On Being a Godparent

The role of godparent is an awesome responsibility

It is always a good idea to revisit the important role godparents play in the life of the newly baptized child. Godparents are also expected to play an important role in the religious and spiritual life of adult converts who’ve been received into the Orthodox Church through the Mystery of Baptism.

The institution of godparents (sponsors) is one that dates back to the first century of the Christian Church. Anyone approaching baptism, be they infant or adult, was required to have a godparent. In the case of an infant, it is the godparent that speaks for the child, answering the questions posed by the priest during the baptismal service. But it doesn’t stop there! The godparent is charged by the Church with the duty to make sure the newly baptized is instructed in the teachings of the Church, remains a frequent communicant within the Church and remains active in the Church. In the case of a child, it is to the godparents that the parents entrust their child, knowing that the godparent will remain actively supporting the child within the life of the Church. Should something happen to the parents, it is traditionally the godparent who will make sure the child continues to be taken to church, and remains Orthodox.

Because of the awesome responsibility of godparents, it is all the more important that great care be taken when choosing someone who will take on this role. The Church does not allow anyone to become a godparent who is not Orthodox, for how can one who is not himself a pious, active Orthodox Christian give witness to living a life immersed in the Orthodox faith? The godparent must therefore be a person of high moral character, and able to inspire the newly baptized to fulfill their baptismal vows.

When the newly baptized approaches the holy chalice for the first three consecutive Sundays following baptism, it is the godparent who accompanies them to receive the Holy Mysteries. The godparent must, therefore, be someone who himself/herself is a frequent communicant. Additionally, the godparent must be someone who is active in the life of the Church, supporting the Church with their tithe, keeping the fasts, and otherwise living in all piety and holiness.

The person chosen to act as a godparent must be someone willing to honor their commitment to the newly baptized for a lifetime, and willing to help nourish the spiritual life and development of the child throughout their life. Thus, it is a very bad idea to pick someone as a godparent simply because they are a good friend. Godparents are duty bound to continue giving support to their godchild, even into adulthood. They must be someone who will remember to honor their godson or goddaughter on special occasions, such as a birthday or namesday. They should be a part of the godchild’s life during the great feasts of the Church, such as Pascha or Nativity. They should commemorate the anniversary of their godchild’s baptism by giving them a Christian gift, such as a Bible, prayer book, or icon.

Everything should be done to strengthen the bond between the godparent and the godchild throughout the ensuing years. They can take each other out to a restaurant for dinner, or receive communion together when possible (if living in different cities). Time should be allotted to cultivate a unique spiritual bond, and the godparent should assist the godchild’s parents whenever possible – especially when doing so enhances the godchild’s commitment to their Orthodox faith.

Because baptism has been called Illumination, and brings us out of the darkness of sin and into the light of Christ, the role of the godparent is critical. The godparent must ensure that the Light of Christ continues to shine in the soul of the godchild. Thus, this role as godparent is an awesome responsibility, and is not to be considered a one-day event. If you’ve been asked to be a godparent, but are unwilling to see this as a lifelong vocation, please decline the honor.

With love in Christ,
Abbot Tryphon

Photos: Left to right: Matushka Nectaria and Priest Robert Bower, Saint Nectarios Orthodox Church, South Bend, Indiana, Abbot Tryphon, Archpriest John and Matushka Katherine Pierce, Holy Resurrection Orthodox Church in Tacoma, WA., joined us for the Saint Nicholas Day Liturgy in the monastery’s temple.

Thursday December 20, 2018 / December 7, 2018
30th Week after Pentecost. Tone four.
Nativity (St. Philip’s Fast). Fish Allowed
St. Ambrose, bishop of Milan (397).
Venerable Nilus, monk, of Stolben Island (1554).
Venerable Anthony, abbot of Siya Monastery (Novgorod) (1556).
New Hieromartyrs Sergius, Andronic (1917).
New Hieromartyr Antonius priest (1918).
St. Ambrosius confessor, bishop of Kamenets-Podolsk (1932).
New Hieromartyrs Sergius, Michael and Sergius priests, Nicephore deacon and Hieromartyr Galaction and Gurias, Martyr John (1937).
New Hieromartyrs Peter and Basil priests (1941).
Venerable John, faster of St. Sabbas’ monastery.
Martyr Athenodorus of Mesopotamia (304).
Venerable Paul the Obedient.
St. Philothea of Turnovo (1060), whose relics are in Arges, Romania.
“Seligersk” (Vladimirsk) Icon of the Mother of God.
Venerable Gregory the Silent of Serbia, founder of Grigoriou Monastery, Mt. Athos (1405) (Greek).
Venerable John, faster of the Kiev Caves (12th c.).
Venerable Ignatius, monk, near Blachernae (Greek).
St. Bassa of Jerusalem, abbess (5th c.).
St. Diuma, bishop of the Mercians and Middle Anglians.
Martyr Neophytus (Greek).
Martyr Dometius (Greek).
Martyrs Isidore, Acepsimas and Leo (Greek).

The Scripture Readings

Hebrews 10:35-11:7

35 Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. 36 For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise:

37 “For yet a little while,
And He who is coming will come and will not tarry.
38 Now the just shall live by faith;
But if anyone draws back,
My soul has no pleasure in him.”

39 But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul.

By Faith We Understand

11 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. 2 For by it the elders obtained a goodtestimony.

3 By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.

Faith at the Dawn of History

4 By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks.

5 By faith Enoch was taken away so that he did not see death, “and was not found, because God had taken him”; for before he was taken he had this testimony, that he pleased God. 6 But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

7 By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.

Luke 21:28-33

28 Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.”

The Parable of the Fig Tree

29 Then He spoke to them a parable: “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. 30 When they are already budding, you see and know for yourselves that summer is now near. 31 So you also, when you see these things happening, know that the kingdom of God is near. 32 Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all things take place. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.

Abbot Tryphon

About Abbot Tryphon

The Very. Rev. Abbot Tryphon All-Merciful Saviour Monastery on Vashon Island, Washington. The Monastery is under the omophore of The Most Rev. Archbishop Kyrill of San Francisco and Western America, of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. Situated in the heart of a beautiful forest, surrounded by the Salish Sea, the monastery is reached by ferry from either Seattle, or Tacoma, Washington.

2 comments:

  1. There seems to be mixed views and expectations, in practice. Particularly in our fledging community, where we’re required to choose non-familial sponsors, out of persons known for very little time… and who fall away themselves, or find they’ve accepted so many godchildren that they cannot keep up (it appears). Some share your pious view — some do not. Some godchildren expect nothing/want nothing of the sponsor after their baptism day. Some expect to be treated like an AA sponsoree… It is rather confusing.

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