The most important person in a one’s life, after their immediate family and their spiritual father, is the Godparent. As baptisms in the Orthodox Church are traditionally conducted when the child is very young the Church has seen fit that each child has a sponsor. Adults seeking to enter the Church must also have a Godparent. The practice of having a sponsor has existed since the first century. To serve as a Godparent is a special honour, a sacred task, and it comes with many responsibilities.
Along with the parents, the Godparent is responsible for the spiritual development of the child and leading them to salvation. Therefore the choice of a Godparent must be made with a great deal of thought and prayer, as this will be a lifelong relationship. Godparents must be Orthodox Christians who are in full sacramental communion in the Church and ideally know the main tenets of the Faith, as well as understand the mystery of baptism, the vows that are made on behalf of the baptised and the reading of the Nicene Creed. They also need to be over 12yrs old traditionally.
On the day, the Godparent provides a christening box which includes a complete change of clothes for the child, which are traditionally white to express the ‘purity and cleansing’ of the child as he/she receives the Holy Spirit and has been cleansed from sin. Also included are a cross on a chain, a bottle of olive oil, two candles, hand and bath towel, a sheet and soap. The Godparent is required to commune the newly baptised child for three consecutive Sundays after the baptism. The gifts that a Godparent gives will reflect their commitment to the Faith and these should include a Bible, prayer book, books on the lives of Saints etc.
As the child will be given the name of a Saint, it is important for the Godparent to highlight the importance and assist in the celebrations of the Godchild’s name day. The Godparent and Godchild should develop a close and loving relationship, which means much prayer, time and effort is required for this to nurture and grow. Every Godparent becomes accountable to God as to whether or not they have discharged their duties to the child they have baptised.
Source: Lychnos June / July 2016