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.
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 3]
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.
- ↑ (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.
- 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.