Description of a Greek Orthodox Christening
29 SEP 2017
Christening is a word associated with the baptism of children. Through christening, a child is ritually reborn in Christ and "named" in the Book of Life as one of those who can get into Heaven. A christening in the Greek Orthodox tradition focuses not only on baptism, but also on chrismation, tonsuring and the rite of churching.
To Christians of all faiths, baptism has a symbolic meaning of being "born again" through the resurrection of Christ and receiving eternal life. Like many other Christian churches, including Roman Catholic and Lutheran, the Greek Orthodox Church baptizes those born in the church as infants. First, the child is named, and then the godparents confess to the Christian faith on behalf of infant. The priest makes a sign of the cross over the baby and exorcises Satan. After that, the infant is anointed with olive oil that the priest has blessed. The priest then submerges the infant in the baptismal font three times while invoking the Holy Trinity.
In many Christian traditions, the christening ceremony concludes with the baptism. In the Greek Orthodox Church, there are several additional sacraments observed. One is chrismation, which is the Greek Orthodox version of confirmation, when a person is officially made a member of the church. The Greek Orthodox chrismation is unique from confirmation in several respects. The most notable difference being that it happens immediately after baptism, whereas confirmation in the Roman Catholic and Protestant traditions occurs years after the initial baptism. For the chrismation, the priest anoints the child with the holy chrism -- oil that represents the Holy Spirit. If baptism represents Easter, then chrismation represents Pentecost.
After baptism and chrismation, the baby is dressed in new clothes, usually white, to symbolize the purity of his or her soul. Then the priest, carrying the child, circles the baptismal font three times to represent the joy that the angels in heaven have over a new soul being consecrated. Four locks of hair are then cut by the priest in the shape of a cross from the child's head, a process called tonsure that is a symbol of obedience and sacrifice.
There is one final step in Greek Orthodox christening ceremonies, and this is the churching of both mother and child. Churching is the process where the mother and newborn are formally introduced -- or in the case of the mother, reintroduced -- to the church, with special prayers, forty days after childbirth. This practice dates back to the Old Testament and the requisite offering of male children at the temple, though in the Orthodox tradition both male and female children go through churching. For the mother, the forty days is considered a time of purification and renewal after childbirth.