KOLIVA: A SYMBOL OF THE RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD
Blessed are you, O Lord, teach me your commandments. Give rest, O God, to your servants and place them in Paradise, where the choirs of the saints and the just, O Lord, shine like stars. Give rest to your servant who has fallen asleep, overlooking all of their transgressions.
Christ said, "Unless a wheat grain falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit." (John 12:24)
When planted, the wheat is buried in the soil, but when the season is right a new plant will grow. So we believe that the Christian will be raised in a new body in the resurrection. Wheat symbolizes the eternal cycle. People like wheat, must be buried to grow and have new life.
Q. What is in Koliva?
A. It is boiled kernels of wheat mixed with dried fruit and nuts. It also can be sweetened with sugar and spices - covered with powdered sugar to resemble a tomb or grave.
Q. When is it prepared?
A. Preparation begins one day before the scheduled memorial service. Most services are at the end of the Sunday liturgy. Therefore, the wheat needs to be boiled and set to dry on Saturday evening. Invite your family and friends to gather and assemble the other ingredients; share stories and complete the preparation of the Koliva.
Q. Why is it important that we remember those who have fallen asleep?
A. It is important to remember and pray for those who have passed on to keep their memory alive and to help us heal. As Orthodox Christians, we believe that intercessions on behalf of the dead are possible through the fervent prayers of those remaining on earth. (See Matthew 25) We are a church made up of both the living and the dead.
Q. When are memorial services usually observed?
A. On the fortieth day after the death of a loved one and on the one year anniversary of the death are the most commonly observed as memorials. Memorials may also be observed on the third, sixth, and ninth months as well as the yearly anniversary. The departed may also be remembered during the scheduled Soul Saturdays throughout the church calendar.
But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the work of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words. –1 Thessalonians 4:13-17
1lb. Whole Wheat Berries (hulled/shelled is preferred but not a necessity)
1 package or 1 cup crushed Arrowroot Biscuits or Graham Crackers
1 cup Chopped Walnuts
2 cups Confectionery sugar
Ground Cinnamon (to taste)
Powder Vanilla (to taste)
Jordan Almonds (assorted colors) for decoration
Optional ingredients (These should reflect your family’s preferences and heritage and you may use any or all of the ingredients):
1/3 cup Sesame seeds
2 tsp coriander
2 tsp cumin
1/2 cup Pine nuts
1/2 cup Apricot (dried and chopped)
1/2 cup Golden Raisins
1/2 cup dried sweetened cranberries
¼ cup chopped mint or parsley
Preparation of the wheat (The night before or at least 6 hours before memorial):
Rinse wheat well in colander with cold running water
Place in large stainless steel pot
Fill with water within 3 inches from the top and bring to a gentle boil
Stir frequently for 45 minutes to 1 hour (the wheat berries should be “al dente” or chewy but not too soft)
Drain-off water and rinse boiled wheat in the colander
Allow to drain in colander for about 1 ½ hours
Toss gently the boiled wheat with rubber spatula to loosen
Prepare a 12 X 17 inch pan lined with clean cotton pillow-case or dish towel
Pour the wheat into pan
Spread the boiled wheat to cover pan and allow drying out 6 to 8 hours or overnight
To assemble for church:
Place the following in a large bowl for gentle mixing:
Cooked wheat, walnuts, or your choice of optional add-ins.
Line display platter or bowl with paper doily and top with plastic food wrap
Pour koliva mixture onto the platter or bowl and pack down to make firm mound
Sprinkle lightly the cinnamon and powder vanilla on the koliva mound
Sprinkle ground crackers on top of the cinnamon and continue packing
Top with sifted confectionery sugar
Place plastic wrap over mound and pat gently since (this makes packing rather uniform)
Repeat and add another layer of sifted confectionery sugar
Decorate with Jordan almonds on the top in the sign of the Cross
On the top right quadrant, place the Greek letter “A” (Alpha means: Christ is the beginning)
On the top left quadrant, place the Greek letter “W” (Omega means: Christ the end)
On the bottom right quadrant, place the deceased first initial
On the bottom left quadrant, place the deceased last initial
Finally, a candle should be placed in the center of the mound and then presented to the memorial table at church.
For you, O Christ our God, are the resurrection, the life and the repose of your departed servants, who have fallen asleep and you we glorify together with your eternal Father and your all-holy, good and life-giving Spirit, now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen