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Question 367

A friend of mine went to her first Greek Orthodox christening today and was asking me why the mother couldnít comfort the child... I couldnít answer her question. Anyone know the reason why the mother canít go near the child during the service?



Answer to Question 367


In the comments to your question it was suggested the reason was because of the Myra or because in past years the baby was baptized before the 40 days purification of the mother so was not allowed to be in church.  It is possible that the custom of the mother not going to the church started with babies being baptized before the 40days, but this was not the normal procedure.


The church has prayers for the mother and child from the first day of birth, the eighth day of birth for the child who is officially given his/her name and the fortieth day for the purification of the mother and for the child to be officially received into the church as a candidate for baptism.  Personally I think the custom was for the mother to remain at home because she gave birth to the flesh, but baptism is a new birth, a spiritual birth born from the baptismal font. The Godparent therefore presented the new spiritual child to the mother who receives it as an adoption. 


Whichever, the question was not whether the mother could go to the church for the baptism, but why the mother cannot go near the child during the service. If we look as the question logically it cannot be because of the Myra, because the child still has the Myra on its body after the baptism and the mother will come into contact with the child to feed it and clothe it and change its nappy, so this would not make sense. I think it is an extension of when the mother was not expected to attend the service, that she was not allowed to get involved until after the service to be presented the child baptized and sanctified by the priest or the Godparent.


 Today there is no question of not allowing the mother to attend the service, but some people, even some priests hold on to the old customs, which it has to be said, has no theological standing.  In our church, if the child is inconsolably crying we ask the mother to hold it and try to calm it during the service except for the moment just preceding the baptism, because the Godparent has to receive the child in his/her arms. After this the service is almost finished so we suffer any crying until the priest hands the baby to the mother.