INFORMATION ON SPECIAL SERVICES
PREPARING TO BE A SPONSOR AT A BAPTISM
"In Him was life and the life was the light of men" (John 1:4)
It is a rule of the Orthodox Faith that every person, child or adult, should have a Godparent at Baptism. To serve as a Godparent is both a special honor and imposes responsibilities which last a lifetime. Have you ever thought what a sacred privilege it is to be a Sponsor?
Too many take the responsibilities of a Sponsor very lightly. Indeed for many people it has become merely a social custom in which social interests become the only important consideration both for the Parents of the child and for the Sponsor.
Before one accepts to become a Sponsor, one should think seriously of the sacred responsibility which they assume for the child that will be baptized. To show indifference in this respect is to commit a grave sin in the sight of God. Every Sponsor becomes accountable to God as to whether or not he/she has discharged his/her duties to the child which he/she has sponsored.
Christ tells us: "Whosoever believeth and is baptized shall be saved" (Mk. 16:16). Through Baptism we receive a full forgiveness of all sin, whether original or actual; we "put on Christ," becoming members of His Body, the Church. The Godparent, along with the parents and guided by the Church, should assist the newly baptized child through the walk of life. Just as natural parents have serious obligations for the care and nurture of their child, so Godparents have important duties in regard to their Godchild, in particular to see to it that the child receives a Christian upbringing.
Before one says "Yes," to assuming the role of Godparent, he or she should make certain that the commitment to the baptized child will be honored. Every Godparent becomes accountable to God as to whether or not he has discharged his duties to the child which he has baptized. Mindful of the sacred task of the Godparent, this booklet has been prepared to provide every Orthodox Christian parent helpful hints in selecting the right person for the new infant and to make the intended Godparent acutely aware of his or her task.
WHEN IT ALL BEGAN:
The early Church faced the problem that the majority of those who wanted to become her members came from pagan families and therefore lacked even an elementary Christian education and knowledge of the new faith. To remedy this, the Church undertook the task of educating them before their baptism. The systematic instruction, which was a preparatory stage for baptism was called "catechism." During catechism one learned the simple elements of the Christian faith and morals and later in the fourth century one was also given an education of the more profound Christian mysteries, as is made clear in the 4th Pre-baptismal Catechesis of Cyril of Jerusalem. The candidate had to be introduced by one of the faithful, called "anadochos," and be examined by the "doctors" who were in charge of the catechumens, to ensure that clear spiritual motives led him to enter the Church. The "anadochos" which means one who receives, was responsible for the candidate and played a very important role during the process of his catechesis and even after the candidate had been baptized. Eventually, infant baptism became the norm rather than the exception in the Church and the "anadochos" or Godparent was called upon to be the spokesperson for the infant.
THE SPONSOR AT BAPTISM:
Let us look at what the sponsor does during the sacrament of Baptism. We must remember that the Sponsor is the representative of the infant which is being admitted into the Church of Christ. The Sponsor speaks for the infant and vows that he/she will make certain that the child will grow learning and living the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Sponsor not only accepts the sacred responsibility of guiding the child into the understanding and practice of the teachings of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but also vows that he/she will set a good example for the child to follow.
In behalf of the infant, the sponsor makes the renunciation of the Devil. He/she promises that the child will grow later to renounce the Devil, both in word and in deed and to repudiate his tempting influence.
The Sponsor is called upon to answer questions put to him/her by the Priest. The same question is asked three times and three times the sponsor must reply. ":Dost thou renounce Satan, and all his angels, and all his works, and all his service, and all his pride".
The Sponsor replies: " I Do" three times.
Then the Priest will ask the Sponsor again three times: "Hast thou renounced Satan?" The Sponsor again replies: "I Have".
The renunciation of Satan is followed by these words stated by the Priest: "Blow and spit upon him." The Sponsor replies by blowing three times into the air away from the sanctuary in the direction of the rear of the Church and also spits three times into the air. This is the customary way of expressing contempt for the Devil, as well as banishing him from one's presence.
The sponsor then turns and faces the Sanctuary and responds to the second series of the questions: "Dost thou unite thyself unto Christ?" Sponsor replies "I Do". "Hast thou united thyself unto Christ?" Sponsor: "I Have". Both questions are asked three times. Then the Priest continues with: "Dost thou believe in Him?" The Sponsor replies: "I believe in Him as my King and as my God."
Then the Sponsor recites a confession of Faith, the Nicene Creed. It is a serious violation when the Sponsor is not prepared to recite the Creed of Faith. The practice of having the Cantor or someone else recite it is definitely not permitted. Knowledge of the Creed and familiarity with it constitutes the most important pre-requisite for becoming a Sponsor. It is the height of mockery of Holy Baptism when the Sponsor is unable to recite the Creed, which is the symbol of the Christian Faith.
After the Creed the Priest once again directs the question to the Sponsor: "Hast thou united thyself unto Christ?" The answer which is given is: "I Have". This question and answer are again repeated three times. Then the Priest directs "Bow down also and adore Him." The Sponsor blessing himself/herself responds: "I bow down before the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, the Trinity, one in Essence and undivided."
The Sponsor pledges himself / herself to do whatever is necessary to educate his or her Godchild in the Christian Faith and that he or she will set a good example of a Christian to the Godchild.
WHAT IS EXPECTED OF THE GODPARENT?
It is a gross misunderstanding to think that the only duty of the Godparent is to buy a new outfit for the infant. Certainly this is a beautiful tradition, when possible, but the emphasis must not be on the material but rather the spiritual. The Godparent should make a faithful commitment of love and that he will join the struggle with the parents, guided by the Church, to bring the infant carefully and prayerfully along the difficult road to heaven. The essential articles for the Baptism include:
A small bottle of olive oil.
2. A bar of soap.
3. A large washable sheet.
4. One (1) large towel.
5. One hand towel.
6. A white suit or a white dress for the infant.
7. A baptismal cross (cross must be an Orthodox cross).
8. Three (3) white candles, one can be traditionally decorated.
9. Sponsor must be prepared to recite the Nicene Creed in Greek or English.
Your task as Godparent is about to begin. At the close of the service the sponsor solemnly delivers the child into the arms of the mother in front of the congregation. As she receives her child, now baptized, sealed, and illuminated, she kisses the hand of the Godparent as a token of the spiritual relationship that is established between the Godparent and the family. This is a Christian expression of gratitude and respect.
For the next three Sundays after the Baptism the Church encourages the Godparent to bring the child for Holy Communion. The Godparent should also prepare to receive Holy Communion with the child. He or she will come each time with the lighted baptismal candle. After the three times the Sponsor still often receives Holy Communion with his or her Godchild.
A faithful Godparent will be a friend in Christ and maintain close contact with his Godchild. The focus at all times is the progress of the child in the knowledge and practice of the Orthodox Faith. He should at all times model a Christ-like example. The relationship between the Godparent and the baptized is so important and so close that the Church forbids marriage between the Godparent and Godchild.
Godparents are encouraged to call to remembrance the sacred and joyous moment of Baptism. This may be done by participating in "Godparents' Sunday" a National Observance by the Orthodox Church in America, remembering the Godchild on the date of Baptism along with birthday anniversaries, Christmas, etc. Significant gift-giving honoring these special occasions could include such objects as icons, medallions, a Bible, and religious books which will be helpful in building up the spiritual life of the child. By now you have to come to realize that the most important quality for a Godparent is to live a Christ filled life and that he demonstrate his faith as a light-bearer, devoted to receiving salvation for himself and his Godchild. The Godparent is called upon to accept the Divine Commandment read from the Holy Gospel at the service of Baptism, "Teach them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age."
If you hope to be a Godparent some day, it would be well to consider carefully the chief conditions which the Church prescribes in the way of preparation:
When you are approached and asked to baptize a child, do not answer immediately.
Reflect and ask yourself if you could be true to the Baptismal vow.
2. The Godparent must be an Orthodox Christian, of good moral character, regular and faithful in attendance at Liturgy and the reception of the Sacraments, and with a sound knowledge of the basic teachings of the Orthodox Church.
3. Study the Creed and be prepared to recite it when the Priest calls upon you. The custom of having the Chanter recite it is incorrect. Knowledge of the Creed and familiarity with it constitutes the basic prerequisite for becoming a Godparent.
4. A Godparent should be neither excessively young (under 12) or advanced in years nor in poor health. There must be at least a fair possibility that the Godparent will live long enough to carry out the obligations assumed.
5. The Church recommends one Godparent.
I believe in one God, Father
Almighty, Maker of Heaven and Earth and of everything visible and invisible.
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all Ages. Light of Light, True God of True God, begotten not made, consubstantial with the Father, through Whom all things were made.
Who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from Heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit, and of the Virgin Mary, and became Man.
And was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered, and was buried.
And arose on the third day according to the Scriptures.
And ascended into Heaven, and sat at the right hand of the Father.
And He shall come again in glory to judge the living and the dead; Whose Kingdom shall have no end.
And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life Who proceeds from the Father, Who together with the Father and Son is worshipped and glorified; Who spoke through the Prophets.
In One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.
I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins. I await for the resurrection of the dead. And the life of the Ages to come. Amen.
SACRAMENT OF BAPTISM IN THE GREEK ORTHODOX CHURCH. . . .THE LOVING OUTREACH OF GOD
Some time ago Life magazine carried a photograph illustrating "A Baby's Momentous First Five Minutes." It was a photograph of a mother's hand reaching out to her newborn child. The photograph illustrated beautifully a mother's love reaching to embrace her baby. So it is that every time an infant is baptized, the hand of God's love reaches out to embrace that baby and bestow upon it the kiss of His love. It is divine love that stands behind the Sacrament of Baptism.
WHY INFANT BAPTISM?
Baptizing infants before they know what is going on is an expression of God's great love for us. It shows that God loves us and accepts Us before we can ever know Him or love Him. It shows that we are wanted and loved by God from the very moment of our birth.
To say that a person must reach the age of reason and believe in Christ before he may be baptized is to make God's grace in some way dependent on man's intelligence. But God's grace is not dependent on any act of ours, intellectual or otherwise; it is a pure gift of His love.
BAPTISM AS A COVENANT
Every baptism is a covenant, that is, an agreement, between God and man. God promises to be our Father and we promise to be His children. In the past God entered into agreement with Noah, Abraham, Moses and others. Now through baptism He approaches and wishes to make an agreement with every person who comes into the world. It is an agreement of love which God initiates. He says in effect, "I will be your Father, your Savior. and you will be my son, my daughter."
A PERSONAL RESPONSE
Baptism demands a personal response on the part of the baptized child when it grows up The child must accept what God did for him or her in baptism. For baptism is not a divine pass that will get us into heaven automatically. Dr. Nikos Nissiotis has said, "A baptized Christian, especially in the Churches in which infant baptism is practiced, needs to make a personal decision regarding the Christian faith which he has passively inherited from his Christian environment." Without this personal decision baptism becomes only a "form."
WE ARE ATTACHED TO CHRIST
Through baptism Christ cleanses us of sin. He calls us His own sons and daughters. He makes us heirs of all His riches. He makes us members of His family. As members of God's family we are all related to each other and responsible for each other. Yet baptism is more even than all this. Through baptism we are attached to Christ. We become members of His body. Each baptized Christian becomes an extension of Christ. We become other Christs in the world. We become His eyes, His hands, His tongue, His feet. Christ has chosen to work in the world through us the members of His body. It is our special responsibility as baptized Christians to let Christ be present wherever we ourselves are stationed in the world as baptized Christians.
EXPLANATION OF THE SACRAMENT
The many gestures involved in the performance of the Sacrament of Baptism in the Eastern Orthodox Church are not mere forms devoid of meaning. Christianity is life. Each action in the Sacrament of Baptism expresses what Christ is actually doing for us through this sacrament.
The first act of the baptismal service begins in the narthex (entrance) of the church. This is to show that the one being received is not yet a member of the Church. The purpose of baptism is to bring him into the Church. To enter into the temple of God is to be with Christ, to become a member of His body.
The priest then calls upon the sponsor to renounce the devil and all his works for the child: "Do you renounce Satan, and all his angels, and all his works, and all his services, and all his pride?" Fr. Alexander Schmemann explains the meaning of this renunciation when he says, "The first act of the Christian life is a renunciation, a challenge. No one can be Christ's until he has, first, faced Evil, and then become ready to fight it. . . . The exorcisms mean this: to face Evil, to acknowledge its reality, to know its power, and to proclaim the power of God to destroy it. The exorcisms announce the forthcoming baptism as an act of victory."
The renouncing of Satan is done facing the west because the west is where the sun disappears and was regarded by the ancient Greeks as the place of the gates of Hades. Then the priest faces east whence the light of the sun rises and asks the godparent to accept for the child Him who is the Light of the World, "Do you unite yourself to Christ?" The renunciation of Satan and the union with Christ express our faith that the newly baptized child has been transferred from one master to another, from Satan to Christ.
THE SIGN OF THE CROSS
The priest then makes the sign of the cross on the child's body. This is repeated often during the service. Essentially the cross is the sign of victory which puts the devil to flight. In the old days slaves were branded, as are animals today, to show to what master they belong. Today the sign of the cross brands us as belonging to Christ.
The godparent is then asked to confess faith in Christ in behalf of the infant. At this point the godparent reads the confession of faith contained in the Nicene Creed. The "symbolon tis pisteos," as it is called in Greek, was a true symbol or sign of recognition among the early Christians- it was the password that distinguished the true members of God's family. By reading the Creed the godparent confesses the true faith.
From the moment the child is received into the Church, emphasis is placed on his individuality. He is given his own particular name by which he shall be distinguished from every other child of God. This expresses our belief that the child has the dignity of his own selfhood in the eyes of God. It is the Church's acceptance of him as an individual in his own right. The new name expresses also the new life received through baptism.
THE BAPTISMAL FONT
The baptismal font in the language of the Church Fathers is the Divine Womb whence we receive the second birth as children of God. Baptism is truly a birth. "But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God; who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God" (John 1:12, 13).
THE TRIPLE IMMERSION
We believe that Christ died for our sins. To show that we, and not Christ, are worthy of death because of our sins, we are immersed in the baptismal font. The immersion in water symbolizes death, since a person cannot live long under water. Through baptism we share mysteriously in Christ's death. As St. Paul says, "We were buried therefore with him [Christ] by baptism into death so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life." The baptized person rises out of the baptismal font a new man, cleansed of every sin and promising, like St. Paul, to surrender his life to Christ, his Savior: "He died for all that they who live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him who died for them." The triple immersion symbolizes the three days our Lord spent in the tomb as well as the Holy Trinity since the baptismal formula used in the Orthodox Church is: "The servant of God is baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."
Water is used for cleansing. In baptism it expresses the fact that through this sacrament Christ cleanses us from original and personal sin.
Describing what occurs at baptism Saint John Chrysostom writes, "When you come to the sacred initiation, the eyes of the flesh see water; the eyes of faith behold the Spirit. Those eyes see the body being baptized; these see the old man being buried. The eyes of the flesh see the flesh being washed, the eyes of the spirit see the soul being cleansed. The eyes of the body see the body emerging from the water; the eyes of faith see the new man come forth brightly shining from that new purification. Our bodily eyes see the priest as, from above, he lays his right hand on the head and touches (him who is being baptized) our spiritual eyes' see the great High Priest (Jesus) as He stretches forth His invisible hand to touch his head. For, at that moment, the one who baptizes is not a man, but the only-begotten Son of God."
THE NAKED INFANT
The infant is baptized in its naked state to denote that just as we came out of our mother's womb naked so we emerge naked out of the womb of God (the baptismal font). The removal of all clothes also signifies the old slough of sin which will be cast off entirely through baptism. Nakedness without shame refers also to the original state of man in Paradise where he was not ashamed of the body which God had created and had called good.
THE ANOINTING WITH OIL
Olive oil is blessed and then applied by the priest to the various members of the child's body: hands, feet, ears, mouth, in order to dedicate them to the service of Christ. The sponsor then anoints the entire body of the infant with olive oil. This custom had its beginning among the ancient Greek wrestlers who anointed their bodies with olive oil to make it difficult for the opponent to maintain a grip on them. In baptism the child is anointed with olive oil to express our prayer that with Christ's help the infant may be able to elude the grip of sin.
The new clothes signify the entirely new life that we receive after we are "buried with Jesus in his death" (Rom. 6:4). In the early church the newly baptized did not put on the old clothing he had taken off. He put on a new white robe, which was worn at all the services during Easter week. (Most baptisms were performed on Holy Saturday.) The white robe expresses the purity of the soul that has been washed from sin. It recalls also the shining robe in which Christ appeared at the Transfiguration. There is now a likeness between the one baptized and the transfigured Lord. Nay, it is more than a likeness. Saint Paul calls it a putting on of Christ: "For as many of you as have been baptized in Christ, have put on Christ" (Gal. 3:26, 27). Baptism is more than an external cleansing. It is a deeply rooted transformation. St. Gregory of Nyssa states that the white robe worn after baptism symbolizes the garment of light which was man's before the Fall: "Thou hast driven us out of paradise and called us back. Thou hast taken away the fig leaves, that garment of our misery, and clothed us once more with the robe of glory."
However dark may be the night that surrounds us, baptism remains the sacrament of entrance into light. It opens the eyes of the soul to see Christ, the light of the world (John 1:19). It makes us sons of light (I Thess. 5:5).
In the early Church the baptismal candle was always kept by the one baptized. It was given to the newly baptized with the scriptural admonition: "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven" (Matt. 5:1 6). The baptismal candle was brought to Church on feast days, on the anniversary of one's baptism and for the midnight Easter liturgy. If the person was married, the same candle was lighted at the wedding. If he was ordained, he would light it at his ordination. When the final; hour of life approached it was lighted again as the soul went forth to meet its Judge. It was a constant reminder for the Christian to live and die by the light of Christ.
THE SACRAMENT OF CHRISMATION OR CONFIRMATION
In the Orthodox Church the Sacrament
of Confirmation is administered immediately following baptism as in the early
Church. It is considered the fulfillment of baptism. Human nature purified by
baptism is made ready to receive the manifold gifts of the Holy Spirit. As Fr.
Schmemann says, "Confirmation is thus the personal Pentecost of man, his
entrance into the life of the Holy Spirit, his ordination as truly and fully
man. . . His whole body is anointed, sealed, sanctified, dedicated to the new
life: 'the seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit,' says the priest as he anoints
the newly baptized on the brow, and on the eyes, and the nostrils, and the
lips, and on both ears, and the breast and on the hands, and the feet. . . The
whole man is now made the temple
of God. . . "
The Greek word for Confirmation is chrisma," which means anointing. The one anointed with "chrisma" becomes "Christos," that is, the anointed one, which is the meaning of the name Christ. Thus, by this sacrament we are made Christians or other Christs. Chrismation is the ordination of the laity. According to Orthodox belief every baptized lay person is ordained a priest by this sacrament he receives the gift of the Holy Spirit to become a deputy or an ambassador for Christ in this world.
Immediately following Baptism the neophyte receives the precious Body and Blood of Christ in the Sacrament of Holy Communion and, in the case of an infant, is brought to Church regularly after baptism to receive the sacrament. The new life in Christ, given in baptism, is renewed again and again in the Eucharist. In the Orthodox Church every baptized and confirmed infant becomes a full member of the Church and is entitled to receive Holy Communion. As nature provides milk for the nourishment of the infant after birth so God provides Holy Communion for the infant immediately following baptism in order to provide nourishment for the spiritual life the neophyte has received through baptism.
THE CUTTING OF HAIR
After confirming the child, the priest cuts three locks of hair from the child's head. This is an expression of gratitude from the child, who having received an abundance of blessings through the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation and having nothing to give to God in return, offers part of its hair, which is symbolic of strength (see Samson in the Old Testament). The child, therefore, promises to serve God with all its strength. In the words of Father Schmemann, the cutting of the hair "is a sign that the life which now begins is a life of offering and sacrifice." It is significant that boys in ancient Greece dedicated their hair to the gods upon reaching manhood. Some Christian monks today cut off most of their hair as a sign of their dedication to God.
A RELIGIOUS DANCE
A religious dance is made around the baptismal font with the priest accompanied by the sponsor who holds the newly baptized infant. This reflects the belief that at this moment the angels in heaven are dancing, expressing their joy that a new soul has been registered in the Book of Life. The priest sings, "As many of you as have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ" (Gal. 3:27). This expresses our belief that through baptism the child has "put on Christ." Tradition states that at this moment God assigns a guardian angel to stay with the newly baptized person until the end of his earthly life.
YOUR PRESENCE AT THIS BAPTISMAL SERVICE should serve as an occasion for you to re-affirm your baptismal vows. Carried before the baptismal font, you, too, once vowed through your sponsor that you would renounce the devil and become a child of God, believing, obeying, loving and serving Him. God promised to be your Father, to forgive your sins, to provide for your needs and to bring you to heaven. Baptism is a solemn promise between God and His children. God never breaks His promise. Have you remained loyal to yours? Baptism is thus a matter of daily concern.
It signifies that the "Old Adam" in us, that is, our old evil nature, is to be drowned and destroyed by daily sorrow and repentance, and that the new life, planted in us by the Holy Spirit in baptism, should daily come forth and grow.
THE EPISTLE LESSON (Romans 6:3-11)
Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the sinful body might ' be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. For he who has died is freed from sin. But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him. For we know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. The death he died he died to sin once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
THE GOSPEL LESSON (Matthew 28:16-20)
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshipped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all Nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you, and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age."
YOUR WEDDING IN THE GREEK ORTHODOX CHURCH
The purpose of the information contained in this booklet is to acquaint you, the bride and groom, with the requirements of the Archdiocese, the Church of Saint Peter and the State of New York. If you have any questions please do not hesitate to call us. Everyone here at Saint Peter’s will do their utmost to make your wedding day the most beautiful and perfect day in your lives.
A. SETTING THE DATE:
The date of the wedding should be set in advance by calling the Church at (718) 714-8365. When scheduling your wedding please be aware that no marriages are permitted during the following fast periods:
New Year's Day January 1st
2. The Great Lent (Tessarakosti)
3. Easter Sunday
4. Pentecost Sunday
5. The fast of the Dormition, Aug. 1-15
6. The Beheading of St. John the Baptist, Aug.29
7. The last two weeks of Advent, Dec. 13-25
8. Christmas Day, Dec. 25th
B. THE CHURCH MARRIAGE:
In order to have the Sacrament of Marriage performed in the Greek Orthodox Church, the following requirements must be met:
State Marriage License:
A marriage license issued by the State of New York must be obtained for the solemnization of the marriage by the Church. The license may be obtained in any town or city in the State of New York and may be used anywhere in the state. The license may not be used until 24 hours after its issuance and is valid for 60 days. A male under 21 years of age and a girl under 18 years of age require the consent of parents to obtain a marriage license. One month before the wedding, both the Bride and the Groom must make an appointment to meet with Father Nicholas. At that time, they must present their state marriage license to the Priest and sign the Church license application which is sent to the Archdiocese for approval.
- Proof of Baptism: Both parties must be Christians, baptized in the Name of the Holy Trinity. One of the parties must be of the Greek Orthodox faith. Both parties must present to the Priest their baptismal certificates when they set up the wedding date. The baptismal certificates must be original ones and not photocopies. We will photocopy them and return them to you.
- Certificate of No Marital Impediment:
- Members of Other Parishes: If the Groom is from another parish, he must present a letter from his Priest stating that there is no existing impediment to marriage and that he is free to marry in our Church. The Bride must be a member of our Church.
- Foreign Citizens: If one or both of the Greek Orthodox parties are not American citizens, a certificate must be obtained from the Diocese (Mitropolis) of their origin, attesting to the fact that they are free of any marital impediment and may contract a marriage here in the United States. If difficulties are encountered in procuring such documents, the Priest should be contacted for further assistance.
- Parish Membership: All Greek Orthodox Communicants, male and female, 18 years of age or older, must have met their Fair Share obligation to their Church. In the case of a mixed marriage only the Orthodox party need be a contributing member. Membership must be established before scheduling the wedding date.
- Pre-Marital Counseling: All couples must attend the pre-marital counseling classes. At these classes, all couples listen to a discussion on marriage and their relationship with the Church as husband and wife. The classes are offered four times a year and couples are notified in advance as to the date, time and place.
- Holy Communion: The Sunday before the wedding it is recommended that the couple (only those members of our faith) attend the Divine Liturgy and receive Holy Communion (only after preparing by fasting and Holy Confession).
C. MIXED MARRIAGES:
In the event of a mixed marriage (when one of the parties is not of the Orthodox faith) the non-Orthodox party must be a baptized member of one of the Christian faiths. In other words he/she must have been baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Marriage in the Orthodox church, however, does not render the non-Orthodox party a communicant of the Orthodox Church and said party may not receive any other sacraments of the Church.
A non-Orthodox party, having voluntarily sought the blessings of the Orthodox Church must make the concession of permitting the children from the marriage to be baptized and reared in the Orthodox faith. However, if a non-Orthodox Christian wishes to become a member of the Orthodox faith, he/she can through Confirmation. A person wishing to be confirmed must make the request of his/her own free will and must attend special catechism classes.
Likewise, a non-Christian may marry in the Orthodox Church by first being baptized in it.
A ceremony in a church of another faith and subsequent to the Greek Orthodox sacrament is not permitted.
D. FOR THOSE MARRIED OUTSIDE THE CHURCH:
Those members of the Orthodox church who are married outside the Church are urged to have a Church sacrament of marriage. Otherwise, they are not entitled to participate in any other sacrament - cannot receive Holy Communion (the Precious Blood and Body of our Savior) or to become sponsors at baptisms and weddings or to be buried in the Church.
For those couples married outside the Church can have their marriage blessed.
A duplicate license must be obtained from the office of the city clerk for the religious ceremony. If the civil ceremony was performed in another state, a new license must be issued by the State of New York for an Orthodox Church Wedding. When applying for the state license, the wedding certificate is necessary.
E. FOR THOSE WHO WISH A SECOND MARRIAGE:
For those marrying for a second time must in addition to the six requirements also produce the following:
1. In the event that
any of the interested parties were previously married in the Orthodox church
and subsequently separated by a Civil Divorce or Annulment, then an
Ecclesiastical Divorce must be obtain from the Church. This must be done
through your Priest.
2. For those who were married outside the church, they must present their original Civil Divorce papers.
3. For those who were widowed, then a death certificate must be submitted.
F. DEGREE OF KINSHIP:
Our Church does not permit the marriage of persons of close kinship, either by blood or marriage. This kinship is computed along two lines:
lineal kinship - Our Church forbids marriage prior to the sixth degree of
To trace the degree of kinship, it is easiest to find the common point of kinship and to count the number of births after it to the contemplated marriage. For instance, if the couple has a common great-grandfather, the number of births are counted as follows:
- 1. his grandfather, 1. her grandfather,
- 2. his father, 2. her father,
- 3. he, 3. she.
- Thus we find that there are six births from the point of kinship and that this contemplated marriage is permitted by our Church now. In the indirect kinship, a brother (or sister) cannot marry a sister-in-law (or brother-in-law) because our church considers them as brother and sister, but otherwise a kinship of the fourth degree or more does not preclude a marriage.
G. DEGREE OF SPIRITUAL RELATIONSHIP:
The Orthodox Church does not permit a marriage if there is a Spiritual Relationship. For example a godchild cannot marry his or her godmother or godfather.
H. PROHIBITED MARRIAGES:
Group: Parents with
their own children, their own grandchildren, their own great grandchildren.
Second Group: Brothers-in-law with sisters-in-law.
Third Group: Uncles and aunts with nieces and nephews.
Fourth Group: First cousins.
Fifth Group: Foster parents with foster children, foster children with children of foster parents.
Sixth Group: Godfather with godchild, godfather with mother of godchild, or vice versa, godmother and godson, etc.
I. DRESS CODE:
We would like to stress the importance
of using discrimination in selecting the clothes of the bride and her
attendants. Simple dresses in good taste, and restraint in use of cosmetics
will create a more natural and refine appearance. BRIDES MUST WEAR A BRIDAL
The Bride in selecting her gown and the gowns of the bridesmaids, must keep in mind that the gowns must not be revealing. Strapless or low cut dresses will not be permitted. One always dresses properly when entering the Church.
There are no special fees or charges for the Sacrament of Marriage, providing that all are contributing Members of the Greek Orthodox Church. The Bride must be a Member of our Church. In the event that the Bride is not an Orthodox, then the Groom must be a member of our Church.
As for gratuities, this is on a voluntary practice. It is traditional that the Koumbaro/a give the offering. If you plan to offer a gift to the Priest, Chanter and Sexton, please do it in a dignified way. The gift should be put in an envelope.
K. THE ENGAGEMENT PERIOD:
Engagement Period is a special period
in the lives of a couple preparing for marriage. During this period one usually
prepares for the marriage by making arrangements for gowns, receptions,
parties, photographers, apartment hunting or the purchase of a home, etc.
Couples should also use this period to better know one another. To discuss their good habits and their bad ones, to also prepare mentally and spiritually for married life. To discuss their future together.
Engagement Party: If an engagement party or dinner is given and a Priest is invited to bless the rings, it must be understood that the prayers and good wishes recited by the Priest at this party are not the official betrothal ceremony and so are not regarded as binding by the Church. The actual betrothal Service takes place the day of the wedding.
L. WEDDING REHEARSAL:
Necessary arrangements for the wedding rehearsal should be made with the Organist. The wedding rehearsal is for the purpose of acquainting the bridal party with the order of procession and recession and their places in front of the Altar. Every effort should be made not to produce a theatrical effect.
M. DECORATIONS, MUSIC AND PHOTOGRAPHS:
decorations in the Church are permitted. Also candlesticks or candelabras are
permitted in front of the Altar where they lend an effect of beauty and
2. The Wedding Service is a religious sacrament, therefore hymns other than Church hymns are not permitted before, during and after the Sacrament.
3. Photographs will be permitted to be taken only by one photographer designated by the bride. We will not permit members of the family or guests to leave their pews and take photographs. We will also permit the taking of Video, providing that the camera man is stationed in one place and does not move around. Because the church may be dark, lighting may be needed. Your camera man must bring stationary lights that will be set up before the service begins. Lights on the camera will not be permitted.
4. In both cases the photographers must introduce themselves to the officiating Priest for further instructions.
N. THE WEDDING DAY:
The bridal party should arrive at the Church approximately 15 minutes before the appointed time. The candles and crowns to be used in the sacrament are given to the sexton.
It is the duty of the ushers to seat the guests; for this reason, they should arrive at the Church a half hour before the Wedding.
The conduct of the ushers should be dignified and quiet. They escort the bride's family and friends on the left and the groom's on the right.
At the proper time, the groom's mother is escorted down the middle aisle by the head usher and takes her place in the second pew on the right. The groom's father follows alone and takes his place beside her.
The head usher returns and escorts the bride's mother to the second pew on the left. He than returns to take his place in the procession.
At the sound of the processional music, the groom and the koumbaro/a take their place at the right hand side of the aisle. The procession advances as follows: The ushers will enter first one by one. Then the ring bearer, bridesmaids, the maid of honor, the flower girl, the Bride holding her father's left arm.
When the bride, escorted by her father, reaches the front of the table she turns towards her father, he lifts her veil and kisses her, then he takes his place next to his wife in the second pew on the left.
The Betrothal Service and the Marriage take place. At the end, after the groom and bride are congratulated by the Priest, the recessional begins.
INSTRUCTIONS FOR THE KOUMBARO/A:
- The Koumbaro/a must be an Orthodox Christian living his or her faith. He or she must be a contributing member of his/her parish. If married, they must have been married in the Orthodox Church.
- In the event that the Koumbaro/a is not a Member of the Church of Saint Peters, then two weeks before the wedding, the Koumbaro/a must submit a letter signed by the priest where they belong and with the church seal stating that he/she is a active Member and that there are no impediments.
- The Koumbaro/a provides two crowns connected by a ribbon, two decorated candles, traditional tray and white jordan almonds.
- The system of fixed fees for the Sacrament of matrimony is no longer in effect and has been replaced by the system of voluntary contributions. As for gratuities, this is on a voluntary practice. It is traditional that the Koumbaro/a give an offering. If you plan to offer a gift to the Priest, Chanter and Sexton, please do it in a dignified way. The gift should be put in an envelope.
- The Koumbaro/a is responsible to present the rings to the officiating Priest.
- At the end of the Sacrament, the Koumbaro/a must sign the State and Church license.
Step One: The couple must meet with
the Priest to set the date. An application for marriage is completed and all
necessary papers (baptismal, membership, etc.) are submitted.
Step Two: Attend the Pre-Marital classes.
Step Three: ONE MONTH BEFORE THE WEDDING: The State license is presented to the Priest and the Application for the Church license is completed and signed. Arrangements for the rehearsal are made at this time. This can be done by calling the organist and making the final arrangements.
Four: Two weeks
before the Koumbaro/a submit his/her Membership.
Step Five: Sunday before the wedding
prepare and receive Holy communion.
Step Six: WEDDING DAY: Arrive at the church fifteen minutes before the scheduled time. PLEASE BE ON TIME!.
What is the attitude of the Orthodox Church towards birth control?
No universal disciplinary decision on this question has ever been taken by the Orthodox Church, as the Church never possessed the tendency to regulate all areas of human life according to one single pattern. The practical attitude of Orthodox Christians must therefore be determined by the general doctrine of the Church concerning marriage.
It should be noted that the Church definitely teaches that marriage implies childbirth. The woman, says St. Paul, "will be saved through bearing children, if she continues in faith and love and holiness, with modesty" (I Timothy 2:15). However, nowhere in the Scripture is it said that childbirth is the only aim of marriage. Marriage is essentially an inseparable union, both spiritual and carnal, of two beings. St. Paul teaches: "For the wife does not rule over her own body, but the husband does; likewise the husband does not rule over his own body, but the wife does. Do not refuse on another except perhaps by agreement or a season, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again." (I Cor. 7:4-5).
It is clear therefore that such a union - (an image of the union between Christ and the Church) - should not be broken when reasons of medical, or moral nature prevent repeated childbirth. Such reasons do often arise, since human nature, in its present state of corruption due to original sin, does not always follow the law of God. Promotion of unlimited childbearing cannot, therefore, be based upon the idea that "we should follow nature." Fallen nature can and must be corrected, not only by prayer and abstention, but also by human means.
Orthodox Christian couples should, therefore, consult their own conscience, and, even better, their Father Confessor at those times when they are considering measures of birth control. Then they may decide whether these measures are justified, or whether they would not simply indicate a lack of confidence in God and faith in His help. In the latter case, such measures would be sinful.