My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE
SATURDAY OF THE FIRST WEEK OF THE GREAT FAST,
THE HOLY CHURCH COMMEMORATES THE MIRACLE
OF THE KOLLYVA WROUGHT BY THE GLORIOUS AND
GREAT MARTYR THEODORE THE RECRUIT.
Boundless are the wonders (miracles or thavmata) of Saint Theodore the Teron (Recruit or soldier of the Tyronian Legion). One of the foremost among his famous miracles, which deals with KOLLYVA or boiled wheat. The events regarding this miracle are especially commemorated yearly by the Holy Church on the First Saturday of the Great Fast. On that day, we remember the Saint’s care for the pious Christians, those who keep the commandments of God. By this miracle, we are assured that he fights as a champion in defense of God’s people. We, therefore, beseech your love and attention, as we unfold this history that exhibits the superabundant compassion of God and His unresentful help. Hear now to how He protects the Christians by His Providence and visitation, lest they should fall into the slippery pit of destruction prepared by the leader of mischief, the devil, and his minions.
When the profane Julian the Apostate reigned (361-263 A.D.), he rejected the Faith of his fathers and attempted to revive paganism. He committed many blasphemous deeds against the True God. He was incited by his father, Satan, to fight against God and persecute the godly faithful of the Christians. He sought to separate his subjects from God’s love and Hol Faith that they might honor and worship demons. O the misery and calamity! Not a day passed during his reign that he did not attempt to undermine and punish the Christians. His tortures were diverse: the Christians were made to suffer the perforation of abdomens with borers and augers, or the plucking out of eyes, or the extraction of teeth, or the severing of tongues, or the piercing of various organs with spits, or even frying in pans. In short, he utilized any tool, instrument, or apparatus he could find in order to torment and usher in the death of the Christians. Manifold and malignant was the raving madness of this man defiled with blood. Julian the Apostate, inflamed with malice, was then resolved to attack the Christians in another way, rather than by inflicting wounds and physical death. Since he had not succeeded in instilling desperation, hopelessness, and despair among the beleaguered Christians, he contrived to bring them into idolatry in a secret manner. Had not God intervened and helped the Christians by revealing Julian’s befouled machinations, he certainly would have succeeded in implementing his evil and mindless decision.
This was the subtle plan that Julian the Apostate wished to employ. The evil one observed that the Christians purified themselves by means of fasting and extended prayer during the FIRST WEEK OF THE GREAT FAST. He summoned the city Prefect, a man of like mid and sentiment, who had also lapsed into unbelief and said to him, "O Prefect, we have invented many and all kinds of contrivances to extinguish the Faith of the Christians, but we have not succeeded. As a result, we currently find ourselves in dire straits. Now our gods have enlightened me with their good and incontrovertible judgment that, this week, since the Christians shall be exercising diligence in keeping a fast, I should direct ALL FOOD SUPPLIES BE REMOVED FROM TEH MARKETPLACE. Nothing will be available, except for what I shall furnish. I shall provide the shops and stalls WITH FOOD AND DRINK WHICH HAVE BEEN SPRINKLED WITH THE BLOOD OF OUR PAGAN SACRIFICES. The demand for food will cause all TO EAT ONLY WHAT IS AVAILABLE. IN THIS WAY, ALL SHALL BE COMPELLED TO PROCURE AND PARTAKE OF ONLY THAT WHICH I HAVE MADE OBTAINABLE. ALL SHALL COME TO OBEY US BECAUSE THEY HAVE TASTED OF THE SACRIFICES TO THE gods. As for those who refuse to comply, well, they shall just die of hunger, shall they not? These words, uttered from lips hostile to God, caused the Prefect to remark, "Now I know that the heart of the king is in the hands of the gods!" The plan was immediately implemented by the Emperor and all food and drink were replaced with food and drink that was polluted and defiled with the blood of sacrificial animals. What then did our God and Fashioner do? Even as that terrible and satanical strategy was being executed, the All-Good God speedily dispatched the Great Martyr Theodore, the gift of God–the truest gift both in name and deed, in order to rescue the faithful. "Dreadful, therefore, was the plot devised by the ungodly ruler; for in his wretchedness he planned to defile the people of Christ with unclean food."
The Saint actually appeared to the Patriarch and revealed to him the abominable conspiracy perpetrated by the God-hater, Julian, the betrayer of the Faith, and said, "O chief shepherd, rise up quickly and assemble the flock of the Christians, the flock which thou are to preserve with great care and attention! Command the faithful that they are NOT to purchase any food whatsoever that is found in the marketplace because the most impious Julian has polluted everything by means of the profane blood of sacrificed animals." The hierarch asked the Saint and said, "How my lord is it possible that such a situation has come about? On the one hand, perhaps for the rich, it is possible for them to survive on the provisions they have in storage; but on the other hand, the poor, those who do not even have their daily food, what can be given in order to console them the in their plight? The Martyr Theodore replied, "THOU SHALL OFFER THEM KOLLYVA THAT THEY MIGHT RELIEVE THEIR NEED." The hierarch said, "And what pray are kollyva?I know not." The Martyr answered, "WHEAT." THOU SHALL BOIL WHEAT AND DISTRIBUTE IT TO CHRISTIANS." The Martyr here, by using the word "KOLLYVA" revealed from where he came from; for among the people of Efchaita this word is in common use in their dialect. "In this manner" continued the Saint, "shall keep the flock of Christ from being harmed and polluted."The hierarch then said, "And who are thou, sir, that hast taken care to demonstrate such philanthropy and compassion for the sake of our salvation?" The Saint replied, "I am Theodore, the martyr of Christ Who has sent me forth for you own salvation and help."
The hierarch received the message with both astonishment and joy. He quickly set about gathering together the people of Christ. He revealed to them the Martyr’s watchfulness and care. He proclaimed to all, with much exactness, all that had taken place that the flock of Christ might be preserved intact.
Now that entire week, the evil trick of Julian the Apostate proved to be a failure. There was no activity in the shops and stores. Not one Christian purchased the defiled food. In their place, the usual supplies were offered. The Christians sent up hymns and thanksgiving to God and this gloriously triumphant Martyr Theodore, so that they celebrated the holy day with gladness and splendor. Thereafter, to the present, the operation of this miracle is preached when instructing the Christians in regard to fasting, BECAUSE A PURE FAST IS A GREAT POWER AND IS ABLE TO COVER A MULTITUDE OF SINS. (Source: The Great Synaxaristes of the Orthodox Church)
"Glory Be To GOD
– Saint John Chrysostomos
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With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God
+ Father George