My Orthodox Chrismation and reception into the Church was just over two years ago. On Palm Sunday I was witness to another Chrismation, as we received another member into the Church.
A young man began attending services several months ago, intent on becoming Orthodox. In my time there, we have seen young people come and go. They visit or attend for a while. Some have even become catechumens. But Orthodoxy is not a hobby, or a home for the spiritual dilettante. It is a commitment some are unwilling or unable to bear.
This young man was a catechumen for some time, learning under our priest and eager to serve. Eventually our priest declared that he would be received into the Church on Palm Sunday. He chose me to be his sponsor.
An Orthodox Chrismation
In the Orthodox Church, a sponsor (sometimes called a godparent) is someone already in the Church who can be an example and mentor to a newly-received member of the faith. I was honored to be asked.
We waited in the vestibule just outside the temple (it’s called a narthex) as the service began. The young man did an excellent job of appearing calm, despite his repeated glances inside. I could not contain my joy at getting to witness this, so soon after my own entrance into the Church.
At the appropriate time, our priest opened the doors of the temple and ceremonially asked if our catechumen desired reception into the Church. After they each read from the service book, I accompanied the young man to the front of the church.
He held a candle throughout the service, and received absolution for his past sins (catechumens often give a life confession the night before their reception into the Church. The absolution, which normally occurs at the time of confession, comes the next day).
Our priest then opened a small pewter box containing Holy Chrism. This is an oil the ruling bishop of the Church prepares and distributes to each parish for use in certain rites.
The priest dabbed a small metal rod in the oil, and made the sign of the cross with the rod on the young man’s face, hands and feet. This sacrament is, in the words of the priest, “The Seal and Gift of the Holy Spirit.”
A great start
At the end of the Liturgy, our priest beckoned the young man forward to receive Communion as an Orthodox Christian. The smile on our priest’s face echoed my own, as the young man eagerly approached the chalice to receive for the first time, the Body and Blood of Christ.
Throughout the service, I reflected on my own Orthodox Chrismation, along with that of my family. In a few short years we have grown and changed as the Holy Spirit has guided our lives.
Though he has since moved away, my sponsor and I talk regularly. He is still a guide and a mentor for me, whether he knows it or not. I hope that as the years go by, I can be of some use to our newest member.
Holy Week is off to a great start.
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