Thursday 9 March 2017

Praying for the Departed

Before the Second Coming of Christ the souls of those that have died will dwell in Paradise or Hades. However, even though the person who has died is not able to repent for his sins, we should still continue to pray for him and ask God to have mercy on him. The funeral service of the Orthodox Church is made up of hymns and prayers confirming our belief in the Resurrection and asking God to have mercy on the soul of the person who has fallen asleep in faith. 
One of the most difficult parts of life for people to deal with is the death of loved ones, particularly when their death is unexpected or at a young age. As Orthodox Christians we know that the death of the body is not the end of our life. Christ has defeated death and granted us life eternal. Our relative is not dead but sleeping and is waiting for the coming of Christ. However, the person we loved when they were with us in the body still needs to be loved by us even after their death.

We show this love  by making sure we honour the memory of our relatives and by making sure that they are prayed for in Church.  If our relatives are not Orthodox then we cannot ask the priest to perform memorial services for them, but we should ask him to pray for them privately. More importantly we should pray for them ourselves and give gifts to the poor in their memory.

After the funeral, we should continue to remember our departed loved ones in our daily prayers and, if they are Orthodox, we should make sure that we ask the priest to serve memorial services on the 40th day after their death, the anniversary of their death and on their nameday.
One of the ways we show honour to our departed relatives is to make kolyva.  The practice of blessing kolyva (pronounced kol-ee-va) dates back to the 4th century when the Emperor Julian the Apostate who was an active persecutor of the Christians ordered that the food in the markets be sprinkled with the blood of animals sacrificed to idols. He hoped by doing this to break the spirit of the Christians. The bishop was warned in a vision about this by the Great Martyr Theodore who told the bishop to order the Christians to boil wheat (called kolyva) as a replacement for the food in the markets.
We should all know how to make kolyva. If we don’t pray for our relatives, then our own children will be very unlikely to pray for us when we’re dead.

1) Ask the priest if he can perform a memorial service and arrange a date and time.

2) Find some whole wheat grain (not buckwheat or cracked wheat). Buying the wheat is the most difficult step in the whole process. Ethnic shops (Cypriot or Arab) normally have some in stock.

3) On the day before, boil the wheat (500g of wheat grain is enough for about 30 people) until it is soft. Don’t make tons of kolyva- there are no prizes for size. Drain the wheat and dry it between kitchen towels overnight.

4) On the next day, before going to Church, mix the wheat with  dried fruits, sugared peel, chopped nuts, glacĂ© cherries, pomegranate seeds etc.

5) Put the wheat and fruits in a nice glass bowl. Sprinkle a little crushed biscuit on top of the wheat — this helps to absorb any moisture.

6) Sieve some icing sugar on top of the wheat to make a layer about 1cm thick.  Press down the icing sugar gently and then decorate the top of the kolyva with nuts or glacĂ© cherries in the form of a cross.

7) When you get to Church, push a candle into the centre of the kolyva.

Extract from The Ark of Salvation

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