Today my new daughter and I were permitted to come into the sanctuary. In the Orthodox tradition, this is done 40 days after the birth. There is a prayer performed as part of this ritual, and it is a significant day in the life of the new baby.
Scott took most of the pictures and video which started with us just hanging around getting ready for church to start.
My daughter peeking at the baby as we wait to go in.
Another shot of us waiting.
Now there is considerable debate about the origins of the 40 day period. Here is how the Greek Orthodox Church describes it:
The “Churching” is a very ancient ritual . . . pre-Christian. In the ancient world, I should say in ancient Judaism, the practice was predominant among women/mothers. Since there were no hospitals in the past, midwives were common practice and children were born at the home. The mother actually stayed in the house with the child for 40-days because 1) it took that long for the woman to heal properly and to bond with the child, and 2) after 40-days, the menstrual cycle returns to normalcy for the woman and when this occurred the woman’s first order of business was to go the ritual baths for purification. Since the first “Christians” were Jews, the ritual purification was slowly replaced with the pilgrimage back to the Church, and of course, the bringing of the child to offer to God . . . So both the woman and the child received the blessing of the Church.
Now, all of this still pertains to the woman if she happened to lose the child . . . she would take the necessary 40-days to recover and then present herself to the Church to be blessed and to be received into the community again . . . the Service becomes a healing, a restoration prayer for the woman and not some sort of punishment for losing the child. The Church has always been concerned for total well-being of the person and that person’s restoration back into the community.
The ritual cleanliness is the part that of course gets under the skin of most peoples modern sensibilities. It’s so icky to think about and super oppressive or whatever. So, most people now tend to focus on the “time to recover and bond with the baby” part, because it’s more flowery and sweet.
For me, I am OK with it being both. We follow tradition out of obedience, and the multi-level reasoning for it is of interest, but not a deal breaker. It can’t be a deal breaker because the authority of the church is higher than our thoughts on the mater.
Anyway, its a beautiful ritual. My husband grinned from ear to ear watching the two of us being brought into the sanctuary.
The baby and I enter church for the first time since she is born.
Our priest, Fr. Popovich meets us at the door and prays several prayers over us. He then walks us down the isle to venerate the icons. Then I take the baby back to light a candle and the liturgy begins. It has the potential to really stroke the woman’s ego–because church does not start until this part is done. But instead of focusing on that part, I choose to be humbled by it. It is a great honor to have a priest say such a kind blessing for me and my child as we are welcomed back.
Some friends of mine from homsechool co-op are Greek Orthodox, so they came to see the churching:
The lady in the middle is a fellow member of our homeschool co-op. It was only because she over heard me talking about head coverings that I ever learned she was Orthodox too! She brought her daughter and good friend from their Greek church to witness.
Today’s gospel reading was the story about the crippled man who would not give up. He was lowered through the roof into the home where Jesus was resting, and because of His great faith, Christ healed him.
In his homily, Fr Popovich tied this into this little miracle we have. Scott and I suffered through 2 miscarriages between the last baby and this one. We struggled very hard with church teaching against using birth control, but we obeyed it. When I found out I was pregnant, Scott and I came to “Proto” and asked him if there was a specific prayer he could pray for us and this pregnancy. Not only did he lay his hands on my belly that day, and prayed for her, he gave us a prayer card with a prayer for pregnant mommies. Scott prayed this prayer over me in our home multiple times during the pregnancy.
Fr Popovich described his interaction with this story as one of shared tears with me from the beginning to today. And that was all true. He said our faith was as strong as the crippled man.
It was wonderful day to honor the traditions of the fathers. To do things exactly they way they have been done for centuries. I have now had 4 babies with Scott, and all are being brought up in the Orthodox faith. We are blessed beyond that which we deserve.