This page is a resource concerning our standards related to:
- Standards for Laity
Please see the priest-in-charge for any matters not addressed here, or if something requires clarification.
The following are guidelines for the Godparents sponsoring a baptism in the Orthodox Church.
- The Sponsor (Godfather or Godmother) must be an Orthodox Christian. If the Sponsor is married, the marriage must have been blessed by an Orthodox priest.
- In the case of infant baptism, as is custom in the ancient practice of the Church, the sponsor confesses the faith (the Nicene Creed) the infant will be nutured in from the time of his or her baptism throughout the rest of their life.
- Therefore, the Sponsor should not only believe the theological tenants of the Creed but should also be ready to recite it on the day of the baptism. If local to the area, for three consecutive Sundays after the sacrament, the Sponsor should carry the newly baptized/chrismated to the Holy Altar to receive Holy Communion.
- According to the tradition of the Orthodox church, one name of Orthodox Christian origin should be given to the child at the time of baptism.
- The day, time, and other arrangements of the baptism must be made with the priest – these may not be made in advance, and without the priest’s blessing.
- The Godparent traditionally provides:
- A complete change of clothes for the child
- One bottle of olive oil
- A cross for the child
- A white candle that may be decorated
- One of each of the following: hand towel, bath towel
- Bringing the Child to the Eucharist on day of Baptism and Communing with him or her
- Therefore, it is necessary for the sponsor to prepare for Holy Communion by fasting and confession
- Bring the child the next three weeks to Holy Communion, with baptismal candle and child in baptismal garment.
- And offer prayer and spiritual guidance as the child grows in the grace and knowledge of our Lord.
General Baptism Requirements:
Baptism is normally performed in the temple. In the case of an adult baptism, the rite may take place outdoors at a suitable aquatic site. Baptism is properly performed by triple immersion; therefore, mere pouring is not normally permitted. It is necessary to have a font large enough for full immersion. The sponsor should be of the same gender as the candidate. A person who has excommunicated himself/herself, or has been suspended from reception of the mysteries by a hierarch, for whatever reason, is ineligible to be a sponsor. The child’s parents or an adult catechumen may request that a non-Orthodox person witness the mystery. That person may be present and considered an honorary witness if there is no negative or scandalous deterrent. This person, however, is not the sponsor of the candidate or the Godparent. The priest must enter the required data in the parish metrical book after carefully ascertaining all necessary information that includes checking all facts and spelling for accuracy and completeness.
The Mystery of Marriage The Church’s vision of marriage is as an icon of the Trinitarian life of God Himself. In such a union, human love and desire for companionship become a love pervaded and sanctified by Divine Grace. God unites in body and spirit, heart and mind. Love unites in such a way that two lives become one life in perfect harmony. Such love implies a relationship in marriage that is total in character. To live up to its high calling, the Christian family must be firmly established in the faith. See: On Marriage, Encyclical Letter, Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church in America, 1976.
- The priest must make sincere and determined efforts through preaching and teaching to make his parishioners aware that the Mystery of Marriage takes place within the context of the total life of the parish.
- The rector must seek to know who among his parishioners intend to marry and must make himself available for guidance and advice. His responsibilities include instructing the couple on the Orthodox Christian teaching of marriage. This should take place well before wedding plans are made so that the couple may understand and follow the Church’s teaching and discipline on the Mystery of Marriage.
- Pre-Marital Counseling is Required (except in rare cases, with the blessing of the bishop): Counseling and teaching should include the following: • Procreation of children is not in itself the sole purpose of marriage; nevertheless, marriage presupposes a desire to have children. The couple should pray for God to grant them the blessings of childbirth and wise nurturing of the family. • “Let marriage be held in honor, and let the marriage bed be undefiled” (Hebrews 13:4). Sexual union is one of the blessings of marriage. The priest should remind the couple that they belong to each other. Couples may abstain from sexual union for a season by mutual consent, but should be made aware that refraining entirely from this act may result in unnecessary difficulties in their marriage.
- The priest should make known to his faithful that before setting a date, renting a hall, or considering any activity related to the social aspect of the marriage day, a couple planning marriage must first seek the blessing, guidance, and advice of their parish priest.
- The couple must respect the seasons, times, and days during which marriage may be blessed. The priest must also uphold the teaching of the Church in regard to these things. The most appropriate time for a wedding is Sunday, following the celebration of the Divine Liturgy.
- 6. Marriages are not to be celebrated on: • evenings before Wednesdays and Fridays throughout the year, • Saturday evenings throughout the year, • evenings of the twelve Great Feasts or patronal feast of the parish, • during the course of all the fasts, • the Great Forty Day Fast, Apostles’ Fast, Dormition Fast, and Nativity Fast, • from Sunday of Meatfare to the Sunday of Cheesefare, • during the course of Bright Week, • from the Feast of the Nativity of the Lord (Dec. 25) through the Feast of the Synaxis of St. John the Baptist (Jan. 7), • on the evening and day of the Beheading of St. John the Baptist (Aug. 29), and • on the evening and day of the Elevation of the Cross (Sept. 14).
- Because marriages are normally celebrated on Sunday after the Divine Liturgy, the request to hold the ceremony on a Saturday requires a written petition for consent to the diocesan hierarch by the rector of the church where the marriage is to be performed. The couple must be exhorted to attend the Divine Liturgy on the following Sunday so that the marriage can be sealed by the reception of the Holy Eucharist. If permission is given for a Saturday wedding, it shall be celebrated no later than a time of day established by the hierarch so that the priest may serve the Vigil or Vesper service.
- The ritual of the marriage ceremony is to be celebrated in an Orthodox Church building. Halls, gardens, and other places are not appropriate.
- The priest, as a pastor of souls, must also be available to counsel those already married, who are experiencing difficulties in their married status.
- The priest is responsible for entering into the metrical book the required information.
A mixed marriage is a marriage between an Orthodox Christian and a non-Orthodox Christian who is baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and who confesses the unique Lordship of Jesus Christ. The Church tolerates this because of her pastoral concern and love for the faithful. Thus, a mixed marriage is not the norm, but is permitted in the hope that the non-Orthodox spouse will seek entrance into the Church.
- A petition for a mixed marriage must be submitted to the diocesan hierarch for his blessing.
- In a mixed marriage, the Orthodox partner should not consent to have children of the union baptized outside the Orthodox Church as a pre-marriage agreement.
- Toleration of a mixed marriage does not extend to marriage between an Orthodox Christian and a non-Christian person, such as a Christian Scientist, Jehovah’s Witness, Jew, Mormon, Moslem, Unitarian, etc.
- Active participation on non-Orthodox clergy in this service, as in all the mysteries of the Orthodox Church, is not allowed. Conversely, Orthodox clergy may not participate in NonOrthodox services and rites.
Second Marriage and Marriage Between Divorced Persons
- The Orthodox norm for those who marry is one marriage. A second marriage is tolerated under certain conditions. A third marriage is extended under certain precise circumstances.
- 2. The Church does not grant divorces. However, it recognizes that because of human weaknesses and sin marriages sometimes disintegrate and are ended by civil decree (divorce).
- 3. In her mercy and wisdom, the Church may grant permission to remarry through the diocesan hierarch. Petition is made to the hierarch through the parish priest. A clear statement of repentance from the divorced party, whether or not he/she is considered the culpable one in the divorce, and a clear statement that the reason he/she desires to enter a second marriage is that it is considered necessary for his/her salvation is to be addressed to the diocesan hierarch through the parish priest. (See: Synodal Affirmations on Marriage, Family, Sexuality, and Sanctity of Life, Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church in America, Tenth All-American Council, 1992, page 5.)
- Under no circumstances can there be a fourth marriage.
- The Order of Service: • If one party of the marriage is being married for the first time (even if that person is not Orthodox), the order of the first marriage is used. • If both the partners are divorced and/or widowed, the order for the second marriage is used.
Marriage Outside of the Orthodox Church
- Orthodox Christians who marry outside the Orthodox Church thereby exclude their marital life from the life of the Church, exclude themselves from participation in the Holy Eucharist, and therefore exclude themselves from full membership in the Church.
- Such persons, after a period of penance, may be restored to Eucharistic fellowship by recommendation from the priest and on the approval of the hierarch.
- Normally, such an act of restoration includes the confirmation of the marriage through a rite approved by the hierarch.
- Priests are reminded that converts to Holy Orthodoxy are not to be remarried when they embrace the Orthodox faith. See: On Marriage, Encyclical.
But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words. (1 Thess. 4:13-18)
- The Church has no specific rules determining the length of time between death and the burial. Interment varies according to the climate, civil ordinances, customs, and circumstances, and may be held immediately following death, or after a number of days.
- The hour of interment is also not fixed; it may be at any time during the day to accord with cemetery regulations and parish needs.
- It is assumed that, unless the death was an accidental or untimely one, the priest has been ministering to an aging person, or one suffering from some ailment or sickness, and has prepared the person for death through participation in the Mysteries of Penance and Holy Eucharist.
- The priest should read the Prayers at the Departing of a Soul and passages from Holy Scripture. Merely to be present at the bedside of one’s spiritual child and not minister with audible prayer is unworthy of the priesthood.
- If the priest was not at the bedside of the dying parishioner at the time of death, he must make contact with the family, offering to assist them through the time of grieving and mourning.
- The Service for the Departed (panikhida) is sung on the eve of the burial whether the body is in the temple, funeral home, or elsewhere.
- The body of the departed may be brought into the temple at any time prior to the time of the Funeral Service, whether days before or on the day thereof.
- According to traditional practice, the casket is open from the first Service for the Department (panikhida) until the conclusion of the Funeral Service. The deceased is made in the image and likeness of God; the physical body is not to be shunned or rejected because it is in an altered state. To view the body at the funeral home but not in the church is illogical.
- The casket is positioned so that the feet of the departed are toward the iconostasis. Thus, the person, if alive, would be standing facing the Holy Altar.
- The Funeral Service is usually served in the temple on the day of the burial.
- The Divine Liturgy may be celebrated on the day of the Funeral Service. This takes place before the Funeral Service. Celebration of the Divine Liturgy is precluded during the Great Fast when the weekday liturgy is not celebrated.
- The Funeral Service and burial is generally not officiated on Sunday or Pascha. If the Funeral Service is scheduled for Monday, the body may be brought into the temple only after the service of Vespers on Sunday evening. There may be circumstances for which immediate burial may be necessary, and in this case pastoral discretion is to be used.
- Between the day of Pascha and the Sunday of St. Thomas, the Funeral Service follows the Typicon for these specific days of celebration.
- An Orthodox clergyman may not take part in a service for a non-Orthodox deceased person even if that person is related to a parishioner. If invited, however, he may offer some words of consolation at the graveside or funeral meal.
- Non-Orthodox clergy may not be invited to participate in the Funeral Service or offer any form of homily or public statement in the temple, or participate in the graveside service. The officiating priest, however, cannot control what takes place after the Orthodox service of burial has been concluded in a public cemetery.
- Prayers for the dead are usually offered immediately after the burial at the memorial meal, on the third, ninth and fortieth day after death, and every year thereafter.
- Saturday is the usual day for a memorial service. It can be scheduled immediately before the Vigil or Vesper Service. In this way, the prayers for forgiveness and repose preceding these services are illumined through the proclamation of the Lord’s Resurrection in the hymns that are sung in the following services. However, the Service for the Departed (panikhida) may be served after the Sunday Divine Liturgy if the hierarch has given his blessing for this to take place at that time.
- The Church has set aside definite days on which remembrance of the dead should take place. Among these are Meatfare Saturday, the second, third and fourth Saturdays of the Great Fast, the Saturday preceding Pentecost, and St. Demetrius Saturday.
- In addition to these specific times, the faithful may have the names of the deceased remembered at the Proskomede and during the Divine Liturgy.
- Memorial services are not permitted on feast days or from the Nativity of our Lord to Theophany, and from Palm Sunday to the Sunday of St. Thomas.
- The rector is responsible for entering into the metrical book the required information about burials.
*Suicide: The act of suicide is a profound tragedy affecting a parish. It necessitates prayers for forgiveness for the sake of the departed and exhorts the members of the parish community to repentance and sorrow. The Orthodox Church normally denies a Church burial to a person who has committed suicide. However, factors bearing on the particular case may become known to the priest who must share this information with the diocesan hierarch; the hierarch will consider the factors and make the decision concerning Funeral Services.
**Cremation: The practice of cremation is not a Christian one and is to be discouraged. Cremated remains are not to be brought into the temple for a burial service or for any other reason. Although cremation is not encouraged, and the Funeral Service over cremated remains is denied, the remains may be buried only with the hymn Holy God…
- In general, the laity are to refrain from that which properly belongs to the priest-in-charge, who alone answers to the diocesan hierarch – this includes matters of liturgical or rubrical change, scheduling meetings (without a blessing to do so) or any other action which could reasonably fall within the authority of the priest-in-charge.
- Those who have been elected and installed to positions of lay-leadership are welcome to operate within the bounds of that position, with the blessing of the priest-in-charge.
- No one may schedule any liturgical service without the approval of the rector of the parish. This also applies to meetings affecting the life of the parish.
- No one may invite any clergy to participate in a liturgical service without the approval of the rector.