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Godparents in the Orthodox Tradition

Godparents in the Orthodox Tradition

Many times when we have visitors come to our parish, we tell them that we are a family—and we mean it! I think this sentiment is commonplace in many Orthodox churches due to the nature of our worship together and the intimacy of the Orthodox life throughout the Liturgical year. Sometimes our parish family feels closer to us than our extended family! The Church, in her wisdom, also gives us the opportunity to become even closer to one another through the relationship of godparents and godchildren—to actually become a spiritual family. 

The nature of this relationship of godparent/godchild was new to me when I (Natalia) became Orthodox. I tradition I was raised in, I understood the godparent to be a family member who was entrusted with your care in the event of your parents' death, and that was about it. What a beautiful surprise it was to learn about the depth that this relationship can have and what a blessing it can be to both the godparent and godchild. 

After almost 14 years in the church, my husband and I have been blessed with a number of godchildren, from infants to adults. Many we see on a regular basis, some only a few times a year, and, to our sadness, some have left the church completely. There are a few things that I have learned over the years that might help foster a relationship with godchildren. Unfortunately, I am not the best at keeping up with everyone or implementing these ideas as much as I would like, but the reminders are helpful to us all that each day God gives us is an new opportunity. 

Here are some things to consider when you are blessed with a godchild: 

1. PREPARE them for baptism. Traditionally, there are a few things that godparents can do to help prepare their godchildren for Holy Baptism. This will depend on the traditions of the particular parish and with discussion with the parents and/or priest. These traditions can include purchasing the baptismal cross, an icon of the child's patron saint, and possibly a baptismal gown for an infant. You also might purchase and decorate the baptismal candle for the ceremony (and the first few times the godchild receives Communion). 

Our favorite places to purchase Orthodox Baptismal Crosses:

Ancient Faith Store

Gallery Byzantium

Holy Trinity Store

Draw Near Designs

Our favorite places to purchase Orthodox icons: 

Uncut Mountain Supply

Convent of St. Elizabeth

Legacy Icons

2. PRAY for them. This is absolutely the most crucial thing you can do for your godchildren. We are called to pray for each of our godchildren on a daily basis. Even if we don't see them as much as we would like, or if they have left the Church—pray for them. God knows what they need most in their lives and it is the best gift we can give them. I found a prayer that I really like for this purpose in the little red pocket prayer book (put out by the Antiochian Archdiocese). I photocopy it and put it in all my prayerbooks with a list of our godchildren to recite: 

"O God, our heavenly Father, who lovest mankind, and art most merciful and compassionate, have mercy upon thy servants, NN. (names of godchildren, family members), for whom I humbly pray, and commend to thy gracious care and protection. Be thou, O God, their guide and guardian in all their endeavors, lead them in the path of thy truth, and draw them near to thee, that they may lead a godly and righteous life in thy love and fear, ever doing thy will in all things. Give them grace that they may be temperate, industrious, diligent, devout, and charitable. Defend them against the assaults of the enemy, and grant them wisdom and strength to resist all the temptations and corruption of this life, and direct them in they way of salvation, through the grace and love toward mankind of thine only-begooen Son, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and by the intercessions of the most holy Theotokos, and all thy saints. Amen." 

3. SPECIAL DAYS are a great way to connect with your godchildren through the year. Birthdays are obviously a good one, but even more so, the child's nameday is a great opportunity to create a special tradition or memory that not everyone will share. You could attend Liturgy with them if one is given, treat it like a mini-birthday and take them out for a special treat, send them a card, a gift, or even just give them a call. St. Nicholas day and Pascha are also a great days to give a small gift or treat to your godchildren.

4. SHOW UP at their special events. Whether it be a birthday party, ballet recital, basketball game, or theater performance, showing up to special events lets them know you care and are there for them in things both big and small. 

5. STAND WITH THEM in Church. This can be a special bonding time between godparent and godchild, and helpful to the parents too (especially if their mom has little ones she is trying to wrangle). It is also tradition in some places for the godchildren to go to Holy Communion with their godparents. 

6. TALK TO THEM on a regular basis about what is going on in their lives. It is one thing to know that you have a godparent that calls on your nameday, but another to have someone take genuine interest in who you are and what is happening in your daily life. This becomes especially important when you have godchildren going through their teenage years. Having a strong Orthodox godparent in their corner can make a difference in how they navigate those difficult years. 


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