The Responsibilities of the Godparents
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It is an honor to be chosen as the godparent of a child. Not only are the godparents responsible for the child’s spiritual health, but also they become an important member of the family. Therefore, it is important to choose people who you feel worthy of the role. Of course, if this is your first-born child, then you will customarily choose your Koumbaros or Koumbara for the job.
So, what are the responsibilities of the godparents? Once the ceremony itself is over, the job doesn’t end. Here is an overview of what is expected of the godparents starting with birth and then into the child’s life.
Choosing a Name
Traditionally, the godparents select a Greek, Christian name for the child. However, this tradition isn’t necessarily adhered to because the parents may also select it. Note that this is the name that will go on the baptismal certificate and is independent of the birth certificate (though the two names will often be the same). In some cases, the two names will be different.
Purchasing the Items Needed for the Baptism
Another traditional responsibility the the Godparents have is to purchase most of the items for the ceremony. It is the tradition for the godparents to purchase the items for the ceremony. These include
- White towels – 2 hand towels, 1 bath towel
- A white sheet
- Olive oil – 1 small bottle
- Soap – 1 small bar
- 1 large white candle – this should be decorated and will be reused
- 2 small white candles – for use during the ceremony
- White clothing – 1 set for the infant to be worn during the ceremony
- Gold cross – this often has the child’s initials
Discuss with the priest the specifics of these items to be sure to purchase what is truly needed.
Give the child a Bath
The infant child receives Holy Unction during the baptism. That means that his body will be filled with oil. While it is okay to leave this oil on the child’s body, it is also okay to give the child a bath. However, it makes things easier to bathe the child in the church so the priest can dispose of the Holy Unction within the water properly. It is customary for the godparents to give the child this bath.
Taking the Child to Communion
Another expectation is that the godparent shall take the child for Holy Communion a total of three times while holding the candle that was used in the ceremony. This is why one of the candles is larger – because it will be reused. Often, Holy Communion is given to the child during the ceremony. If this is the case, the godparent needs to accompany the child twice.
Throughout the Child’s Life
After the baptism is over, the godparent’s role isn’t finished. As mentioned, the godparent is charged with overseeing the child’s spiritual growth. This means that he should attend church, observe the child’s name day and birthday, and other special occasions, and participate in teaching the child about his Orthodox faith.
As you can see, being chosen as a godparent is a great honor. The ultimate goal is to find someone who will take the role of overseeing the child’s developing faith seriously.
Categorized in: Greek Christening Traditions
This post was written by Greek Boston