The origins of the role of godparents in weddings are directly related to the practice of baptism and confirmation. By the second century AD baptisms were accepted as spiritual and social purification of infants and secondary parents or sponsors would enact to speak the childs part in the acceptance of God in life. This also was the case in Confirmation as the rites of Christian passage into adulthood and so for weddings as the couples union binds them together as one. As religion binds families and communities together, Godparenting became a lifetime commitment with a promise to care the religious upbringing of all the children of God. The common thread among all these is that in every rite of a new beginning a hierarchy of spiritual maturity is expected and in case that the parents of the child cannot fulfill this obligation then the people who stood side by side during the parents should be able to carry the duty. The Spanish words for the godparent roles are used for members of the wedding partypadrino meaning “godfather” or “best man” and madrina meaning “godmother” or “matron of honor”reflecting the custom of baptismal sponsors acting in this role in a couple’s wedding.
Much of the rites and rituals for weddings are drawn from the Anglo-Saxon age and have been intertwined with many other beliefs to which Christianity grew with during its formative years. From oral and written history it was drawn out that when there was a union to be held all sorts of charms, chants and prayers were alluded to the couple to grant them happiness, fertility and prosperity. This was the norm for most other rituals and passages.
In order to bestow all these good fortunes to the couple it was deemed necessary for the attendance of the wisest and the most learned people in the land. For these people not only can stand as a role model to achieve but can be consulted on to build an enduring married life. There was actually a period when validity of the marriage required the witnessing of consummation in the marriage bed. There was also a superstition that the brides under garments were also lucky items to be had. Unfortunately, the combination of gaiety and inebriation during this part of the ritual sometimes would get the bride physically hurt, as the witnesses would jostle for those lucky garters. This eventually led to another wedding rite tossing the garter, which actually was a bridal tactic for self-preservation.
There are many translations and semblances in many Christian sects and churches with the terms witness, sponsor and godparent, but generally the can be used interchangeably. Basically, if we refer back to the Greeks, the godparent was originally called a patronus which translates to a protector who was adopted by the Christian parents for the sake of the future of the child.
Only one godparent is necessary according to canon law 874, although both a godfather and a godmother are preferred. Nowadays it is very common to see multiple sets which is possibly brought about by the intention to creation a larger support group for new union. Not all marriages start with a formidable war chest so a strong web of sacred kinships can be alluded to as a formidable alternative.
In all sense of the word Godparents are guardians of the faith. In some cases they are enacted upon to actually co-sign as guarantors in the marriage certificate. The bride and groom should treat this role not merely as gift givers during nuptials; but as co-sharers to the promise of a lifetime of Christian commitment.
For godparents, it gives a person both a new and special status as a child of God and it makes a person a member of the Body of Christ, the Church so the choice is critically an important one, so if asked please carry on the responsibility with utmost care and consideration as you who can truly represent that Christian community. This is the gift that you bring, for you now hold a sacred place in the hearts of the couple.
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