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Question 200

Why do we make Kollyva .....when did this tradition start? 


Answer to Question 200


The tradition of blessing and eating Kollyva began during the first week of Great Lent during the reign of Julian the Apostate in 362 AD. The tradition states that the Emperor knew that the Christians would be hungry after the first week of strict fasting, and would go to the marketplaces of Constantinople on Saturday, to buy food. Therefore he ordered that blood from pagan sacrifices be sprinkled over all the food that was sold there, making it "polluted sacrificial food" (food "polluted" with the blood of idolatry), in an attempt to force upon the people the paganism of which he was an ardent supporter.

However St. Theodore the Tyro appeared in a dream to the Patriarch of Constantinople Eudoxios, ordering him to inform all the Christians that no one should buy anything at the market, but rather to boil the wheat (already called Kollyva) that they had at home and eat it sweetened with honey. As a result, the first Saturday of Great Lent has come to be known as Theodore Saturday. After the service, the Kollyva is distributed to all who are present and, after Holy Communion and the antidoron, is the first food eaten after the strict fasting of the first week.


Since then Kollyva, have been prepared in connection with the celebration of a saintís memory and for memorial services.  The Kollyva are symbolic of the resurrection of the dead on the day of the Second Coming of the Lord. St. Paul said, "what you sow does not come to life unless it dies" (I Corinthians 15:36), and St. John, "unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit" (John 12:24). Thus, as the wheat is buried in the soil and disintegrates without really dying but is later regenerated into a new plant that bears much more fruit than itself, so the Christian's body will be raised again from the very corruptible matter from which it is now made.  The Kollyva then, symbolize the hope in the resurrection of the dead and the several ingredients added to the wheat signify so many different virtues.