To Beard or not to Beard

I am taking part in the 40 days of blogging set up by my friend and fellow Orthodox priest Fr. John Peck.  By the way, if you need a website designed check out Fr. John’s work he is great!  Each day during the preparation time for the Nativity, Fr. John will be providing us with a topic to write on.  The idea being we will blog every day for the next 40 days.  We will see how well that goes!  Today’s topic is Beards.

Preble03At various times, over the last 10 years, I have had a beard.  I really cannot grow a full beard since it looks rather stupid, so I opt for the Go Tee type of beard.  Until this past summer, I was letting it grow and I achieved some impressive length while trying to keep things under control. Then I became chaplain for the National Lancers and the Massachusetts Organized Militia and I had to be clean shaven so off came the beard.  These were all personal choices that were made for various reasons.

I am also an Orthodox monk and most people expect the monk to have a beard.  It is tradition that the monk lets his hair and beard grow.  Now I am all for tradition but I also believe that one of the strengths of the Orthodox Church is that it adapts well in the society that the Church exists in.  Beards are still in fashion here in America but more people do not have beards then have them.  I also believe that people who are in the public eye, should be well groomed, not because of vanity or anything like that, but because we interact with people.  I have heard it said that for some, the reason they do not come to Orthodoxy, is because the priest does not look like he is accessible.  I know, not a great reason to not come to a church, but it is a reason.  I also know priests who are clean shaven that are also unapproachable.

With all of that said, the thing that upsets me most about some Orthodox is the way they feel about those of us who have chosen not to have the beard.  I call them the “beard police” and I ran across one on Facebook just the other day.  I believe he was trying to put me down, not a very Orthodox thing by the way, but he told me I looked like a catholic priest.  I told him, “Well I am a priest in the One, Holy, catholic, and Apostolic Church so thank you.”  You see it was because I did not have a beard and I was wearing a clerical collar. (Don’t get me started on the cassock)

If you want to have a beard great, if you don’t want to have a beard fine but do not judge those who do or do not.  There are many examples ofme firehouse saints both east and west on both sides of the issue and there are many examples of clergy and some hierarchs, on both sides of the issue.

I think, that is this day and age when Christianity seems to be coming under attack every day in all sorts of places, we would be more concerned about our spiritual life and interior stillness then we should be about the facial hair on the clergy. Focus on what is important, beards are not important.







    SYDNEY — In a hairy predicament that has beards wagging east and west of the International Date Line, recent Russian Orthodox convert Mac (“Maximos the Confessor”) MacDonald of the of Saints Boris and Gleb and Olga and Vladimir Russian Orthodox Church has discovered he is unable to grow much of a beard.

    “It comes in looking pretty lame,” confessed MacDonald in a recent interview. “All the guys were teasing me so I just shaved it off.”

    “Is outrage!” shouted MacDonald’s parish priest, Father Vasiliy Vasileivich, who is also the official spokesman for the Church Overseas of Russian Orthodox Christians (COROC), as well as grand prize winner in the Best Beard in the Outback Award five years running.

    “Was it clean and smooth chin in Nineteenth Century Russia? I mean not in big city like Petersburg or Moscow, but in tiny village churches? I mean not members of gentry and other upper-class persons, but peasants. Was it? No, it was not. Mostly. Pretty much so. I am thinking.”

    “But what can I do?” moaned MacDonald. “Look at this photo!”

    He brandished a photograph showing himself with what can only be called a beard by virtue of the place in his face upon which it grew.

    “Oh, this is very unfortunate,” admitted Fr. Vasiliy. “You touch this up in PhotoShop, you know.”

    “Yes, that will help the photo look nicer, but what about me?” wailed MacDonald.

    “Please to get grip on self,” urged Fr. Vasiliy. “Is not end of world. Not everybody can be growing most luxuriant beard in Australia.” Fr. Vasiliy stroked his beard proudly and hammed it up a bit, it must be confessed, for the cameras (of which there were none).

    “But what if I want to become a reader, or a deacon?” flailed MacDonald.

    “Is costume shop in Sydney. You can buy the fake beard,” suggested Fr. Vasiliy.

    “This is like something out of Monty Python,” noted MacDonald.

    “You are not being oppressed,” countered Fr. Vasiliy.

    “No, I meant the scene where the women are buying fake beards to go to the stoning,” explained MacDonald.

    “This was most funny part of movie!” laughed Fr. Vasiliy. “When they are changing their voices to be deep, ‘Not me!’ I mean to say, what is this Monty Python? Surely you are not watching of sinful movies?”

    “Oh, no, of course not,” lied MacDonald.

    “Pravoslavye,” said Fr. Vasiliy.

    “In the meantime what about my beard?” persevered MacDonald.

    “You will just have to do without. Was your father growing luxuriant beard?” asked Fr. Vasiliy.

    “No,” admitted MacDonald. “Why does that matter?”

    “Weak beard is probably running in family,” explained Fr. Vasiliy. “In beard growing, father is pretty accurate barometer of whether son will grow luxuriant beard.”

    “Why is that?” wondered MacDonald.

    “Well after all, father is son’s next of chin,” grinned Fr. Vasiliy.

    “Do you have to go to confession when you tell puns like that?” inquired MacDonald.

    “No, bishop has granted me ekonomia to tell puns,” explained Fr. Vasiliy.

    “When did he do that?” asked MacDonald.

    “At Monty Python movie marathon,” said Fr. Vasiliy.

    “You don’t mean…” began MacDonald.

    “Oh! Please to look at time! Must be going!” said Fr. Vasiliy.

    MacDonald looked at our intrepid Onion Dome editor and shrugged.

    Copyright © 2004-2012 Alex Riggle. All Rights Reserved.

  2. But I like the beard, Father. It looks, well, sort of Monk-like and you are a Monk, after all. It’s kinda like a Gnome. What would a gnome look like without a beard. I’m sure there are some, but a gnome does not look like (what we think) is a gnome without his beard. Same thing for Orthodox Monks, right?

    1. Well, as I said in the essay, since becoming chaplain of a military unit it is not my call to have a beard or not. The military requires it’s members to be clean shaven.

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