The Holy Church, our Mother, follows her every child from birth to his/her death and continues to take spiritual care of her children even after they pass away. Here you will find the necessary answers to practical questions related to the Church’s spiritual care about her children.
Thus, when tackling the Holy Sacrament of Baptism, I will not venture to speak about its spiritual meaning and importance, but rather attempt to explain what needs to be practically done and prepared for this rite to be performed and answer any questions associated with this Holy Sacrament.
So let us start at the very beginning.
Once the child is born a priest should be called in to say the prayer for the new mother and the child so that the Lord may protect her and the newborn child, as the prayer intended for this occasion states, and to guard them both “under His protection from this day until the end of their days.”
On the eighth day following the birth, the child should be brought before the church, but not by the mother, where a priest performs the rite of churching the child – designating the child to the Lord giving him/her a name, usually a name of a saint on whose day the child had been born. The child bears the so called “church” name until baptism when he/she would receive his/her name in baptism. The name is given by the godparent following the approval of the parents. On this occasion blessed water is taken from the Church and the newborn child is bathed in this water until the fortieth day following his/her birth.
If the child is not brought to the Church, the child’s father takes the bottle with water, the priest performs the rite of churching and the child is bathed in this water until the fortieth day following his/her birth.
This is an opportunity to answer the question as to whether the mother should or should not attend her child’s baptism ceremony. Yes she should, unless the baptism is performed, for whatever reason – usually for emergency reasons, before the fortieth day following his/her birth. Namely, during the forty day period, the period of purification, the new mother should not go anywhere especially not to the Church. Should the baptism be performed during that time it is done without mother’s presence. After the passage of the forty day period, who is more deserving to attend her child’s baptism ceremony other than the mother?
On that day or on the first convenient occasion thereafter, the parents and in particular the mother, and the godparents if possible, bring the child in front of the Church and there the priest prays for the mother and the newborn child, that the Lord may purify the new mother from any sin and impurity, and that she may re-enter into the assembly of God’s people and the Holy Church and that she may be allowed to participate in the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist by taking the Holy Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ the Savior. The priest prays for the child that he/she may grow up to be rational, wise and having been called by the Lord into the light of the sun, to become “worthy of spiritual light in the time designated by Him; to be worthy of the Holy Sacrament of Baptism and become part of the chosen ones in the Kingdom of God”.
Then the priest takes the mother and the child into the Church and from that point on the mother is welcome to come to Church whenever she likes.
In respect of the Holy Sacrament of baptism of a small child, the Church poses no conditions nor limits as to the time and place, but it does require that the godparents be BAPTIZED COMMUNICANTS AND HAVE BASIC KNOWLEDGE ABOUT THE FAITH. The Church baptizes small children through the faith of their SPIRITUAL PARENTS i.e. THE GODPARENTS. In cases when an adult is to be baptized, he/she must have true faith and basic knowledge about the faith.
Being a GODPARENT is an important and responsible role. Frequently, concepts of friendship and god parenthood are confused. Being a godparent is so much more. Godparents are responsible for the child’s spiritual growth, development and upbringing. That is why only a BAPTIZED COMMUNICANT WHO HAS BEEN BAPTIZED AS A CHRISTIAN ORTHODOX can be a godparent. It cannot be expected from a non-Orthodox to give to the child something he/she himself/herself does not have.
Items that Need to be Prepared for Baptism
The main items necessary for the rite of baptism are CANDLE, THE WHITE BAPTISMAL ROBE and SOMETHING NEW TO WEAR. The white baptismal robe is a piece of white cloth, lacking which a white towel of a standard size can be used. It should be noted that the child is dressed in a new garment following not prior to baptism. During the ceremony the priest blesses the new garments.
The Holy Mystery of Baptism may be performed at any time of the year; during or after Lent, however, during lent the Lenten food must be served. In addition, baptism may be performed at any appropriate place.
When an adult is being baptized, a male person should wear a white shirt while a female person should wear a white blouse or a white dress.
If a child is being baptized outside the church, for example in his/her parental home, the following things need to be prepared in advance: a table, a vessel for the consecration of water, a large tub and everything else mentioned above.