Baptism (Christening)

Excerpt from the book Our Macedonian Orthodox Church by Lubica Dimov Georgeff

Baptism of a Child

  1. Baptism cleanses the soul and through baptism, we also receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
  2. It is our first step toward belonging and becoming like Christ and receiving the full benefits of His redemption.
  3. Those who have not received the sacrament of Baptism are not permitted to receive any of the other sacraments of the church.
  4. Baptism is also essential for entering heaven.

The six-week blessing

Baptism of a Child

This ceremony is a re-enactment of Mary bringing baby Jesus to the temple on the 40th day after His birth. We do the same today. This service is done for a spiritual purification of the mother. Also, it is the first time the new mother and her baby are allowed to enter the church. In the Old Testament, women were considered unclean after childbirth. Before entering the temple, a period of purification lasted 40 days.

The mother and the child stay in the entrance until the priest has offered a prayer. Then the priest carries the baby to the front of the church, followed by the mother. The priest says, "The servant of God is brought within the church in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen." Boys are carried around the altar (since males can enter inside the alter), while girls remain at the alter gate.

The Sacrament of Baptism

While the Six Week Blessing is done at the six weeks, the baptism is done at the decision of the parents. To the Macedonian family, the christening of a baby brings great happiness.

The godparents speak on behalf of the child. They blow three times n the air and spit three times on the floor as a symbol of rejecting Satan. Turning toward the altar, the godparents declare their belief in Christ and the Orthodox Church. They promise to raise the child as a good Christiam.

Putting on a necklace The priest blesses the water in the baptismal font while adding a small amount of oil, a symbol of peace and healing. The child is undressed as a reminder of the removal of original sin. The priest makes the sign of the cross with oil on various places of the child's body. He then immerse the child three times in the font to represent the three days that Christ spent in the tomb.

The child is then placed in the open arms of the godparents holding a white towel as a symbol of the soul's purity. The child is anointed with Holy Chrism, a special oil symbolizing the seal of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. In a sense, the child is invisibly "marked" as a belonging to God in Jesus Christ. A lock is cut from the child's hair as a symbol of complete obedience. The priest blesses the new clothing brought by the godparents. The mother and godmatherdress the child and the priest puts a necklace with a cross around the child's neck. He repeats the words of Mark 8:34, "If any of you wants to be my follower, ...shoulder your cross, and follow me."

Baptism of a Child With the decorated baptismal candles lit, the priest and the godparents holding the child, walk around the font as a joyful dance for the newest Christian member of the church. The parents then approach the godparents and their child is handed to them with the words, "I present to you your child, baptized and confirmed, dedicated to God."

Many thanks to:
  • The parents of Matthew James Panov for allowing us to share these pictures of their child's baptism
  • Emil Ivanovski for providing the photographs
  • Lubica Dimov Georgeff for her permission to post this excerpt from her book "Our Macedonian Church"