There is a scene from the original Super-Man movies where Jor-El, the father of Earth’s allegorical savior, says these final words before sending his son away from his doomed planet and to Earth.
“You will travel far, my little Kal-El, but we will never leave you. Even in the face of our deaths. The richness of our lives will be yours. All that I have, all that I’ve learned, all that I feel. All this and more, I bequeath you, my son. You will carry me with you, all the years of your life. You will make my strength your own. See my life through your eyes as your life will be seen through mine. The son becomes the father, the father becomes the son.”
Children are our most valued treasure. They carry in them all our hopes and dreams, they hold an innocence we ourselves have lost, and they are, in some ways, the continuance of ourselves. Of our genetic makeup, of our values, of our family names. Children are the keys to the future. Long after we are gone and join with the Lord, they will inherit this earth and with it the future of our planet, of humanity.
The role of children in our society and in our Orthodoxy is so central that even Christ said that unless we become like them, we shall never inherit God’s Kingdom (Timothy 18:2-3). That is because a child’s innocence knows no evil, they know no hate, no real pains. All of these are learned responses. The first real feeling a child experiences is love. They are introduced to it from the moment they are conceived and developing in the womb. They hear it in their parents’ voices. When they are born, they feel it in their parents’ touch.
Hate is a learned response, and children learn it from their parents, they learn it from media, they learn it from society.
All of these thoughts weighed on me when I first learned that I was going to be expecting my first child. When she was born and I looked into her eyes for the first time, a new purpose was found. Life suddenly had new meaning and that circle, the one where the child becomes the parent and the parent becomes the child, made new sense. She was my reintroduction to innocence, an ability to see the world anew. Through her, I would relearn a world of wonder and possibilities, and through me, she would learn how to not make the same mistakes I made and that, if she chooses, anything is possible.
Child development is important, and for the Orthodox Family, one of the most important tasks is choosing a Godparent for their child. A Godparent is tasked with the upbringing and development of a child in the Orthodox lifestyle. They work in concert with the parents to develop a strong spiritual foundation.
They fill just as much of a central role in the life of a child as the biological parents. That is why it is important to select the right individuals to serve in this honored roll. Some ethnic groups, like the Greeks, may have certain traditions that dictate who should be considered Godparents. The common one is that the koumbaroi, the individuals who placed the crown and rings on the wedded couple, have the honor of being first to baptize a new child. Traditions like these have their place, and if a couple wishes to follow those traditions, then they should feel free to.
Of course, if one needs help or advice, they should also feel free to consult with their spiritual father, who is there to be a guidepost in our Orthodox lives. I have always found clarity and wisdom from my own spiritual father, who continues to hold a special place in my heart.
The most important thing about selecting a Godparent(s) is that they complement you in your child’s development. They are an additional member of “Team-Baby” who shares in your values, who offers you support and stands by the decisions of the parents when it comes to the baby, and who will be a standard-bearer. Their job will be to insure that your child partakes in the sacraments, attends church regularly, observes the feasts, and develops a rich Orthodox life. They make a transition from close friend to family, and it is an honor that should never be taken lightly.
In the end, as with all things child-related, there is no official play-book. What works for one person may not work for another. Each family and each child will have different needs, but in the spiritual sense, in the sense of Orthodox Christians, we can begin to set a standard that will make our faith stronger. I suggest that we choose the Godparents of our children with the level of care and commitment we apply in selecting the right spouse. This is especially important in a country such as the United States, where denominations are abundant and where faith can sometimes be treated as a commodity, traded or abandoned upon the first sign of disagreement.
In the end, the Godparents are going to be your parents in this journey. They are an extension of the family, helping you to build your home. In building the Orthodox home, the Godparents and parents should work in concert to strengthen the foundation, to make sturdy the framework, and to tightly pack each brick. When this is done, what remains is a house that stands against the storms of our lives, survives the swells of society, and tempers the tests of time.
Posted by the Orthodox Christian Network. You can find the Orthodox Christian Network on Google+