The Tradition of Churching NewBorns
After giving birth, the mother and child remain outside of the temple for 40 days. Churching is an ancient and venerable tradition of the Church, being instituted in the Mosaic Law. It is practiced for several reasons. Women remain outside of the temple and the normal routine of the Church’s sacramental life for 40 days in imitation of the Mother of God. When the Blessed Virgin Mary gave birth to Jesus she, even though she was completely holy and did not experience the pain and difficulty of normal childbirth, remained out of the temple for forty days until her purification. On the 40th day after giving birth the Virgin Mary, St. Joseph the Betrothed, and the Christ child went up to the temple where they fulfilled the rite of purification by presenting Jesus to the priest and by offering a sacrifice. This is why we celebrate the “Meeting of the Lord in the Temple/ The Purification of the Virgin Mary” on February 2nd- 40 days after the birth of Christ on December 25th.
The practice of a woman remaining outside the Church Temple for 40 days acknowledges the fact that during these days the mother does not participate in the normal ascetic discipline of the Church considered basic and necessary to the reception of the holy eucharist. During the days following birth-giving, the mother does not fast and mortify her bodily members in applying herself to the ascetic life of the Church as she does normally, and this abstinence of the mother is blessed by the Church canonically (for the mother’s body has already been humbled without the assistance of fasting). Once she has recovered her physical and spiritual equilibrium (40 days), she is graciously reintegrated into the eucharistic life of the Church.
The practice of churching is in obedience to the Word of God found in the Mosaic Law, in relation to childbirth (Leviticus 12:1-8). The Church acknowledges in her prayers for the mother and child on the 1st, 8th, and 40th days after birth-giving, that childbirth has involved uncleanness and sin in certain ways. Thus, the priest prays for purification and forgiveness.
The actual churching service consists of the mother bringing the child with the child’s sponsor to the narthex of the church. There she will meet the priest before Liturgy begins. He will make the sign of the cross over the infant, and place his hand on the baby’s head while offering prayers, that God might purify and forgive the mother and allow her to partake, uncondemned, of the Holy Mysteries, and for the sanctification of the child. Then the priest will church the child, taking the infant into his arms and making the sign of the cross with the child in the doors of the temple. The priest will then proceed to the center of the temple, and to the front of the royal doors. Following this procession, the priest will give the child into the hands of the Godparent, who makes three metanias and receives the child.