A Traditional Russian Orthodox Christening Ceremony

Christening is the first of seven Sacraments in the Orthodox Christian Church. Baptism by itself is not sufficient to enter the Heaven, and a person needs to respect the things that the religion sets upon them and be a good believer. The Baptism of the children is a symbol which removes the consequences of the original sin. For all other Baptism is the way to wash away the sins committed in life.

Some of the Baptism services are well-known and exist in other Christian denominations as well. For example, it is a common fact that the Baptized children have godparents. However, it is less known how the title of honorary parent came out of necessity. At the time when the Roman Emperor Nero persecuted Christians, children would often lose one or both parents. Therefore, the godparent was obliged to raise and educate the child. It was necessary to choose a person who will be able to raise the child in the spirit of the Christian religion.

Russian OrthodoxIn the first part of the service, the Priest then calls upon the godparent to renounce the devil and his works on behalf of the child. The rejection of Satan is done facing west where the sun sets and accepting Christ is done facing east where the light of the sun appears, that way calling Christ´s light into the child´s life. After this the priest makes the cross sign on the child’s body. Further, godparent accepts Christ on behalf of the infant and also reads the confession of faith from the Nicene Creed. With this act, the child is received into the Church. Once they name the child, they light a candle which is a symbol the perseverance of the baptized soul until Christ’s return. The child´s Baptism is the candle of humanity.

Then the child is lowered into the baptismal font which is a parallel of the Divine Womb from which the child will be born as the child of God. The water closing over the head of the child seems like being buried in a grave, from which the child rises as the believer. The infant is baptized naked as it just came out of our mother’s womb. Then the priest applies the olive oil to the child’s forehead, breast, back, hands, feet, ears, mouth, and the godparent then covers the infant´s entire body with it.

After this, the Priest leaves “the seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit, Amen,” which is a Holy Chrism. This act is called the Sacrament of Chrismation. The infant is dressed in new, usually, white clothes, then the priest, the godparent and the child make three circles around the font. Finally, the Priest cuts four locks of hair from the child’s head to form a cross. Godparent and family then reward children. Baptism gift etiquette includes silver spoons, cups, and bowls, as well as clothes and money.