The Godparent

The role of godparent is an awesome responsibility

Since many baptisms took place on Holy Saturday, it is 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 godparents 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 name day. 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 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 godparents 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

Wednesday January 29, 2020 / January 16, 2020
33rd Week after Pentecost. Tone seven.
Fast. Fish Allowed
Veneration of the Precious Chains of the Holy and All-glorious Apostle Peter.
Blessed Maximus of Totma (Vologda), fool-for-Christ (1650).
New Hieromartyr John priest (1919).
Martyrs the brothers Speusippus, Eleusippus, and Meleusippus, their grandmother Leonilla, and with them Neon, Turbo, and the woman Jonilla (Jovilla), in Cappadocia (ca. 161-180).
Martyr Danax the Reader in Macedonia (2nd c.).
St. Honoratus the Archbishop of Arles and Founder of Lerins Monastery (429).
Venerable Romilos, monk of Mt. Athos and Ravanica (Serbia) (1375), disciple of St. Gregory of Sinai, and with him Sts. Nestor, Martinius, Daniel, Sisoes, Zosimas, and Gregory (Greek).
New Hieromartyr Damascene of Hilandar on Mt. Athos and Gabrovo (Bulgaria) (1771) (Greek).
St. Honoratus, archbishop of Aries and founder of Lerins Monastery (429).
St. Sigebert, king of the East Angles, martyr (635) (Celtic & British).
St. Fursey of Burgh Castle, enlightener of East Anglia and Langy (650) (Celtic & British).
St. James of Tarentaise (429).
New Martyr Nicholas of Mitylene (1777).

The Scripture Readings

James 3:11-4:6

11 Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? 12 Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh.

Heavenly Versus Demonic Wisdom

13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. 15 This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. 16 For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. 17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. 18 Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

Pride Promotes Strife

4 Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? 2 You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. 4 Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. 5 Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, “The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously”?

6 But He gives more grace. Therefore He says:

“God resists the proud,
But gives grace to the humble.”

Mark 11:23-26

23 For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. 24 Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.

Forgiveness and Prayer

25 “And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. 26 But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.”

Abbot Tryphon

About Abbot Tryphon

The Very. Rev. Abbot Tryphon is Igumen of All-Merciful Saviour Monastery on Vashon Island, Washington. 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.

One comment:

  1. As a mature convert to Orthodoxy, I must say I am very thankful to have a Godmother in the Orthodox Church! Just knowing she is lighting candles and praying for me keeps my soul uplifted. I have learned a lot from her just watching how she lives and handles her day to day concerns. This is a role that both Godparent and Godchild should cherish and respect. Thankyou!

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