How many times have you attended a Greek Orthodox Christening and not know anything about the meaning of the ceremony. Lets be honest most of us! In light of this I think it makes the ceremony far more meaningful if we understand the service which is stepped in tradition and symbolism. The service contains two Sacraments in one: the Sacrament of Baptism and the Sacrament of Chrismation.
The child being Christened will be held by his/her Godmother (Nouna) or Godfather (Nouno) at the back of the Church. The priest will blow three times onto the child’s head and then makes the form of the Cross to drive away any evil spirits and adverse powers. He will then place his hands onto the child’s head which symbolises the taking of possession of the child in the name of the Holy Trinity. Three Exorcisms follow, at the end of which the Priest asks God to drive out and banish any evil and impure spirit and make the child a honourable member of the Church.
The Godparent will then be asked to face west (which signifies a place of natural darkness) and renounce Satan and all his works, and then be asked to blow down on Satan. The Godparent will then face east and pledge their allegiance to Christ, After doing so, the Godparent will recite the Creed, the Symbol of Faith (To Pistevo) which is a summary of the Orthodox Teachings.
They will now enter the Church and the Priest will ask the Holy Spirit to come down and bless the water in the Font (the tub or Kolimbithra) and make it an instrument of salvation. The Godparent will offer a small bottle of olive oil over which a prayer for the banishment of evil is read to make it “an anointing of incorruption, a weapon of justice, a renewal of soul and body, a defence against every influence of the Devil and a release from evil to all those who are anointed with it, or partake of it.
The child (now undressed) will be anointed with the blessed oil on the forehead, nose, ears, mouth, chest, legs, feet, hands and back. The child will be immersed three times in theFont which represents the “Tomb of Jesus”, symbolically being “buried” with Christ. The child is now a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven.
Chrismation is more commonly known as Confirmation in Western Churches such as the Catholic and Anglican Church.
Now newly baptised, the child will be Chrismated by the sign of the Cross with Holy Myrrh on the same parts of the body where he was earlier anointed with oil. Holy Chrismation is the seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit. With Chrismation the Holy Spirit embraces and envelopes the child like a shield and an armour of faith to enable him to live the Greek Orthodox faith.
Following the Chrismation, the Priest will cut some of the child’s hair crosswise to signify his allegiance to Christ in mind, soul and now body. The Priest will bless the child and place a “garment of righteousness” on him. The child will be dressed in fresh, clean, garments and then receive the blessing of Christ. The Priest will then place a cross provided by the Godparent around the child’s neck as a sign of protection.
The Godparent will then be led three times around the Baptismal Font. This is an act of rejoicing with the angels in heaven and with all those present at the addition of the child as a member of the Church.
The mum will then be called to thank Christ for the great blessing of rendering the child as a member of His Church. She will then be asked to kiss the Godparent’s hand as a sign of respect and gratitude for having assumed the high responsibility of assisting in the spiritual development of the child thoughout his life as a member of the Church,
The child will receive Holy Communion in the next three Sundays following Baptism.