Presvytera Vassi Makris Haros is a graduate of the University of Cincinnati's College of Design, Art, Architecture & Planning and Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology. She is the owner, designer and photographer of V’s Cardbox, In Service and Love. a greeting card company featuring cards with an Orthodox voice. She strongly feels that experiencing the Orthodox Faith through the church’s cyclical calendar of feasts and fasts is a gift that is too often overlooked.
Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone, but if it dies, it produces much grain. John 12:24.
Koliva is made for the Orthodox Memorial Services. These services are held on anniversaries of the departed and on Saturday of the Souls. Traditionally, memorial services should only be held on Saturdays, as the Orthodox understand Saturday to be the day we remember the dead and Sunday to be the day of Resurrection.
I remember watching my grandmother making koliva for our ancestors. She carefully prepared the wheat and offered the names of generations before her, knowing that our prayers can add comfort to those who are not in paradise. She didn’t take it for granted that she would be in heaven, but she worked diligently to please our Lord. Watching her devotion to those who are now departed taught me that if we do not repent of our sins in this life, we are dependent on the generations we leave behind to pray for us. This is why it is so important that we learn to prepare the koliva, memorial wheat, if not for those before us, at least to teach those who come after. As it is, unless we have a building dedicated in our name or have made a major contribution to the world of science or industry, we might have one generation to pray for our souls after we leave this earth. Maybe our grandchildren will remember us as well. But after that, who will pray for our wretched souls? Think of the names you remember to bring to the services. How far back do you go?
Take advantage of the services preceding Great Lent and Pentecost to remember the dead. Learn to prepare the boiled wheat, and teach your children to present the names of your ancestors for prayer. This video shows the steps to preparing the wheat and decorating the koliva.
Note: After the wheat is blessed and eaten, whatever is left over should not be tossed in the garbage. Please leave it for the birds under a bush or a tree, not where people would walk on it.
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