What is a Memorial Service?

The Church has always believed and taught that death only ends our lives on earth but that they continue in heaven.

“Now that the dead are raised, even Moses showed at the bush, when he called the Lord the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. For he is not a God of the dead, but of the living: for all live unto him (Luke 20:37-38).”

Christians pray for the repose of the souls of the departed as an expression of faith in the resurrection and the belief that in death our relationship with Christ continues. Prayers for the dead cannot change the outcome of God’s judgment because once death comes our destiny cannot change (Hebrews 9:7).” A memorial service is how Christians pray for and remember the dead.

The Church also remembers the departed in the prayers of every Divine Liturgy. Traditionally, when families prepare the offering bread (prosforo) they also submit names of the departed and the living to the priest. Anytime a parishioner would like for someone to be remembered at a Liturgy, simply submit the name(s) prior to the service to the priest. Parishioners may also offer Communion Wine (available in our bookstore); Olive Oil and Incense to be used in the altar when submitting names as well.

When should a Memorial Service be conducted?

A Memorial Service should be schedule with the priest to be conducted forty days after someone dies and on the one year anniversary.

“Saturday of Souls”

After the first year, names should be submitted for the special general memorial services conducted on four designated Saturdays called “Saturdays of the Souls.”

The Custom of Koliva

When the Memorial Service is offered, it is customary for the family of the deceased to bring a dish of boiled wheat to the Church. The boiled wheat is placed on a table in the center of the nave during the Service. The wheat, known as koliva, is a symbol of the Resurrection. When speaking of the Resurrection, our Lord said: “Unless the grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone, but if it dies it bears much fruit.” (John 12:24)

Recipe for Koliva

1 cup hulled wheat ( lb.)
4 cup water
1/2 – 3/4 C chopped nuts (walnuts, almonds, pistachios, etc.)
1/2 – 3/4 C raisins, golden or regular
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley or mint (optional)
1 tsp. cinnamon

For the topping: 1 C fine crumbs of zwieback or graham crackers
1 cup sifted powdered sugar
1/4 – 1/2 lb. white Jordan Almonds (sugar-coated almonds)

The day before the Memorial Service:
Rinse and drain the wheat. Cook it as you would rice, for about 1 to 1 hours. Do not overcook so that the grains explode. Since there is more water in the cooking than there would be for rice, check the wheat as it’s cooking for doneness.
Pour the hot wheat into a large or two smaller colanders.
When drained, put the wheat into a large bowl. Cover the wheat with very cold water to stop the cooking.
Allow the wheat to drain overnight.

The morning of the Memorial Service:
In a large bowl mix the wheat with the cinnamon, nuts, raisins, and parsley or mint.
Transfer the mixture to the bowl to be taken to Church. Place a piece of waxed paper on top of the mixture and flatten the top so that it is evenly distributed.

Sprinkle the zwieback or graham cracker crumbs evenly over the wheat mixture. This keeps the moisture from the powdered sugar layer.
Sift the powdered sugar atop the crumb layer.