On Beards, Men's & Women's Clothing, & Head Coverings

The practice of living the life in Christ: fasting, vigil lamps, head-coverings, family life, icon corners, and other forms of Orthopraxy. All Forum Rules apply. No polemics. No heated discussions. No name-calling.

Moderators: Maria, phpBB2 - Administrators

Posts: 1812
Joined: Sat 21 January 2012 5:04 am

On Beards, Men's & Women's Clothing, & Head Coverings

Postby Matthew » Fri 21 September 2012 4:56 pm

NOTE: The series of articles I am posting is NOT copyrighted, and in any case, to allay any concerns over the matter, I have the author's permission to post them here.
Thank you,

Anthropology and Tradition:
In Defence of the Orthodox Image of Man

The Importance and Meaning of Traditional Orthodox Adornment
Throughout the Historic Worship of the Church

“We see, then, how all righteous men have been adorned with good works, and how the Lord Himself, adorning Himself with His works, rejoiced. Having therefore such an example, let us without delay accede to His will, and let us work the work of righteousness with our whole strength.”
--The first Epistle of St. Clement of Rome to the Corinthians (+A.D.101)

“Hearken, O daughter, and consider, and incline thine ear; forget also thine own people, and thy father's house; So shall the king greatly desire thy beauty: for he is thy Lord; and worship thou him. And the daughter of Tyre shall be there with a gift; even the rich among the people shall entreat thy favour. The king's daughter is all glorious within: her clothing is of wrought gold. She shall be brought unto the king in raiment of needlework: the virgins her companions that follow her shall be brought unto thee.”
--Psalm 45:10-14

“Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name: bring an offering, and come into his courts. O worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness: fear before him, all the earth.”
--Psalm 96:8-9

“Thy word is true from the beginning: and every one of thy righteous judgments endureth for ever.”
--Psalm 119:160 (KJV)

In times past, in Orthodox societies especially, people experienced the benefits of a way of life that unquestioningly united the two worlds of faith and works organically and naturally. It would be considered a matter beyond question that one’s outward life was intimately connected to one’s inner life. But due to the ravages of Western Rationalism and, in particular, the artificial distinction drawn between faith and works so fiercely propagated by the Protestants, the attitudes governing outward appearances, nurtured by the labours of our Orthodox Ancestors, have been discarded by the majority of even Orthodox Christians along with the rest of the modern world, especially those Orthodox living in Westernised societies. Indeed, is there any place left on the planet that is not influenced by the immodesty of the West? Hence it is very necessary to explain and defend the correct nature of the synergistic relationship between inward and outward piety. Hopefully, there will be a return to the Traditions of our Fathers as a result, at least amongst the True Orthodox.

Contemporary Christians often relegate the subject of outward appearance to the category of legalism. They assert that, in Christian piety, it is the inward condition of the heart that should be the measure of one’s condition and the field of one’s efforts. Indeed, they claim that requiring outward standards of piety is a cheap and shallow measurement of sanctity and devotion, and say that it is therefore possibly misleading, and perhaps even dangerous. As with most departures from the Holy Traditions handed down to us by the Holy Apostles, the lies are mixed with a good deal of truth and good intentions. But no amount of well-meant reasoning can justify the nullification and overthrow of Apostolic practices and Traditions; especially when such reasoning, regarding the relationship between belief and practice, is clearly both artificial in it’s views and foreign to the Orthodox phronema. But, what of another line of reasoning; cannot “culture” be cited as a basis for justifying such departures?

Rather than a difference of culture, these different modes of appearance, of modern versus traditional styles, represent a clash of conflicting anthropologies. Modern styles are not merely the product of fickle invention. They are the direct result of societal transformation based on changes in anthropological presuppositions about human nature, in terms of its origin, its purpose, and order in relation to the created universe. They are a product of a new atheism, which is being fostered even under the cloak of Christianity. That atheism is mainly characterized by false notions of equality of the sexes, freedom of expression, and a perverted ideal of independence of will and of androgyny. Hence, one tradition is the humble observance and the natural reflection of the differences between the sexes and the order established by God from the beginning of creation. The other is demonstrably the departure from the created order set forth by the will and wisdom of a holy and loving God.

Every tradition that the Apostles instituted for the entire Christian world, which even in their own day spanned a great diversity of cultures, was the natural offspring of a fully and truly illumined anthropology. They were the correct responses to the human condition, the remedy prescribed by divine wisdom which, with clear vision, looks both to the origins of human passions and to the eschatological fulfilment of our nature in deification. The writings of the New Testament and those of the Church Fathers are a uniform witness that the ground from which such practices took root and flourished were both anthropological and counter-cultural, inasmuch as these practices were a return to man’s proper relationship with God, himself, and society, the nature of which relationships had been wounded and the purpose of which had been lost.

But just as a well designed vessel protects and preserves the essence stored within itself, and, moreover, defines the limits of the fluid which safely takes up residence within maintaining its useful character; so also, these holy Traditions handed down to us regarding the regulation of outward appearances for man and woman produce and protect a wealth of spiritual benefits which are otherwise carelessly squandered.

St James the Apostle and Brother of God, in his strongly worded epistle affirms the protective and life-giving nature that outward works play in our inner spiritual life. He shows that the inner world is fed by the outward life of the believer; namely, that one’s actions are as much the bread of the soul as they are the fruit of the soul. He writes at length saying:

What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, "You have faith; I have deeds." Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that--and shudder. You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness," and he was called God's friend. You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone. In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.” (James 2:14-25, NIV)

Many facets of Christian behaviour, formerly considered a rudimentary expression of godliness, and rightly, the vessel for and channel of a truly Orthodox Christian phronema, have fallen by the wayside in little more than only the last 60 years. An early 18th century prophecy delivered posthumously by Saint Nilos the Myrrhstreamer of Athos (+1651) to a monk prophesied that in the 20th century there would be a falling away on just such points of holy Tradition among the Orthodox, and of society in general. He foretold that,

After the year 1900, toward the middle of the 20th century, the people of that time will become unrecognisable. When the time for the advent of the Antichrist approaches, people's minds will grow cloudy from carnal passions, and dishonour and lawlessness will grow stronger. Then the world will become unrecognisable. People's appearances will change, and it will be impossible to distinguish men from women due to their shamelessness in dress and style of hair…and Christian pastors, bishops and priests will become vain men, completely failing to distinguish the right way from the left. At that time the morals and traditions of Christians and of the Church will change. People will abandon modesty… (http://www.stjohndc.org/homilies/homnilos.htm)

The new androgynous practices precipitating the loss of our traditions are namely, the shaving of the face for men, short hairstyles for women, the introduction of so-called unisex clothing and the discard among Orthodox women of the head covering or “prayer veil.” These main features of Christian adornment, their meaning and purpose in the traditional Orthodox Christian life and the cause for their defence, are what shall be the focus of this examination.

We shall approach the subject through a series of three essays. The first, shall examine the Orthodox image of the male person; namely the ancient tradition observed by godly men in the wearing of beards and the shunning of the razor. The second shall examine the distinction that must exist between men and women’s clothing. Finally, the third shall discuss the apostolic command concerning the covering of heads in prayer in the manner that it applies to both men and women.

While some care has been taken in writing the articles in a manner that allows them to stand-alone to a degree, they do, to a greater extent, presuppose that one has read the preceding articles. Hence, it is recommended that the reader proceed through them in the order indicated below, that the subsequent essays be taken in their full context and following a logical progression of the arguments.

1. On The Wearing of Beards
2. On Men’s and Women’s Clothing
3. On The Covering of Heads in Prayer
Last edited by Matthew on Fri 21 September 2012 6:35 pm, edited 7 times in total.

Posts: 1812
Joined: Sat 21 January 2012 5:04 am

Re: On Christian Adornment: 1. On the Wearing of Beards

Postby Matthew » Fri 21 September 2012 5:06 pm

On The Wearing of Beards
The Tradition of the Fathers on the Image of Man
and His Place in the Order of Creation

“You will not shave around the sides of your head, nor will you disfigure the edges of your beard”
--Leviticus 19:27

“And although it is written, ‘Ye shall not mar the figure of your beard,’ he plucks out his beard, and dresses his hair; and does he now study to please any one who displeases God?”
--Saint Cyprian, On the Lapsed (A.D. 250)

“They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm. We know that the law is good if one uses it properly.”
--1 Timothy 1:7-8

“The hair of the chin showed him to be a man.”
--Saint Clement of Alexandria (A.D. 195)

“Men may not destroy the hair of their beards and unnaturally change the form of a man. For the Law says, ‘You will not deface your beards.’ For God the Creator has made this decent for woman, but has determined that is unsuitable for men. But if thou do these things to please men, in contradiction to the law, thou wilt be abominable with God, who created thee after His own image.”
--Apostolic Constitutions (compiled A.D. 390)

“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth…” (Genesis 1:1). Thus begins the divine revelation of God in his relationship to humanity. All things are from God, and their purpose is toward God; the galaxies, stars and planets, the earth and the sea, the plants and the animals, and all mankind. Creation in its entirety is naturally disposed in its heavenward gaze: “Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad; let the sea roar, and the fullness thereof. Let the field be joyful, and all that is therein: then shall all the trees of the wood rejoice before the LORD: for he cometh, for he cometh to judge the earth: he shall judge the world with righteousness, and the people with his truth” (Psa. 96:11-13).

But not only these creatures but also mankind, most especially, is appointed to be in worshipful communion with God; for even “Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise" (Matt. 21:16). All are turned toward God in love and longing expectation: “Unto thee lift I up mine eyes, O thou that dwellest in the heavens. Behold, as the eyes of servants look unto the hand of their masters, and as the eyes of a maiden unto the hand of her mistress; so our eyes wait upon the LORD our God, until that he have mercy upon us” (Psa. 123:1-2). The longing is natural. It is breath and life coursing throughout all nature. It is the natural inclination towards that Source of all things, immutable, unchanging, but being the very source of Life itself. God is the supreme image of all that is true and merciful, and so, as blessed Augustine said, “Our hearts were made for you, O Lord, and they are restless until they rest in you.” Those simple words, are perhaps among the most beautiful to ever have moved a pen.

What is the source of this restlessness? Is it not our distance from God, our alienation from that “place” called “home?” We long for freedom from the unnatural state of our life which, being contrary, is unable to fulfil the longings of our original nature. God has not changed. His presence has neither weakened over the centuries. Rather, it is the sensitivity of our hearts to “see and hear” him in our daily affairs that has lost its acuity and memory, its recognition for God as he is in Truth. What do people do when they lose touch with God as he truly is? They erect an image of their own making and call it “god;” not realizing that their perception of what is natural and true and right has been altered from what instincts and perceptions God fashioned and bestowed upon us in the beginning.

And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. (Genesis 1:26-27)

And because they have not known God in the fullness of Truth, rather a caricature of him, but in whose image they were made, naturally, they likewise have fallen into an unnatural perception of their own human image. The degree of expression that this malady has reached in our day is unprecedented, having overcome almost every single nation on earth to abandon its ancient traditions of dress and grooming in exchange for what is, essentially, an androgynous standard for everyone.

Just as sin appeared in the Garden of Eden before the expulsion of our first ancestors, so also the inordinate desire among men to shave their natural beards began very early in history. This is indicated from the commandments in the Law of Moses, for as St. Paul says, “realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane…and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching, according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, with which I have been entrusted” (1Tim.1:9-11). Hence, there were men among the nation of Israel, likely enticed by the influence of the pagan Egyptians who had this practice of shaving, who were defacing their beards. It was a change of sufficient importance to God that he summoned the attention of Moses, his servant, and strongly commanded them to do no such thing: “You will not shave around the sides of your head, nor will you disfigure the edges of your beard” (Lev. 19:27). And again, he writes elsewhere, “Nor will they shave the edges of their beards” (Lev. 21:5). But the practice, while perhaps checked among the Israelites, continued on in the Pagan world around them.

As seen in St. Paul’s words to St. Timothy, the law is good and seeks to bring back to sound teaching those who have gone astray. And in connection with this worthy application of the Mosaic Law, St. Paul says the Law teaches what is “according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God,” with which he had been entrusted. The Church, which hallowed the Law as divinely inspired Scripture and maintained the traditions of Israel, did not abandon the Law of Moses on this point.

Jesus, remember, while criticizing the Pharisees for their hypocrisy, nonetheless affirmed obeying the smaller points of the law, saying, “these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone” (Matt. 23:23). Clement of Alexandria, writing about the year AD195, taught that, “It is not lawful to pluck out the beard, man's natural and noble adornment” (from, The Instructor, Book 3, Chap. 1; “On the True Beauty”). Likewise, Saint Cyprian, writing around A.D. 250, also quoting the Biblical injunction says, “The beard must not be plucked. ‘You will not deface the figure of your beard’” (Ante-Nicean Fathers; vol. 5, p. 553). But was this just mere legalism? Were they weak in their appreciation of the grace of the Christian gospel not knowing that we are no longer, “under the law?”

Of course the writings of both these men testify the opposite. They indeed knew the gospel far more intimately than most of us, and were recognized by the entire Church for their pious and godly lives, their Orthodoxy of teaching, and their love for Christ, especially considering that Clement lived under a constant Roman death sentence, and in the case of St. Cyprian one is moved to compunction by his fearless martyrdom, as we consider our own weakened spiritual state.

This great consideration given to the word of the Law, and hence, the Church’s strong stand against diminishing the beard was held firmly, though actual Jewish Christians, who were more accustomed to keeping the Law, were fast being reduced to a tiny minority among the gentile Christian population through the extremely successful missionary work of the Apostles and their immediate successors. Neither did this adherence to the law regarding the form of manliness hinder the Church’s missionary work, even though the bishops of the Ancient Church did not treat shaving as a cultural artefact of no consequence nor as a matter of mere personal opinion. Rather, insisting on the Law in this regard, they did not consider it a stumbling block to converting their shaven-faced pagan neighbours. In view of their statements, which we shall examine, about this issue, it is doubtful that they would have relinquished their firm position on the matter even if it did prove to be a hindrance to the acceptance of Christian Baptism among the Romans and Greeks.

The Church Fathers marked their teaching with a fearless affirmation of much that the Law recommends and extols concerning the life of virtue and godly order for this reason: the Law is above history and culture because it is a revelation of both the will and character of God himself. It was on this wise that the Apostolic Constitutions of the fourth century Church, concerning shaving or cutting the beard short, conclude, “But if thou do these things to please men, in contradiction to the law, thou wilt be abominable with God, who created thee after His own image.” This indicates quite strongly the recognition among the Apostolic Fathers that there is a kind of divine anthropology running through the law, especially where it touches upon men and women’s appearance and behaviour. And this explains why they were quite critical of the practice.

Concerning the habit of shaving, in the second century Tertullian says, “This sex of ours acknowledges to itself deceptive trickeries of a form peculiarly its own--such as to cut the beard too sharply, to pluck it out here and there, and to shave around the mouth” (Ante-Nicean Fathers; vol. 4, p. 22). And Clement of Alexandria remarks, “How womanly it is for one who is a man to comb himself and shave himself with a razor, for the sake of fine effect, and to arrange his hair in the mirror, shave his cheeks, pluck hairs out of them, and smooth them!” (Ante-Nicean Fathers; vol. 2, p. 275). Why are there such harsh criticisms of this action? Because the Fathers of the Church and, daresay, even the laity were quite aware that this commandment, to not destroy what God had naturally set in place, was a reflection of divine will and order in creation, and was in someway reflective of the nature of God in whose image man had been created. Indeed, the lack of a beard in women is a sign of Eve’s appearance after Adam, woman coming after the man in the order of the human race. God willed that this order should be seen visibly in the faces of his children, male and female.

In reference to this meaning, Clement of Alexandria explains, “For God wished women to be smooth and to rejoice in their locks alone growing spontaneously, as a horse in his mane. But He has adorned man, like the lions, with a beard, and endowed him, as an attribute of manhood, with a hairy chest--a sign of strength and rule” (p.275). This follows the same implications of the anthropology of Saint Paul when he said in the same regard,

…[man] is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man. For man does not originate from woman, but woman from man; for indeed man was not created for the woman's sake, but woman for the man's sake. Therefore the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. However, in the Lord, neither is woman independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. For as the woman originates from the man, so also the man has his birth through the woman; and all things originate from God. (1Cor. 11:7-12, NASB)

This passage deals specifically with head covering, and will be examined more closely in the forthcoming essay as it applies to that topic; however, there is a central point here to consider that has a direct bearing on the issue of men’s natural adornment, the beard.

The beard embodies the reality of man’s headship within the human family. It is the one outstanding mark naturally imprinted by the hand of God himself in male human nature, his physical nature. This feature of male physiology outwardly witnesses to the will of God for a particular person who, from conception, was willed to be male. With God, there is no blurring of the line between male and female, nor of his distinctive will for people accordingly. God’s calling towards theosis, though similar in many regards, is not a duplicate path for both sexes. Therefore, behind the desire to shave, at best there is a spirit of presumption, and at worst, a spirit of rebellion. In either case, there is a vain desire to refashion the visual definition of manhood from what God, without one single exception, stamped into the bodies of every man born since Adam until now; namely the beard.

Perhaps someone might say, “But there are many other defining features within male anatomy that visibly show his manhood: his superior strength, the broadness of his shoulders, his increased height, the depth and tone of his voice. Are these not sufficient witness to his manhood?” To such objections the Fathers make clear the fact that the beard, as no other feature, is the crowning glory of his masculine nature, and that there is no equal or alternative male adornment to vindicate it’s removal.

Clement of Alexandria writes, “This then is the mark of a man, the beard. By this, he is seen to be a man. It is older than Eve. It is the token of the superior nature...It is therefore unholy to desecrate the symbol of Manhood, hairiness” (Ante-Nicean Fathers; vol.2. p.276). Again, there are present in his statement the arguments of order, bodily distinction between the sexes, and of respect towards the Holy Law. It is a form of unchristian rebellion to diminish or eliminate the distinction between men and women, for it is God’s wisdom and love that has erected the order and differences between them and the degree to which these are expressed.

There is also the witness of Lactantius, who lived from A.D. 250 to 310. St. Jerome says of him that he was "the most eloquent man of his time." Lactantius, an apologist and defender of Orthodoxy against paganism, was educated in both Latin and Greek having had a classical education. He was even appointed by the Emperor Constantine to oversee his son’s education. In any case, he makes this concurring remark: “The nature of the beard contributes in an incredible degree to distinguish the maturity of bodies, or to distinguish the sex, or to contribute to the beauty of manliness and strength” (Ante-Nicean Fathers; vol. 7. p.288). Here, he presents exactly the same set of reasons as Clement, with one exception: he adds to the list the importance of degree to which a man is readily to be recognized as such.

It is not enough to say, I still can be seen a man though only less strikingly so. One is still dishonouring God, for the image of manhood has been decreased in its power. This is why it is considered shameful to be shaved in the ancient world. It is to negate manhood and move towards womanly attributes and effeminacy. When an invading army conquered another people, one of the chief punishments inflicted on the defeated men was the shaving of their beards: “In that day the Lord will use a razor hired from beyond the River-the king of Assyria-to shave your head and the hair of your legs, and to take off your beards also” (Isaiah7:20, NIV). And again, the shamefulness of being seen publicly beardless is demonstrated in this Old Testament account:

So Hanun seized David's men, shaved off half of each man's beard, cut off their garments in the middle at the buttocks, and sent them away. When David was told about this, he sent messengers to meet the men, for they were greatly humiliated. The king said, "Stay at Jericho till your beards have grown, and then come back. (2 Sam. 10:4-5).

Christ was also smitten with this shameful action as part of the passion of the Cross: “I offered my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard; I did not hide my face from mocking and spitting” (Isaiah 50:6, NIV). The idea that a man would voluntarily shave himself under the notion that it was an improvement is beyond belief. It is proof that a person has had his sense of humanity and manhood perverted from what is natural and honourable and comely, to what, though considered more cultured and civilized, is nonetheless unnatural, shameful and unhandsome.

The shaving of beards was also seen to be a sign of apostasy from the faith in the history of the Church. We hear St. Cyprian remark about the Christian men who had fallen into disregard concerning the Faith in many vital areas. Almost as though it were consummate proof of their other mounting sins, as confirmation he notes this about them: “In their manners, there was no discipline. In men, their beards were defaced” (On the Lapsed, treatise 3.6). And the same understanding is reflected in the Anathemas of AD1054 against the See of Rome that widely encouraged shaving among the clergy and had rejected the beard as a sign of incivility; the shaving of beards being enumerated among the offences (Reference?).

Again, in the 18th century, St. Kosmas Aitolos, a defender of Orthodoxy, strongly admonished the Orthodox of his day to avoid shaving, because it was both unnatural, representing a dishonour to the male image, and a departure from holy Tradition.

I also say a word for men. It is natural for a man who is going on fifty years to wear a beard. But here I see old men who are sixty and eighty years old and still shave. Aren't you ashamed to shave? Doesn't God who gave us beards know better? Just as it is unseemly for an old woman to deck herself out and put on cosmetics, so it is for an old man to shave…You, young men, honour those with beards. And if there is a man of thirty with a beard and one of fifty, or sixty, or a hundred who shaves, place the one with the beard above the one who shaves, in church as well as at the table.” (Father Kosmas: Apostle of the Poor; First Teaching; Nomikos Michael Vaporis, GOA. 1990,1996).

But at the same time he provided this admonition with some very reasonable considerations to avoid any extreme conclusions regarding the matter. In their proper place, beards are aids to the walk of faith and developing a truly God-like sense of manhood; they are not anything more or less than that. He wisely points out, “On the other hand, I don't say that a beard will get you to heaven, but good works will” (Ibid.). This position is maintained in recent times also.

Saint Nektarios of Aegina, despite the modern climate of Greek society and the generally accepted custom of shaving, still gently yet firmly admonished the students of the seminary in Athens that all the “small traditions” of Orthodoxy are not compromised without fatal losses, whether it be ceasing to wear a cassock in public or shaving off their beards.

"My children, in each one of you exists a future priest, an important element of the history and future life of our suffering country. Be proud to wear your cassocks. This vocation is not merely a joy, but also a mission which begins on earth and continues into heaven. Be proud of your Orthodox Faith. Orthodoxy is our treasure, our priceless pearl, if you will. Orthodoxy is also our light that guides us. If we were ever to lose this treasure, then we would be scattered to the ends of the earth like dust, ceasing to exist as a people and as a nation.... Let us create a blessed brotherhood. I promise that I will stand by your side always as a spiritual father.... Also, I noticed that most of you are beardless. Be not swayed by the Europeans. We Greek Orthodox have our own traditions, dating back to the holy apostles and early Church fathers. I ask that you follow their manly examples. Do it for the struggles and hardships they endured." (The Greek Synaxaristes for November, p. 289; Holy Apostles Convent)

And most recently, for the same reasons as Saint Nektarios, Photios Kontoglou, the famed iconographer, lay theologian, writer and poet did not make a distinction between the dogmatic aspects of tradition and those of a supposedly “less vital” nature, as many wish to do today. The idea that the dogmatic Traditions, such as the Creed or the Incarnation, are non-negotiable and essential, whilst the others, such as beards and cassocks are negotiable and of only relative value, is a notion to be rejected absolutely. According to Dr. Constantine Cavarnos, Kontoglou maintained that to make such distinctions is to ensure that the entire edifice of Orthodox Tradition would eventually go on the auction block, because “All of these things [specifically referring to the cassock and the beard] are organically related to one another... When you eliminate these things, what's left? Soon you'll begin toning down the dogmas because of minimalism or relativism” (“Divine Ascent,” Vol. I, Nos. 3 & 4, p. 44). This is far from unreasonable; indeed, it is well within the phronema of the Church regarding the interrelatedness of all points of the Apostolic Tradition, which is summed up in these words of our Saviour: “He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much” (Luke 16:10).

After seeing the long uninterrupted tradition of maintaining the natural adornment for men of the beard, and seeing that it is based on divine will and revelation concerning the true anthropology of Man in the Image of God, and finally seeing that shaving has always been associated with growing general apostasy regarding the Orthodox Faith, one still might wonder why, 350 years ago, Saint Nilos would make such an extreme statement about 20th Century society as, “it will be impossible to distinguish men from women due to their shamelessness in dress and style of hair.” After all, most people living in the 20th century, and now in the 21st century, generally have no problem distinguishing men from women though beards are rather a rarity. Does this not, if anything, prove the falsity of St. Nilos’ prophecy?

The explanation is quite revealing concerning the truth of what has already been said. There are an abundance of accounts throughout history of men and women who, by merely cross-dressing and/or shaving beards were able to present themselves convincingly and completely unnoticed as the opposite sex. Even when normally we would expect the voice to betray the facts of a woman’s sex, many female saints were able to avoid marriage by simply wearing men’s clothing and live in solitude undisturbed (See Article #2). This is because the effect that traditional adornment (dress and hairstyles, but chiefly the presence of the beard), has had on recognizing the sex of a person in the natural state, is so powerful that without it, the normal traditional person being unaccustomed to the unnaturally androgynous form of modern man and woman, is unable to detect sex in generally androgynous styles.

But for now, suffice it to say that the main malady that this prophecy illustrates is that the manner and degree to which there is a manifest distinction between men and women is so greatly both altered and diminished that, although there seems to be no problem distinguishing the sexes for the modern person, people have nonetheless accepted a measurement of masculinity and femininity that is false and perverse. It is proven by the fact that, people in the time of St. Nilos (or any other time in the history of God’s people) would essentially be unable to readily distinguish modern men from women, and conversely, that the modern ability to distinguish the sexes despite the absence of the most natural and chief male adornment is evidence of our self-alienation and loss of true anthropology and divine knowledge regarding the sexes.

In conclusion, we have seen that the beard is God’s will for man in his fully natural and human form and that in this condition he most truly reflects God in whose image he was created. Consequently, the beard is synonymous with both purity of knowledge concerning God’s character and will, and it is related to greater self-knowledge and self-acceptance regarding man’s true identity and natural form. The Church Fathers, and the Saints of the Church testify that the loss of Orthodoxy is always associated with self-alienation, and both are the product of estrangement from God, and signify a loss of the true knowledge of Him in whose image we are made. Indeed, to tamper with the beard is not only to mock one’s own nature but it is to call the wisdom of God into question. It is, therefore, to alter the confession of faith given to us from Abraham and to which Orthodox Christians have held for two thousand years: that God is all wise, and has set all things in order according to his wisdom, bestowing upon each sex unique features consonant with its place and nature after his good pleasure and judgment.

Posts: 1812
Joined: Sat 21 January 2012 5:04 am

Re: On the Wearing of Beards

Postby Matthew » Fri 21 September 2012 6:32 pm

Practical Considerations for Our times

Note: The following comments are reflective of the economeia of the Orthodox Church.

“For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.”
--Matthew 23:4 (KJV)

“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
--Matthew 11:28-30 (KJV)

While the teaching of the Church on the wearing of beards has been clearly stated in the above article, in the case of laymen it remains, however, un-addressed by the canons of the Orthodox Church. Without ignoring the fact that each small compromise is bound to affect our Orthodoxy in other vital but seemingly unrelated areas, in the judgment of the Saints, and of the bishops of the Orthodox Church, it is still permissible for a believer under some necessity, be it concerns of cleanliness or arising from standards demanded in one’s field of employment, to exercise some degree of consideration regarding modern standards of grooming.

The modern world in which we Orthodox Christians must live and work often exerts great pressure upon the Faithful to conform to its ways and, in many instances, stands in the way of godly living. The Christian is in tension between what his faith and fidelity to God admonish and what is dictated by his association with the world, which to some degree is necessary. It is the duty of each man of the Church to honestly appraise the most suitable degree to which he is able to live undisturbed in his associations with society and yet reverently maintain fidelity to the traditions of the Holy Church. To that end it is highly recommended that he consult his spiritual father in arriving at both a conscientious and a reasonable rule in this regard, thereby adding to his observance, the blessing found in the virtue of obedience to the Church and one’s right-believing bishop.

While Clement of Alexandria has made very decisive judgments regarding the sacred nature of the beard and the lawlessness of shaving, he does offer some degree of permission regarding limited cutting and shaving, though he clearly desires men to shun any such thing if possible. He writes, “And if someone, too, shaves a part of his beard, it must not be made entirely bare, for this is a disgraceful sight… The moustache similarly, which is dirtied in eating, is to be cut round, not by the razor (for that is not well bred), but by a pair of cropping scissors. But the hair on the chin is not to be disturbed” (vol.2, p. 286, Ante-Nicene Fathers).
Thus, Clement reflects the Church’s restraint and, at least in the case of laymen, does not impose either complete fidelity to the ideals of the male image, nor does he prescribe any disciplinary actions if someone shaves; action which would have been required in the case of a member of the clergy who shaved contrary to the law of God.

It is thus worthy of note that, while the canons of the Church forbid clergy to shave their beards off, there is no such commandment applied to laymen. This should not be taken as approval, mind. And God forbid that it should lead anyone to carelessness in this regard. It simply indicates that the standards of true piety must be maintained by the chief exemplars of the Church. Let no layman imagine he does nothing amiss regarding his fidelity towards the Faith in shaving completely, if he does so for no other reason than that he is under the influence of pagan notions of fashion.

Having said this, Clement shows that the Church, regarding the grooming of the beard, allowed and even recommended the cutting of the moustache which, if too long, inhibits eating and even poses a serious problem in the reception of Holy Communion. Moreover, some shaving is allowed, as long as it is not the hair of the chin; the goatee being reflective of this accepted form of compromise. Many Russian clergy have long time been permitted to wear goatees instead of full beards, and can be seen doing so today.

Saint Kosmas Aitolos is another witness to the permission, within the bounds of Holy Orthodox Tradition, given to the faithful in limited shaving and cutting. When dealing with laymen, he goes further than Clement in what he permits by recommending that men at least maintain a moustache, if nothing else (“Orthodox Tradition,” vol. XII, No. 3, p. 21). Here we see that, in the case of laymen, the defenders of Orthodoxy would go so far as to permit even the loss of the beard among communing men of the Church, as long as they had at least a moustache. But even here, it must be noted that regarding laymen there is no canonical judgment on this matter.

While the Tradition of the Church is clear as to what is praiseworthy and honourable in the sight of God and truly commendable, and clearly reproves even laymen who vainly shave or diminish the natural adornment bestowed by God, the Church throughout the centuries has nonetheless seen fit to stop short of forcing laymen to wear beards or even moustaches. Hence, for a layman to be totally shaved of all facial hair is not out of the question. But it is still very much appropriate that a layman’s conscience be weighed down by all that has been previously said about the propriety of keeping the tradition of the Church in this regard, if he shaves himself completely bare without just cause.

In summary, then, the holy Tradition of the Orthodox Church is that a full beard is the only full form of manly appearance and true fidelity to the will of God in its entirety. Thus, members of the clergy, at very least, ought to have a goatee, if not a full untrimmed beard and are required to do so by the canons of the Church. All men are recommended to trim their moustache short (if they will not use moustache wax) to ensure that a lengthy moustache is not going to interfere with the safe reception of communion. Finally, in the case of laymen there is no canonical injunction to refrain from being completely shaved. But it is the opinion of the Holy Fathers and Saints of the Church that all men, if they will not have an untrimmed full beard, ought to have, at a minimum, a moustache, or better, a goatee.

Proceed to part 2: On Men’s and Women’s Clothing

User avatar
Posts: 1346
Joined: Fri 1 April 2005 4:04 pm
Location: Paris (France)

Re: On Beards, Men's & Women's Clothing, & Head Coverings

Postby Jean-Serge » Fri 4 January 2013 9:27 am

Very interesting but why don't you post the rest of the article?
Priidite, poklonimsja i pripadem ko Hristu.

Posts: 1812
Joined: Sat 21 January 2012 5:04 am

Re: On Beards, Men's & Women's Clothing, & Head Coverings

Postby Matthew » Fri 4 January 2013 3:59 pm

Because nobody was interested in the subject. I posted this ages ago and the only feedback I ever got both here and on others sites was either complete silence or people mocked, or they got defensive and angry and called me an "Old Believer".

People, I mean not only the World Orthodox, but even the TOC believers, largely do NOT want to hear this. So I have no desire to confront this issue anymore in a public forum.

User avatar
Posts: 8268
Joined: Sat 12 June 2004 12:39 am
Faith: True Orthodox Christian
Jurisdiction: GOC
Location: USA

Re: On Beards, Men's & Women's Clothing, & Head Coverings

Postby Maria » Fri 4 January 2013 11:47 pm

Icxypion wrote:Because nobody was interested in the subject. I posted this ages ago and the only feedback I ever got both here and on others sites was either complete silence or people mocked, or they got defensive and angry and called me an "Old Believer".

People, I mean not only the World Orthodox, but even the TOC believers, largely do NOT want to hear this. So I have no desire to confront this issue anymore in a public forum.

I did not know that TOC believers do not like to hear this. I have only heard from a few outspoken liberal TOCers, but they are uneducated members of the laity and certainly not members of the clergy, so they do not represent the majority. I did not post in this thread because I thought that you had more to post and I did not want to interrupt the flow. Please continue to post the entire document. Thanks.
Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me a sinner.

User avatar
Posts: 1346
Joined: Fri 1 April 2005 4:04 pm
Location: Paris (France)

Re: On Beards, Men's & Women's Clothing, & Head Coverings

Postby Jean-Serge » Sat 1 June 2013 6:41 pm

Could the continuation of the text be psoted please! Thank you!
Priidite, poklonimsja i pripadem ko Hristu.

Return to “Praxis”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 6 guests