So my little one received her 40 Day Blessing this about 10 days ago. Daddy, baby and I got ready, loaded up the diaper bag, car seat, blankets, etc., and off we went to church. We got there right at the end as people were receiving the andithero. Since I was an unblessed woman I couldn’t actually enter the church just the exo-narthex. I guess going into it I didn’t realize that it was as much about me as it was about the baby. I know my fellow Greek moms shared with me their experiences in a previous post but I guess I didn’t fully understand until I was there. With my baby squirming in my hands and the priest reciting the prayers from his bible, I took a second to take it all in. To think about the women who came before me and who will come after me and partake in this important part of our Orthodox faith. As I was saying to my friend yesterday via Skype, it totally took me off guard how much it was about me the mom. Our priest is very thorough so we didn’t get the drive through blessing and had time to take it all in.
The blessing then got me thinking of the next big part of our Orthodox faith as a little one, the baptism. For those of you who don’t know in the Greek Orthodox faith you are baptized, confirmed and receive your first communion all in one sacrament. The planning has begun and I’m excited for the little one to officially enter our religion. I just keep wondering if she’ll be a screamer and cry during her ‘dunking’? How did your little ones do during their baptisms? Did they cry? Were they screamers or happy campers?
It is so hard to believe that in a bit over a month our bundle of joy will be here. That is if they aren’t stubborn and follow the “timeline”. I’m packed and ready as they tell me you never know when the time will come. Saying all that I wanted to take some time to discuss something that is very important in the Greek Orthodox faith and that is the 40-day blessing. Similar to Jesus’ presentation to the temple, the thought is that you bring your child to church at the 40 day mark to be blessed by the priest. Forty days after birth and in accordance with the Old Testament tradition observed by the Virgin Mary (Luke 2:22-24), the mother brings her child for its first visit to the Church. If they are a boy they are entered into the altar as well. The Greek Orthodox Church still has a closed altar and females are not allowed to enter. Certainly I have thought about having my child receive this blessing but as the time gets closer for our little one to arrive I wonder what does this really mean? Will I be stuck in the house for 40 days without being able to leave ever? I asked this question and some others to some of my girlfriends who have agreed to serve as ‘blog collaborators’ on certain subjects. Certainly they have MUCH more experience in mommyhood than I do and I am so excited to be able to share all of this with them.
Question 1: Did you bring your child to church to be blessed on or around the 40th day and your thoughts on the overall blessing?
One friend says, “I did bring both my children to be blessed around the 40th day and I really enjoyed the experience. It was a chance for the baby to have an official outing, go to church and be introduced to the community. It was an important milestone for me!”
Another friend says, “I have had all three of my children brought to church for a blessing. It was more towards to the 30 days, our priest does allow you to bring them a bit sooner. I wanted to get them blessed because I have a strong faith and always seek God’s help in my daily life.”
Yet another friend stated that before her second child received their 40 day blessing she went to church for a Μνημόσυνο (memorial service) for her Godfather’s passing. When she was spotted by the church secretary, she was shocked to see my friend and asked why she was there. She explained and later found out that the blessing is as much about the mother as it is the baby. She apparently wasn’t supposed to step inside of the church prior to the 40 day blessing. She didn’t know this and felt anxious the entire time leading up to the blessing thinking something “bad” was going to happen to the baby or me. Nothing did of course!
Question 2: Who went with you for the blessing?
One friend said, “…whomever was available: husband, yiayiathes, and other children.” Another states, “The godfather and yiayia came for my first child and the grandparents and godparents came for the second child. ” Yet another states, “…my husband for my first and my husband and older child for my second…I learned that our priest does not like it at all for other family members to attend.”
Question 3: Did you stay at home the entire 39 days leading up to your child’s blessing? Or did you go out but baby didn’t?
One friend says, “At first I scoffed at the idea not understanding the reasoning behind it, I chalked it up to superstition. However after two pregnancies I realizes that a woman does need time to recover after her pregnancies. I did find myself staying in most of the time when it was possible.”
A few friends stated that they went out but baby did not unless it was for an appointment with the doctor. And yet another did venture out of the house before the baby was blessed but only during the day.
In reading all of this I found it interesting the differences between churches, priests and countries. One friend stated that her aunt in Athens said something about the 40 day blessing now being 20 days staying at home but she didn’t doubt for a second that her deeply religious cousin stayed in the entire period. Some priests do the blessing as part of the ceremony after the Sunday services and others have the family come in on a Saturday so the blessing is more private.
I always wonder if sometimes we Greeks of the diaspora have held on to these traditions more closely than our Greek counterparts. Simply because we were brought up with the traditions of Greece circa 1950/60/70/80 or whatever year our parents immigrated to their new country. They held on to this Greekness so tight in order to not lose their Greek identity and instilled in us these values and traditions. I know that it is important for my husband and me to have our child blessed and start his/her life in the Greek Orthodox Church. Whether or not I stay in the house for the 39 days prior or even if baby does, I’ll fill you in once that is happening. Did you have your child receive the 40 day blessing? Did you stay in or go out during this time? I’d love it if you shared with me!
|I did find a great section of Myth busters on a church site in Australia. If you want to check them out, click here and go to the Myths ‘busted’ about Birth and Baptism section,