Prayers for the Newborn
Upon the birth of a child, the parish priest should be invited to the home or hospital to offer prayers for the mother and child. It is the responsibility of the father or the grandparents to notify the priest at the time of birth. Your parish priest depends upon your courtesy so that he may make the proper visitation. On the fortieth day after birth, the parents brings the child to church where the priest conducts the service of “40-Day Blessing” or “Sarantismos” for the mother and child.
“The ritual of the ‘churching’ of women after childbirth has its origin in the early Middle Ages. This was the time when the liturgical life of the Church was beginning to expand and develop in imitation of the Biblical patterns. The “Church” must not be understood in an antiquated way (from the Old Testament) in the sense of a legalistic practice. (For further Old Testament knowledge, read the Book of Leviticus, Chapter 12). Rather, the ceremony of churching marks the time when the mother, having recovered physically and emotionally from the birth of her child, and having re-ordered her life around the child’s care, will resume her life in the community of the Church again. She comes to the church with her child (and accompanied by her husband) to offer her thanksgiving for her child, and coming in contact with the life-giving glory of God, she asks for the forgiveness of her sins, despite her human weakness, so that she may be `worthy to partake, uncondemned, of the Holy Mysteries,’ (that is Holy Communion) once again.
This ceremony, in imitation of the Old Testament ceremony to which the Mother of God submitted, was done on the fortieth day after the child’s birth, but may also take place as close to the fortieth day as possible. Some request that this take place prematurely to facilitate their personal needs and desire to attend social engagements. God in His wisdom ordained that a period of six weeks lapse following childbirth before the mother resumes her life. Good advice is not to hasten this process.
During the churching, the priest, in imitation of the elder Simeon (Luke, Chapter 2), takes the child up to the sanctuary, making the sign of the Cross with it and reciting the prayer of St. Simeon (Luke 2:28-32). Again, inspired by the example of Simeon’s encounter with the infant Messiah, for each child has the potential to be great in the sight of the Lord, the act of churching recognizes this and also serves, as with the mother, to introduce the child to the community of faith.”
On the day of churching, the parents and the child are invited to wait in the narthex of the church where they will be greeted by the priest. This takes place after the antidoron has been distributed following the Divine Liturgy. A call to the church office will help things run smoothly.