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Kollyva (Greek: Κολλυβα, kólliva; Serbian: кољиво, koljivo; Romanian: colivă ; Bulgarian: коливо, kolivo) is an offering closely connected with the Memorial Services in Church for the benefit of one's departed.
While recipes may vary widely, the primary ingredient in today's Kollyva consists of wheat kernels which have been boiled until they are soft. These are usually mixed with a variety of ingredients which may include pomegranate seeds, sesame seeds, almonds, ground walnuts, cinnamon, sugar, raisins, anise and parsley. The Kollyva mixture is then placed on a platter and shaped into a mound or cake, to resemble a grave. The whole is then decorated with a powdered sugar covering, with raisins decoratively placed on the surface. A cross is traced on the top, and on its sides are placed the initials of the departed for whom the memorial is held. A candle, usually placed in the center of the Kollyva, is lit at the beginning of the requiem service and extinguished at its end.
The size and decoration of the platter varies according to the time elapsed from the date of death. The fortieth day memorial service is the most important which practically no Orthodox neglects to hold for the repose of the soul of their beloved. This ritual food is blessed after the memorial Divine Liturgy, performed at various intervals after a death. The Kollyva are then distributed to the congregtion after the service, who in return say "may God forgive his soul!". The practice of offering Kollyva is frequent in Greece and is known in Russia and many Balkan countries.
Their origin goes back to the time of Julian the Apostate, when in 362 AD he withdrew from the market in Constantinople food-stuffs prescribed for the first day of the Great Lent, Clean Monday, and ordered that they be substituted with "polluted sacrificial food" in an attempt to force upon the people the paganism of which he was an ardent supporter. However St. Theodore of Tyre suggested to Patriarch Eudoxios that he ordain boiled wheat (already called Kollyva) as a substitute to Lenten food-stuffs taken from the market by emperor Julian. Since then Kollyva, having become connected with celebrating the memory of saints, were brought to church and were blessed by the priest during memorial prayers known today as 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 15:34), 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; however, it will be raised not in its previous fleshy substance but in an incorruptible essence which "will clad the mortal body with an immortal garment", in the words of St. Paul (I Corinthians 15:53).
The Kollyva then, symbolize the Apostolically rooted hope in the resurrection of the dead as the only eventuality that gives meaning and attains the longed perfection on the part of the individual who takes his life to be a divinely ordained meaningful living forever.
Occasions of Use
During memorial services (requiem services), the family or friends of the departed will often prepare a Kollyva which is placed in front of the memorial table before which the service is chanted, while submitting a list of first names of the deceased loved ones to the priest. Memorial services are served on the third, ninth, and fortieth days after the repose of an Orthodox Christian, as well as on the one-year anniversary.
In addition, there are several Soul Saturdays during the church year, including the two Saturdays prior to Great Lent, the first Saturday of Great Lent, and the Saturday before Pentecost, during which general commemorations are made for all the departed, as well as on Radonitsa, the second Tuesday after Pascha.
Commemoration of Saints
It is also customary in the Slavic practice on the feast of the Patron Saint of a church or of a family, or on the feast of saints of special significance to offer Kollyva. Instead of serving a memorial service, the Kollyva is set in front of an icon of the saint and a Moleben is served to that saint.
- Rev. Dr. Nicon D. Patrinacos (M.A., D.Phil. (Oxon)). A Dictionary of Greek Orthodoxy - Λεξικον Ελληνικης Ορθοδοξιας. Light & Life Publishing, Minnesota, 1984. pp.225-226.
- Rev. Dr. Nicon D. Patrinacos (M.A., D.Phil. (Oxon)). A Dictionary of Greek Orthodoxy - Λεξικον Ελληνικης Ορθοδοξιας. Light & Life Publishing, Minnesota, 1984.