Catechetical Letter


MEATFARE WEEK  +  Apostle Onesimos of 70  +  Ven. Paphnutius  +  Ven. Eusebius of Syria

February 15, 2006

The Responsibility of the Godparent

Sub-deacon Thomas Wilson has compiled from the OCA web site and Fr. Timothy Sawchak some areas of responsibility for the godparent. They are written mostly in the tone of godparents of non-adult godchildren, but essentially, they break down into these twelve:

1.      Keep the anniversary of his baptism, learning the life of his patron Saint together. Keep his name day together with reverence and joy. Be together, break bread, and give a particularly appropriate type of gift.

2.      Study, learn, and make progress, in order to answer questions.

3.      Encourage progress in the Faith by offering presents that help with it, such as icons, prayer books, scriptures, lives of Saints, and help him start an Orthodox library.

4.      Be available. Spend time together. Strengthen the relationship. If distant, call, write, email and/or visit. Send letters at the beginnings of liturgical seasons (Nativity, Great Lent, etc) to help keep the calendar. “Prayer and love in Christ know no distance.”

5.      Pray always for him; You will be asked about his soul in The Judgment.

6.      Be a genuine friend and an example in Christ. “The relationship between the Godparent and the baptized is so important and so close that the Church forbids marriage between the Godparent and Godchild.” They are parent and child, and also siblings.

7.      “Pray through the ups and downs of life with your godchild. Find out what's troubling or challenging your Godchild, what he or she is excited about or eagerly anticipating,” and contextualize it in the Faith. Encourage prayer, pray together, and remind him of your prayers for him.

8.      Emphasize the “spiritual” (ascetic) aspects of the Feasts and holy days. Make it a tradition to share fitting readings at such time, and keep the days in proper veneration. Diminish the commercial culture in the keeping of time.

9.      “Invite your godchild to go with you to Great Vespers, Matins, or weekday services . . . Encourage your whole "god-family" to come to Church for services other than (in addition to) the Sunday resurrectional Divine Liturgy”

10.  Ask what your godchild is studying and learning, discuss these things and be be a help in them, and encourage study of the Holy Gospel.

11.  “Help your godchild serve God. Choose a service project to work at regularly together, such as working at a hot-meal program or visiting parishioners in the hospital.” Encourage service in the Church and to others. Help him find and fulfill his vocation. Encourage seminary or monasticism, if interest is shown. Do not rule out Holy Orders as his vocation.

12.  “Make your godchild "one of the family". Include your godchild, and his or her parents and siblings, in your own family's "social" events: reunions, picnics, camping trips, and zoo and museum outings.”


I have realized, all along, of course, that taking the affinity (syngeneia) of godparent and godchild seriously is easily considered odd and awkward in our culture. But then so is every other piety, even the sign of the cross when sincerely made. I will always find delight in my duties toward you, who are my delighting, and likewise gravity and dread of judgment, and so then also a means of salvation for me, by your prayers. Because of Christ, we will never be parted, if we persevere and overcome. Let us keep one another on the Ladder.

The Responsibility of the Godchild

by Sub-deacon Thomas Wilson

Godparent and Godchild should develop a close and loving relationship. As with any relationship, this spiritual one needs to be fostered and cared for in order for it to develop. The best way for this relationship to grow is through prayer. Pray for your Godparent and his/her family. By doing this you are encouraging a relationship and giving it the spiritual basis on which to mature.

When greeting one's Godparent, you should feel the love and familiarity that you have with your own parents. It is NOT inappropriate to hug or kiss your godparents, as you would your own parents.

A Godchild should light candles and pray for their Godparents every time they enter a church, say their family prayers, and say their personal prayers. The Godchild should observe the Godparents names day. Celebrate it with a special visit and dinner if you're nearby, and give a "spiritually oriented" gift to celebrate, like a spiritual book of the Godparent's patron saint's life, a new icon, etc.

Keep in touch by phone, e-mail, or postcard if your Godparent lives out of state or across the globe. Prayer and love in Christ know no distance!

There will come a time in which your Godparents have aged and are less able to be fully present with you do to illness or perhaps a nursing home placement. Remember to continue to pray for them and visit or write them often to maintain your relationship. Ask for their advice even though you have grown up.

Finally there will come a day in which your Godparents will repose in the Lord, maintain your image of your Godparents in your mind to help brings peace and memories of love and wisdom. Pray for your Godparents and offer memorial services in their memory, do works and offer alms in their name. And pray for them as they will continue to do for you in heaven.

From: The Orthopraxis of Godparents in the Orthodox Church



From: A Dictionary of

Orthodox Terminology

Fotios K. Litsas, Ph.D.

Greek Orthodox Archdiocese web site


Affinity. (Gr. Syngeneia). The spiritual relationship existing between an individual and his spouse's relatives, or most especially between godparents and godchildren. The Orthodox Church considers affinity an impediment to marriage.


Baptismal Garments. (Gr. Fotikia or baptisika; Sl. krizhma). The garments brought by the godparent to dress the infant immediately after the immersion in Baptism. In Orthodoxy, these garments are considered sacred and must be either kept safely or destroyed by fire.


God-parents.   (Godfather, Gr. Nounos; Godmother, Gr. Nouna).Sponsors at Baptism and Chrismation taking the responsibility for the faith and spiritual development of the newly-born Christian. The Orthodox people highly regard the spiritual bond and relationship between godparents and their godchildren, and marriage between them is prohibited. (see affinity).


Nounos. (see godparents).






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The practice of godparents, witnesses or sponsors of a person who is to be baptized, and who are to instruct the person in the rules of Christian living, has existed from the first century of the Christian era. The first written information about godparents is attributed to the second century. ,In the first century of Christianity the godparents quite often were deacons, deaconnesses, hermits, virgins and, in general, people who dedicated themselves to serving the Church and who were able to instruct the baptized in true Christian faith and its morals. – "Orthodox Way," October 30, 1983


Godparents are adults who sponsor a child at the time of his/her baptism. They take on the responsibility of helping the child's parents raise him/her in the Orthodox Faith, ensuring that he/she takes part in the Holy Mysteries and other divine services, knows the Creed and the main prayers and hymns of the Orthodox Tradition, and is familiar with the lives and teachings of Christ and His Saints. – Beliefs & Practices web site

The use of sponsors in Baptism dates back to the days when Christians were persecuted by the Roman Emperor Nero. Parents were often massacred during these persecutions. Thus sponsors were provided to instruct the children in the Christian faith in the event the parents were martyred. The godparent promises to see to it that the child is raised and educated in the Orthodox Christian faith.  -- Greek Archdiocese of




If you should think of me, in my unworthiness, pray Christ have mercy and save me. – the unworthy