have Life, Life everlasting. But, remembering the memory of our deceased beloved ones is an opportunity to pray for the souls of the departed.

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Koliva (Boiled Wheat) is an important part for the beginning of Holy and Great Lent. According to tradition, koliva is connected to Holy Lent because of a miracle from Saint Theodore the Tyro. In the 4th century AD, Emperor Julian the Apostate knew that Christians would be hungry after the first week of strict fasting, which would make them go the markets in Constantinople to buy food. Emperor Julian ordered blood from pagan sacrifices to be sprinkled on the food that was sold there, trying to force the Christians to paganism. Saint Theodore the Tyro, who had died in the early 300’s, appeared to the Patriarch of Constantinople, Eudoxios, in a dream, telling him that Christians should just boil wheat from their homes and sweeten it with honey, to avoid the polluted foods at the market.

Just like the making of the Prosphora (Bread of Oblation) , a few of the faithful Orthodox Christians make koliva. However, it is necessary that Orthodox Christian men and women learn how to make koliva for their family members who are deceased and offer prayers for the forgiveness of their sins and life everlasting.

Some choose not to follow the Greek cultural customs which is their prerogative, however, it is different when it comes to the Orthodox Christian traditions. Every Orthodox Christian must adhere to the Orthodox Christian practices and to discern, between what is cultural, and what is a religious tradition. The cultural may be optional for some, but the religious traditions of our Faith are not optional! We must not only keep them alive, but we must be willing to teach them to our children, and future generations of Orthodox Christians.
Submit the orthodox Christian names (first names only) for the memorial service.

It is necessary that all of you bring the names of your loved ones for the memorial service. Make sure that the names are written legibly and that they are the Orthodox Baptismal names of the deceased. If you do not know how to write them in Greek, you may write them in English phonetics, i.e., Georgios for George, Stephanos for Steven, Hristos for Chris, Ioannis for John, etc. In other words, the way the name sounds.

Once the names are submitted they will be kept for all four Saturday of Souls. This does not mean that you need not be in church to pray for your loved ones.


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