Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Blast From the Past: Susannah's Churching

In the Orthodox Church, for those who don't know, many women feel free to stay home with their new babies for as long as 40 days (roughly six weeks) postpartum. We don't go to church, and most try to do as little outside of the house as is possible. (If you are just staying home from church but going out to the mall, you're missing the point.) There are some parishes were this is not emphasized, but I have found it to be a wonderful time of bonding with my babies and healing from delivery. Not to mention, my doctor thinks it's wonderful: six weeks is the magic medical number in the postpartum period. The mother is mostly healed from a normal delivery at six weeks, the baby's immune system is somewhat stronger, and the breastfeeding relationship is established (but may I add that it can still drastically improve!) by this time.

When Mom and Baby are ready to return, the priest "Churches" them -- formally and prayerfully welcomes them back to the community. I see it as a sort of initiation back to normal life.

Susannah's churching took place at St. Ignatius in Madison, Wisconsin, with Fr. Patrick Kinder.

We begin at the entrance to the church, where the priest prays over Mother and Baby.

Fr. Patrick then takes the child down the aisle, stopping three times to lift her to God while singing Psalm verses.

She is raised again and maneuvered in the sign of the Cross in front of the icons of Christ and the Theotokos and Child.

I hope this was Fr. Patrick instructing her to be a good kid.

A final blessing: Father makes the sign of the Cross over Susannah before handing her back to me.

Clearly, she's practicing being a saint.

And Grandma and Grandpa got some more grand-baby time in of course.

Thanks so much to Katie, my mother's goddaughter (what does that make us?) who took these lovely photos.


  1. Hey, it's Nicole's friend Sarah, the one you added on facebook. Anyway, I too had the ceremony of being "Churched" too. So very cool!

    I found the description off of a Traditional Catholic website describing the "Churching" ceremony. Is this how you view it as well?

    Churching is the woman's way of giving thanksgiving to God for the birth of her child, and predisposes her, through the priestly blessing that is a part of the ritual, to receive the graces necessary to raise her child in a manner pleasing to God.

    Know that Churching is not a "purification" ceremony, though it is imitative of the day, which we commemorate on 2 February (Candlemas), that Mary underwent her "purification" (ceremonially speaking and in obedience to the Old Law) and presented her Son in the Temple to Simeon.

  2. Wow, I just now saw this comment 2 years later! This was before I figured out how to have comments sent to my email!

    I would say yes, we view it about like this, although since there are a lot of emotions and things that happen between the time that you have a baby and are churched, and because one may be away from church for up to 6 weeks (or more if necessary), that part of this rite includes prayers for forgiveness of any of the Mother's sins. It is nice to have confession sometime around the time of this rite as well. I wouldn't call it a "purification" but it is still an acknowledgment that Mom has been away from church and been involved in the creating of a life, which is serious business!


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