When a child is born, the mother and child spend 40 days after the birth bonding and resting at home. When the mother and child first come to church, Fr. Geoff liturgically welcomes them back to the congregation.
Fr. Geoff walked with the children through the church, stopping at several places to make the Sign of the Cross with the child. These stops and prayers at strategic places—immediately upon entering the nave, in the middle of the nave, and at the front, before the Holy Doors—represent the child’s full introduction to the sacred building. It is as if the church says to its newest member, “See? This is where you will be worshipping from now on.” Fr. Geoff carried the children into the altar and said the Nunc Dimittis, the Song of Simeon.
The mother’s churching represents the Church’s liturgical “welcome back” as the mother returns to the Eucharistic assembly. The normal time for being away is forty days, since this was about how long the body required to recover after child-bearing, and also recalls the forty days which the Lord’s Mother took before she came to the Temple to be ritually purified after her own birth-giving.