It is a Greek Orthodox tradition to name godparents for each child on the event of the child’s baptism. The role of godparent begins on the day of baptism and is a lifelong commitment. Godparents can be a blood relative or close friend of the family, and they serve to help guide the spiritual life of the child as he grows up.
Godparents in Church History
The idea of having someone act as spiritual sponsor for a person’s baptism dates back to the first century of the Christian Church. The sponsor was to guide the new convert into a deeper Christian faith. Originally, those who worked in the church -- such as deacons, deaconesses and hermits -- were selected to serve as sponsors. Typically, a godparent was the same sex as the person being baptized.
Selecting a Godparent
According to the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, godparents must be Greek Orthodox Christians who are in good standing with their church and well-versed in the main tenets of the faith. Believers from other denominations or religions are not permitted to take on the official role of godparent. Since godparents help guide the spiritual upbringing of a child, the church encourages parents to think of godparents as part of the family. Male godparents must be at least 15 years old and female godparents must be at least 13 to take on the role.
Godparents and Baptism
The godparent gives assurance to the church that the parents’ desire to baptize their child is sincere. The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North America sets the overall expectations for a godparent during the baptism service, including reciting the Nicene Creed in Greek or English and giving an Orthodox Christian name to the child. The godparent also provides physical items such as a bottle of olive oil, a cross, three white candles and a change of clothes for the baby. It is the godparent who anoints the child with oil during the ceremony.
In addition to being an Orthodox Christian, godparents must be a registered steward of an orthodox parish. A godparent who is married must have been married in the Orthodox Church, and a divorced person has to get an Ecclesiastical Divorce Decree in order to officially serve as a godparent. Godparents are also encouraged to be committed to church service and attendance, observe fasting days and remain loyal to the Church.
- Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images