Today we remember the miracle of the boiled wheat performed by the holy Great Martyr Theodore the Recruit (February 17). Fifty years after the death of St Theodore, the emperor Julian the Apostate (361-363), wanting to commit an outrage upon the Christians, commanded the city-commander of Constantinople to sprinkle all the food provisions in the marketplaces with the blood offered to idols during the first week of Great Lent. St Theodore, having appeared in a dream to Archbishop Eudoxius, ordered him to inform all the Christians that no one should buy anything at the marketplaces, but rather to eat cooked wheat with honey (kolyva).
In memory of this occurrence, the Orthodox Church annually celebrates the holy Great Martyr Theodore the Recruit on the first Saturday of Great Lent. On Friday evening, at the Divine Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts following the prayer at the ambo, the Canon to the holy Great Martyr Theodore, composed by St John of Damascus, is sung. After this, kolyva is blessed and distributed to the faithful. The celebration of the Great Martyr Theodore on the first Saturday of Great Lent was set by the Patriarch Nectarius of Constantinople (381-397).
Meatfare Saturday is one of several Memorial Saturdays, or Saturdays of the Departed, dedicated to remembrance of the dead in the liturgical year. Christians believe that when people pass away their souls do not die but depart from this world to eternal life.
The departed souls may need help from the church and its members if the dead people's lives were marred with sin. The help is given through prayer, when Christian priests and believers ask God that he repose the departed souls in Heaven.
Meatfare Saturday is the sixth day of Meatfare Week, which is followed by Cheesefare Week. During Cheesefare Week, Orthodox Christians eat any food except meat preparing themselves for Great Lent that starts after the week's last day, Forgiveness Sunday.
On this Saturday, believers also flock to cemeteries to visit the graves of their departed relatives, sometimes asking priests to hold special short prayer services for the dead there.
On Meatfare Saturday, before the commemoration (on Meatfare Sunday) of the Last Judgment, the Holy Church prays for the departed, so that together with us they also stand at the right hand of the Judge, and especially prays for those who have died, who, as the Synaxarion says, were stolen suddenly by death in a foreign country, on the sea and on impassable mountains, on cliffs, from starvation, from plagues and hunger, in war, in fires, from cold, and have undergone all kinds of other generic types of death, and also about poor and needy, and in general for all who "have not received commemoration in the legitimate psalms and hymns". On a Saturday, instead of another day, before Meatfare Sunday it is necessary to pray for the repose of souls because the Sabbath Day is the day of rest, according to its innate meaning. It is the most important day for prayer for those who repose with the Saints. Besides this, the present prayer for the departed who repose the Holy Church reminds us about our inevitable end and our standing for trial before the incorruptible Judge, that, fearing these things to better prepare us for the spiritual struggle which are to come in the saving fast.
Troparion - Tone 8
Only Creator, with wisdom profound, You mercifully order all things,
and give that which is needed to all men:
Give rest, O Lord, to the souls of Your servants who have fallen asleep,
for they have placed their trust in You, our Maker and Fashioner, and our God.
Kontakion - Tone 8
With the saints give rest, O Christ, to the souls of Your servants,
where there is neither sickness nor sorrow, and no more sighing,
but life everlasting.