Remembering the Dead with Koliva

Remembering the Dead with Koliva


Remember me, Lord, when You come into Your kingdom!

It’s nice to be remembered

How many times have you heard the communion hymn from Holy Thursday and recalled the thief on the cross praying, “Remember me, Lord, when You come into Your kingdom.”? It’s nice to be remembered.  It’s even better to be remembered as you approach the gates of Paradise, the last place you would want to  hear, “I”m sorry.  Do you have a reservation?”  Or “Do we know you?’

During the Saturdays preceding Great Lent and the Saturday before Pentecost, the Orthodox Church offers a time to remember the dead.  We call them the Saturday of Souls.  On these Saturdays we bring the names of those who have fallen asleep in the Lord to the priest to pray for their souls.  It’s always nice to imagine our beloved family and friends in heaven, but we don’t know for certain.  So, just in case, we remember them.  That is, as many as we can remember.

How many generations can you remember?

Think for a minute.  How many generations do you remember?   Your parents?  Your grandparents?  Your great grandparents?   What about uncles and aunts.   For years my father tried to ingrain our family tree into us when we went out of town for weddings and baptisms.  “This is your grandfather’s sister.”  or “She is the daughter of your grandmother’s cousin.”  I must admit, I couldn’t keep track. When I think about it, I don’t know the names of my grandparent’s grandparents. I can’t go past 150 years of history.  Who is still alive to pray for the people before them?  Who is going to pray for me until our Lord’s Second Coming?

Teach your children about koliva and memorials.

It’s time to learn to prepare koliva, blessed wheat berries, for the souls of the generations before you.  It’s imperative to teach your children as well.  While many parishes have arrangements to purchase koliva for memorial services there is a better way. When we prepare the wheat as an offering we are also blessed.  It’s the process, the prayers during the preparation, where the blessings begin.

Need a recipe?

Here’s a link to a previous post with the recipe and directions for preparing koliva.

For a small memorial service, like Saturday of the Souls or a family memorial, you will need the following ingredients: 2 c whole wheat (uncooked), 1 c chopped walnuts, 1 c blanched / slivered almonds, 1/2 c raisins, 1/2 c golden raisins, 1/4 c Italian (flat) parsley, 1 c whole sesame seeds, 1 t cinnamon, 1 t pumpkin spice, 1 t honey, 2 c powdered sugar, Jordan Almonds.

For a Memorial Service your portions will look more like: 5 lbs whole wheat (cooked in 2 large pots) 4 c chopped walnuts, 4 c blanched / slivered almonds, 2 c raisins, 2 c golden raisins, 1 c Italian (flat) parsley, 4 c whole sesame seeds, 2 T cinnamon, 1 T pumpkin spice, 1 T honey, 2 lbs powdered sugar, 1 lb Jordan Almonds.



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About author

Presvytera Vassi Haros

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.