The 40 Days Of Blogging exercise has begun! You can read more about the project at the Preachers Institute site. Things are a little different this year – Fr. John is giving us a topic each day to write about, and he decided to start things off on a whimsical note – today’s topic is beards. I had to chuckle when I saw that for two reasons – I just blogged about beards the other day in my Chrysostom post, and recently the “Orthodox Beard Police”, as Fr. Peter calls them, were swarming on Facebook and calling out those of us Orthodox priests who don’t have beards. The implication is that we are somehow less Orthodox than they are because of this. Actually, they don’t imply anything -they come right out and say it.
The practice of our priests having beards is a custom, not a requirement. I grew up under a priest who did not have a beard and, when he traveled to Greece, did not travel as a priest because he did not want to grow one. Many of my other mentors are from the Archbishop Iakovos era, when many priests didn’t have beards. So it has always seemed normal for me to not have a beard. The Beard Police practiced their trade when I was in the seminary. There was definitely a feeling that you “weren’t really Orthodox” if you didn’t have beard. I greatly enjoyed not giving in to such people – how dare they judge my faith based on facial hair? Thankfully, most Orthodox are not part of this bunch, nor are the vast majority of bearded priests that I know and consider friends.
I should also note, and I am not a vain person, that my beard is almost completely white and I cannot grow sideburns – just for the record. My recent beard adventure coincided with the Sox World Series run, but this was coincidental – I did not grow it as a playoff beard. Sometimes in January I grow one for our yearly Mt. Monadnock winter hike. And that is pretty much it. Remember, the man makes the beard – the beard does not make the man.