Spiritual education is a keystone of how I am raising my sons, and I am always inspired to hear how other parents are working to raise their children along a spiritual path. In the series Parenting and Faith I feature posts from bloggers discussing how their religion or philosophy influences their parenting. I am so pleased to share a post today from Anna of Russian Step By Step for Children, about baptism in the Russian Orthodox Church.
Baptism (Крещение) is an Old Russian tradition. It comes from Jesus Christ being baptized by John the Baptism in the waters of the river Jordan.
In Russia this tradition is what adds you to Church (воцерковление) and you can be baptized at any age, although most Russian Orthodox families will baptize their children young or even as soon as possible.
The water element is always present and babies are put into the water while with adults water will just be used without them going all the way in the water.
Baptizing is considered one of the most important religious events in the life of a person and you have to carefully prepare for it.
During the Soviet times religion was prosecuted so those who stayed with the church would have a clandestine baptism. The baptized could not wear their crosses. Nevertheless a lot of families kept the religious traditions alive and only in the late 80-ties the tradition of Baptism started to be accepted by the government again.
Russian Orthodox religion is the dominant one in the modern Russia.
Russian Orthodox (41%)
Unaffiliated Christian (4.1%)
Other Orthodox (1.5%)
Tibetan Buddhist (0.5%)
Other religions (1.7%)
Spiritual but not religious (25%)
Many churches that were demolished or used for other purposes during the Soviet times are now restored or rebuilt. One of the famous churches that were rebuilt is the Cathedral of Christ the Savior. It was demolished during the soviet times and an outdoor pool was built in its place. In 2000 it was reopened in the same place.
What is Baptism in Russian Orthodox Church?
Choosing a Name
First the parents decide on the Church name for the child. Usually it is linked to a Saint whose day is near the Birth day of the child and who shares the name. That will be the child’s guardian saint.
Then a godmother and a godfather are selected. As it is a big role there is a lot to take into consideration when choosing them. The godparents take the responsibility of leading the child in the spiritual and church life, showing what is right to do in life, teach to be hard-working, being able to behave properly, love others, be kind, etc. Godparents bear the responsibility for part of the godchild’s actions. Godparents have to be of Russian Orthodox faith. If you cannot find both a Godmother and a Godfather you have to have a Godmother for a girl and a Godfather for the boy.
This is the brief description of the actual ceremony. It lasts about 40-60 minutes.
The ceremony starts in the doors of the church with the Godparent holding the child while the priest says prayers over them. Then the Godparent reads a special prayer called “I Believe” (Верую). Then the child is stripped out of the clothes and gets anointed with special oil and is put into the water, the cross is put on the child’s neck, then the Godparent with the child follows the priest around the basin with water and then in the final part the priest carries boys into the altar or girls in front of it and finally gives the child back to the Mother (or Father) after the parent does a big bow (they touch their head to the ground).
Then the priest will add the child’s name into the church book alongside the parents’ information.
Before the baptism the child usually wears an all-white outfit, after the child is put into the water he/she is accepted by the godparent into a clean usually new white towel, and then the child wears a special white gown with a cross on it for the rest of the ceremony. If several children get baptized in the family it is traditional to keep the same gown and baptize all the children in it. The child would now wear the cross on a daily basis. Usually you can have two or more crosses, one for daily wear and others that are more decorative for special occasions.
After the Ceremony
After the ceremony is done at the church, a meal is traditionally hosted by the family to celebrate the event.
The next step is to do the First Communion. Usually you want to do it as soon as possible after the Baptism. Usually the child will start going to church once a week and will have communion every week. After the age of 12 the child needs to start doing confessions before being able to do communion.
The New Old
Nowadays people who were baptized in secret themselves and usually do not have any memories of it want their children to have a big open baptism ceremony that is celebrated with relatives and friends of the family.
Old traditions are rediscovered and reintroduced into the lives of the Russian people and Baptism is one of the traditions that became quite popular among the Russian Orthodox population all over the world.
Anna Watt is originally from Russia and majored in Education and Linguistics there. She lived in France where she received her Master’s Degree in International and Interactive Communication. Anna speaks fluent Russian, English and French and also knows some Spanish, German, Japanese and Italian. Anna loves education, languages and technology, so she is always involved in all three. Anna has always been involved in supporting and promoting the study of the Russian language, as well as introducing Russia’s language and culture to a variety of people world-wide. As a mother of young girls (she is raising them Russian-English bilingual) her recent projects are books and a blog Russian Step By Step for Children geared towards kids living outside a Russian-speaking country.