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A godparent (godfather or godmother) is someone who sponsors a child's Baptism and is the person who "receives in his or her arms"[note 1] the newly baptized infant. The child is the godchild (godson or goddaughter).
Prerequisites and restrictions
A person may not serve as a godparent if his or her marriage has not been blessed by the Orthodox Church, or, if civilly divorced, he or she has not been granted an ecclesiastical divorce, or if for any other reason he or she is not in communion with the Orthodox Church. In addition, they cannot be a minor, the parent of the child, or a non-Orthodox Christian.
In some Orthodox churches (i.e. Serbian, Greek), usually the best man (кум, koumbaros) or the bridesmaid (kuma, кума, koumbara) at a couple's wedding are the ones to act as godparents to the first child, or to all of the children of the marriage. In some instances, the godparent has also been given the responsibility for naming the child.
The godparent is the one that stands as the sponsor of the infant, by giving the prescribed denunciations of Satan and affirmations of accepting Christ, and who finally recites the Creed signifying the personal belief of the candidate to Baptism.
Since baptizing a child creates a spiritual relationship for the godparent between him and his godchild, as well as with the child's family, the Orthodox Church by a tradition expressed in the rubrics accepts only one godparent, the one who takes part in the catechesis and anoints the infant with the blessed oil before Baptism. In the case of husband and wife as godparents, the priest may allow the second party to take a part in the ceremony other than the one reserved for the canonical godfather or godmother.
After the baptismal service is finished, the godparent delivers the child into the arms of the mother in front of the congregation. As she receives the child, now baptized, sealed and illuminated, she kisses the hand of the godparent as a token of the spiritual relationship that is established between the godparent and the family. This is a Christian expression of gratitude and respect.  By tradition the Godparent will also provide the cross and a new outfit for the infant.
If the godparent lives in the same city, it is customary for the godparent to bring the infant (or accompany the newly illumined adult) to Holy Communion with the lit baptismal candle for the next three Sundays. After three Sunday's the candle is no longer used, but it is good for the godparent to take the child to communion each week.[note 3]
Since the introduction of infant Baptism, the godparent has assumed the important obligation, together with the parents, of ensuring that the infant is brought up within the Orthodox Church and in the life of Christ. It is precisely on account of this obligation that the baptismal sponsor is called the 'parent-in-God' .[note 4] The task of steering a child along the narrow path, and bringing them up according to the law of God is perhaps the greatest of all things in life. St. Theophan the Recluse says that there is no holier act.
While it is an honor to be asked to be a godparent, one should make sure that the potential sponsor will be committed to the responsibility. The role must be honored and not taken lightly. Every godparent will be accountable to God as to whether or not he or she has fulfilled their duties. Prospective godparents must know their faith, or at least be in the process of learning their faith and be committed to a life in Christ. One problem today is that people who are called upon to be godparents do not know their faith and are not regular participants in the life of the Church. This is also true for some parents. Consequently a child who is baptized may never know anything about Jesus Christ and the Church. In the early Church heavy emphasis was placed on the educating of the faithful and those who desired to come into the Christian faith. As Christianity spread in a pagan world, the need to teach individuals before their baptisms became crucial. The systematic instruction, which was a preparatory stage for baptism was and is called "catechism."
Appropriate gift-giving honoring the occasion of the godchild's nameday, birthday or baptism day, could include such things as icons, a Bible, and religious books that will be helpful in building up the spiritual life of the child. These are the most important, but it is not wrong to give other gifts as well that the child would enjoy and make use of.
In addition, the godparent may also be the one who cares for the child if untimely demise is met by the parents.
Because there is a dogmatically and canonically entered spiritual relationship between the godparent and the godchild, as a result, the Church has by Synodical decision prohibited marriage between the godparent and his or her godchild. In addition, marriage between the godparent and the biological parent (father or mother) of the godchild is also prohibited (Justinian Novella 530, and Canon 53 of the Trullan Synod).
- ↑ (Greek): "αναδεχεται εκ της κολυμβηθρας".
- ↑ This was not always the case. In 447 AD Pope Leo I wrote to the bishops of Sicily, rebuking them for permitting baptism at Epiphany, as the Greeks did, and ordering them to observe the Roman custom of baptizing on Easter and Whitsunday. Indicating that at least in the Nicean/Early Byzantine period baptisms were in fact performed on major feast days, in both the Roman and Byzantine Rites.
- White, Lynn, Jr.. "The Byzantinization of Sicily." The American Historical Review. Vol. 42, No. 1 (Oct., 1936). p.5.
- ↑ Godparents are encouraged to call to remembrance the sacred and joyous moment of Baptism, which may be done by participating in "Godparents' Sunday", a National Observance by the Greek Orthodox Church in America.
- ↑ (Greek) "Ανάδοχος" (Anádochos).
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 Instructions for Weddings, Divorces, Baptisms, Funerals, and Memorials. Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
- ↑ J. K. Campbell. Honour, Family and Patronage: A Study of the Institutions and Moral Values in a Greek Mountain Community. Oxford, 1964.
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 3.2 Rev. Nicon D. Patrinacos. A Dictionary of Greek Orthodoxy (Λεξικον Ελλινικης Ορθοδοξιας). New York: Publishing Synthesis Ltd., 1984.
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 Godparenting 101. Orthodox Christian Information Center. Posted July 4, 2006.
- Rev. Nicon D. Patrinacos. A Dictionary of Greek Orthodoxy (Λεξικον Ελλινικης Ορθοδοξιας). New York: Publishing Synthesis Ltd., 1984.
- Instructions for Weddings, Divorces, Baptisms, Funerals, and Memorials. Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
- J. K. Campbell. Honour, Family and Patronage: A Study of the Institutions and Moral Values in a Greek Mountain Community. Oxford, 1964.
- Godparenting 101. Orthodox Christian Information Center. (From the newsletter Agape published by St. George Greek Orthodox Church in Eugene, Oregon. Posted July 4, 2006 with the kind permission of Fr. Timothy Pavlatos).