Baptismal day is one of the most important days in the life of a Greek Orthodox. During a Greek baptism, the child is provided with a name of Christian origin and then presented to the Church as an anointed child of God.
A Greek baptism is a sacred and religious rite that is performed on a baby, or other person wanting to be baptized, to cleanse the soul and renounce Satan from the body. Performed over a series of steps, the baptism is a complex initiation that starts with an exorcism and officially ends forty days later when the baby is presented to the congregation to receive Holy Communion, the final step in the Greek baptism process.
Some observers of the Christian faith have wondered why a baby would be exorcised during a Greek baptism if he cannot renounce Satan himself. The answer is simple; an exorcism is performed because a god parent(s) can stand present before the church and renounce Satan on behalf of the baby. The ceremony is as follows. A priest will breathe three times at the top of the baby’s head and then whisk the air with a Holy Cross. He will then turn to the god parents and ask for a verbal renunciation of Satan. To end the exorcism, the priest will spit toward the West wind in damnation of Satan and then pronounce the life of Christ by declaring the profession of faith to the East winds.
The function of the exorcism is to prepare the baby for the baptismal water. Cleansed in the Holy Spirit and anointed through touch and prayer, the baptismal water is a metaphor for the cleansing of Spirit through Christ. To begin the process, the baby is anointed with holy oil and then lowered into the baptismal water three times. In some cases, the priest will simple cusp the baptismal water in his hand and then allow it to wash over the top of the baby’s head, falling downward and away from the baby’s eyes and mouth. With each immersion, the priest declares the baby a servant of God and baptizes her in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Next, a white candle is lit and the baby is presented by circling the Holy water font three times.
The baptism is anointed as the priest places Holy oil on the Cross and then touches the forehead, eyes, nostrils, mouth and ears of the baby. This is followed by scripture and a final blessing. The congregation welcomes the anointed child and joins the family for a celebratory meal at the church or in the home of the baptized child. Traditionally, gifts or sweet bread is provided in the church on the day of the baptism and congregants are welcomed to pray over and bless the baby at the door of the sanctuary. Holy Communion takes place 40 days after the initial baptism.