The Tradition of Holy Baptism—A Grandmother’s Perspective
My granddaughter, Penelope Katherine, was born on January 24, 2016. It was a very joyous event for me. I have a grandson, Gavin (Gabriel), who is already 15 years old. My husband and I are very active in his upbringing, and we are looking forward to being a part of Penny’s life, too.
Early on, I asked my son, John, and his partner, Jessica, if they would want to baptize Penny in the Christian faith. We had several discussions around this, and most of all I tried to be encouraging but not controlling. Happily, they were open to baptizing Penny in the Orthodox church and gave me their blessing to choose the godparents.
I had several conversations with my spiritual father regarding this choice. I took it very seriously. In the past I was witness to family members primarily being godparents. However, both my sisters were living out of town, and it was important to me that Penny have an opportunity to spend consistent time with her godparents and to also take holy communion with them. Gavin’s godparents were local but lived almost an hour away. I wanted Penny’s godparents to be closer in proximity to John and Jessica.
At last I made my choice, and my spiritual father encouraged my decision. I approached Deacon Paul and his wife, Kristina. They both work in a Christian ministry, and Paul is soon to be ordained. They live close to John and Jessica. In my heart I felt this was the perfect choice.
I asked Paul and Kristina if they would consider baptizing my granddaughter. They were honored and said they would like to meet John and Jess. I gave them each other’s phone numbers and did not interfere in their first meetings. I felt it was important that they all meet freely and get to know one another without my unbridled enthusiasm.
I have saved the voice mail that John and Jess left me the night they departed from the first dinner at Paul and Kristina’s. They loved them immediately, and the feeling was mutual. This phone call was a gift from God—I was so excited!
We began to look at dates for the baptism. Jessica’s parents lived out of town, and so finding a date to suit everyone was a challenge. Finally we found the perfect time. It was the weekend of Jess’ departed brother’s birthday, July 31. One of my sisters was able to make it. Both of Jess’ parents could come.
On the day of the baptism, I had many signs that this was meant to be. Three stunning gardenias bloomed in my garden for the first time. Three mighty deer with antlers appeared in my yard that morning. We had a gorgeous day of sunshine after a couple days of stormy weather. I think God wanted the grass to be a little greener for our Penny. The baptism was very beautiful. Close family and friends spent the day with us to celebrate. We had a picnic at our house afterwards and had a wonderful time.
Afterwards, my Presbytera asked me if I wanted her to wash the sheet and towel from Penny’s baptism. I said, No, why? I can do it.
She said, “Do you know that you should wash them and empty the water directly into the ground?”
I am 58 years old, and this was the first time I ever heard this. I wanted to do it! A few days after the baptism, I asked my husband to help me. We washed the sheet and towel and allowed the water to go into my flower bed of roses, lavender and mint. I also gave my gardenia a drink of this holy water. The first gardenia that bloomed afterwards, I placed next to my icon of Panayia.
The sheet from Penny’s baptism is actually a beautiful cotton tablecloth. I asked my spiritual father if I could save and use it for special occasions, such as Penny’s birthdays and holidays like Christmas and Pascha. Father said he could not think of a better use for the cloth! So I will lovingly use the cloth over and over again as Penny grows up.
As a mother and grandmother, there can be no greater joy for me than to nurture the spiritual growth of my children and grandchildren. It does not matter how we choose to do this, only that we love and honor God and Jesus Christ in our hearts. In this way we will set an example for all people to be more loving and kind to each other.
Photo Caption: Godmother Kristina, John, Jessica, Penny, and Father Paul