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Baptism

The Sacrament of Baptism incorporates us into the Church, the Body of Christ, and is our introduction to the life of the Holy Trinity. Water is a natural symbol of cleansing and newness of life. Through the three-fold immersion in the waters of Baptism in the Name of the Holy Trinity, one dies to the old ways of sin and is born to a new life in Christ. Baptism is one’s public identification with Christ Death and victorious Resurrection. Following the custom of the early Church, Orthodoxy encourages the baptism of infants. The Church believes that the Sacrament is bearing witness to the action of God who chooses a child to be an important member of His people. From the day of their baptism, children are expected to mature in the life of the Spirit, through their family and the Church. The Baptism of adults is practiced when there was no previous baptism in the name of the Holy Trinity.

When to Baptize

Baptize your child as soon as possible after the forty-day blessing. Baptism’s are not permitted December 25 thru January 6, and Easter Holy Week. There may be other days such as major feast days that may be inconvenient or inappropriate.

Baptismal Guidelines:

  1. The Sponsor (Godfather or Godmother) must be an Orthodox Christian. If the Sponsor is married, the marriage must have been blessed by an Orthodox priest.
  2. The role of the Sponsor is directly related to infant baptism. Since the infant is unable to make the necessary confession of faith, the Sponsor stands and vouches for it.
  3. The Sponsor should be ready to recite the Nicene Creed either in Greek or English. For three consecutive Sundays after the baptism, the Sponsor should carry the neophyte for the Holy Altar to receive Holy Communion.
  4. According to the tradition of the Orthodox church, one name of Orthodox Christian origin should be given to the child at the time of baptism.
  5. The day, time, and other arrangements of the baptism must be made with the priest. Please call the church office to discuss these arrangements at least one month before the baptism.
  6. The Sponsor should provide:
    • A complete change of clothes for the child
    • One bottle of olive oil
    • A Gold cross for the child
    • Three white candles
    • One of each of the following: bar of soap, hand towel, bath towel, sheet
    • Martyrika
  7. In the event that an unbaptized infant is near death, an Orthodox priest may be called to perform a clinical baptism. In the absence of an Orthodox clergyman, a layman or any other Christian may baptize the infant by sprinkling water on the child while repeating the following three times: “The servant of God (name), is baptized in the name of the Father, of the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”
  8. Those who wishing to become an Orthodox Christian must receive catechism from an Orthodox priest. After receiving instruction in the faith, the candidate is accepted into the church by one of three ways prescribed by the Sixth Ecumenical Council (Canon 95) as appropriate:
    • Baptism in the name of the Father, of the Son, and Holy Spirit by triune immersion
    • Chrismation
    • Confession of Faith.

Proof of baptism must be established by an authentic document. The priest must undertake to instruct the applicant in matters of the faith and practice that govern the inner life and outward behavior of the Orthodox Christian. If the applicant has not been baptized in the name of the Holy Trinity in a Christian church by the principle of “oikonomia,” he or she must be baptized as prescribed in the Service Book.

Forty Day Blessing

The most important custom for the newborn and the mother is the forty-day blessing (sarantismos), a reenactment of Mary’s bringing Jesus to the temple on the fortieth day after his birth (The Presentation of Jesus Christ in the Temple). The mother brings her baby to church on the fortieth day (or the closest following Sunday) for a brief service of purification and to formally bring the baby into the church. Call the priest to arrange for the time.

According to tradition this is the first time that the new mother and the baby are allowed to enter the church. (In the past some peopled believed that going outside the house before the prescribed forty days would bring bad luck.)

The mother and child remain in the church narthex and do not enter the nave until the priest has offered a prayer. Then the priest carries the baby to the front of the church, followed by the mother and sometimes other participants. The priest proclaims: “The servant of God is brought within the church in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.”

After the forty-day blessing, close family members say, “Na mas Zisi” (“May he/she live for us”) and acquaintances offer congratulations with “Na sas zisi” (“May he/she/ live for you”). Since mother and child are still in delicate condition, no celebration or reception afterwards is necessary.

Choosing the God Parent

Selecting a godparent is an important choice because the godparent is responsible for the spiritual upbringing of your child. You should think of the person as becoming a member of your family and a relationship that will be lifelong. It is common that family members will be selected as godparents. Traditionally the koumbaros or koumbara of the parents wedding will baptize the couple’s first child. It is best, if you wish to chose someone different to at least consult with them about your choice.

To be a godparent one must be a member in good standing of the Orthodox church and in full sacramental communion.

Preparations

Parents:

The parents are responsible for the celebration after the baptism ceremony. Invitations should not include the name of the child as this will be give during the ceremony. Just invite guests to the baptism of your son or daughter.

You will also have to select two people to undress and to dress the baby at the ceremony. You should also choose tow or more children to walk with candles around the font at the prescribed time during the ceremony.

You should also give the godparent a gift to show your appreciation.

Godparents:

The following items should be brought to the church for the use by the priest.

  • 2 white hand towels
  • 1 white bath towel
  • 1 white sheet
  • 1 small bottle of olive oil
  • 1 small bar of soap
  • 1 baptismal candle – a large decorated candle with a large bow of ribbon and other decorations such as a flower for the ceremony which the godchild keeps
  • 2 or more smaller candles to be carried by the children who circle the font during the ceremony.
  • 1 set of new white clothing ( this is the clothing used during the ceremony to signify purification. The outfit includes diaper, underwear, dress or suit, socks, shoes, two hats and possibly a coat depending on the season. The clothing should cover the child to absorb the holy oil that is rubbed over the child’s body by the godparent during the ceremony.
  • 1 gold cross and chain

Responsibilities of the Godparent

The primary responsibility of the godparent is to encourage the child to live an Orthodox way. The first responsibility should be to take the child for communion following the baptism. The child should receive communion three times. Bring the baptismal candle, lighting it just before communion and carry it and the child to the front for the sacrament.

Provide the child with information about their patron saint and give the child an icon of the saint encouraging him or her to emulate the traits of this saint.

Remember the child’s name day, birthday and other special occasions such as Easter and Christmas. Attend church together when possible