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March 4, 2017

The Meaning of Memorial Services in the Orthodox Church (St. Symeon of Thessaloniki)

By St. Symeon of Thessaloniki


The boiled wheat is offered because man is also a seed and like a fruit from the earth. Like a seed he is placed in the earth now, and he will be raised up and blossom forth again by God's power.*


The third day service is celebrated for the reason that the reposed one received his being through the Trinity, and having been translated, he hopes to be changed back to the ancient beauty in which man was first made before the fall, or one better.


The ninth day service is celebrated that his spirit may dwell together with the holy spirits, the angels, since it is immaterial as is their nature. They are ranked according to nine orders, and in three trinities they proclaim and praise God in Trinity.


The fortieth day service is celebrated in the memory of the Savior's Ascension forty days after His Resurrection and that the reposed one, when he is resurrected, may be taken up in the clouds to meet the Judge, our Savior and Master, and thus be with Him forever (1 Thes. 4:17).


Now the third, sixth, and ninth months are also celebrated to proclaim the Trinity, the God of all and His glory, and on behalf of the deceased. For by the Trinity a man is fashioned, and when he is loosed from the body he returns to Him, and by the Trinity he hopes for the resurrection. And thus we also perform memorials at the end of the year because we proclaim the Trinity, and the year is divided into four trinities. Additionally, the end of the year is celebrated because it is the consummation, and our God the Trinity is the Life of all and the cause of being, and He shall be the restoration of all and the renewal of human nature.


Each year the relatives observe the memorial of the departed to demonstrate that he lives and is immortal of soul and he shall be restored when the Creator raises up his body. And the offering of Boiled Wheat (Kollyva) bears witness that, as Christ died according to the flesh and was raised up and lives, thus, we too, as Saint Paul says, "shall be raised up and live in Him."


* 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; 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 16th century Archbishop Gabriel of Philadelphia wrote that the Kollyva are symbols of the general resurrection, and the several ingredients added to the wheat signify so many different virtues.