Translate

Sunday, December 14, 2008

So, What's With The Beard and Long Hair?

In the midst of my Journey To Orthodoxy, I find my self being redefined. In a word: I am changing. In another word: It is theosis. Inclinations of the heart are difficult to express in words, but simply put, I have become inclined not to shave nor trim my beard or hair. It is an abandonment of sorts, of the image that I have traditionally presented to the world around me. My thought was that by allowing my facial hair and head hair to grow that the self that I promoted would be hidden to the extent that I would be less likely to depend on it. Ironically, I have found that the long term influence of the western culture has provoked those who have known the clean cut, professional Nathan, to take notice of me-my opposite desire and intent. I have experienced some strong reactions from a few. A recent visit with my extended family in Arkansas was met with honest questions unsolicited advise and some insults. "So why'd you grow the beard?" "If you cut your hair and beard you might be able to get a better job. You look awful. Awful!" A prophet is not welcomed in his own town, especially a former Baptist turned Orthodox. If my entertaining strange doctrines and practices were not enough, now my physical appearance is being altered! I'm sure that my visit provided my family with a welcomed supply of food for the fodder but being in my fourth year of Orthodoxy, I am somewhat accustomed to my family's consternation of my new faith.

I was not accustomed, however, nor did I expect a particular reaction by a parishioner at church. She
has been Orthodox many years and is a leader in the church. I became sorrowfully aware by her actions that tenure of Orthodoxy doesn't guarantee a complete or untainted understanding of the faith and traditions we hold. The parishioner's reaction to me was stunning and degrading. She approached me as I was talking to our godly priest emeritus, who is also bearded, yanked on my beard and made reference to us trying to "look like Santa Claus." Being that this was the first full beard I have ever grown, it was a new feeling for me. I don't ever remember feeling so violated. I was speechless as was the priest. What is one to say to such disrespect? By God's grace one does not say what one might. A man's beard is a sign of God's glory on him just as is a woman hair. The woman's ignorant act was akin to me yanking on her hair. I am able to allow for the fact that this woman is a convert to Orthodoxy and is part of a predominately convert Church, thus there are a few holes in her Orthodoxy.

Orthodoxy is not western. Orthodoxy does not and should not automatically conform to the culture around it. Only that which needs to conform is conformed. The culture of long hair and beards for men is not one of them. It is canon. It has purpose. It has history. It has reason. It is holy. It is a sign of the glory of God on his people. It is this that the woman yanked on. It is this that others despise when they criticise, make light of or reject as an oddity, the beard or long hair of an Orthodox man. Such a look for Orthodox men has been written about, confirmed and practiced by the church as a whole and is relevant in any culture. It would benefit all Orthodox people and non-orthodox family members of those on their Journey To Orthodoxy, to understand the sanctity of this practice so as to show due respect to this element of what the Church practices. Anyone on a JTO is already wrought with undiscovered paths, disciplines, rejection and difficult soul wrenching. The absence of soul wrenching provoked by insensitive observers would be a welcomed thing.

23 comments:

  1. Debbie Espen5:48 PM

    How inconsiderate of them all! I think it looks good - very masculine as nature intended. To make fun of a man's beard is to mock his very masculinity.

    ReplyDelete
  2. You go girl! Oh, I'm sorry...was that sexist? :) Thanks Deb.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Very cool, Nathan. I've been on a similar path myself--physically changing as I spiritually change. It's been an incredible experience. Most of the hours of my days are spent at home, or in a library carrel studying, writing, etc. For the past ten weeks, I've been making an effort to connect with God every hour (the goal, of course, is prayer without ceasing). So every hour, I try to stop and pray (with full force of my imagination) "Our Father" (usually) or St. Patrick's Breastplate. The past couple weeks, I have also been going through a daily liturgy (THe Rhythm of Life: Celtic Daily Prayer by David Adam). But also, every hour (whenever circumstance permits) I will do pushups. That may sound silly, but it has really been a profound metaphor to me: as I "work out" spiritually every hour through prayer, I also work out physically. I am one, holistic being: body, mind, spirit. I've NEVER been one for working out, but it has not been difficult to do this because it is such a simple thing. But the effect of it all is that I feel so holistically fresh and invigorated every hour, and I have also been changing physically--muscle growth. It's been to me a profound physical symbol of the transformative work of theosis God is doing holistically in me. So I very much understand where you're coming from with your own physical change.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Pray that I too may be inspired to exercise.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Interesting to read, as I have just recently decided to grow out my hair and quit trimming my existent beard. Was even called "grizzly" this morning by a coworker. Thanks for the post.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Reader Joseph, Or may I call you Griz? You think we need to form a support group? Oh wait, we already have one. It's called The Church. Thanks for taking time to comment. I hope you stop by often.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Anonymous4:43 PM

    Is a beard and hair required for lay people? I have a shaved head and face and was curious.

    ReplyDelete
  8. What if you can't really grow much of a beard? If if you try to grow a beard and it's so uneven, sparse and messed-up lookin'?

    ReplyDelete
  9. Serafim, Uneven, sparse, and messed-up-looking is the point. You are the man you are and your beard is the indication of that. You refrain from trying to impress anyone by the ornateness of your grooming, especially the pagan custom of shaving. The canonical way is to not cut or trim your beard.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Anon, Who would be the requirer? Orthodoxy is not under a papal system. Laymen follow the path of God through the traditions of the church. We do what our heart requires us to do and we are compelled by Canon, traditions, and scripture which speak volumes about the spiritual purpose of beards on men. Have I ever heard a Bishop issue an edict, "All laymen must now grow a beard",? No. Do many laymen have beards in the USA and elsewhere? Yes.

    ReplyDelete
  11. This is so encouraging to my husband and me (not that I’m growing a beard lol but to help me support my husband when he does get criticized by my family), thank you! We are catechumens and by the grace of God and will my Husband and son will be baptized along with my chrism next Sunday. Again thank you for your insight and words. Glory be to God for all things.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Welcome home colercoler23! I am so glad the open display of my Journey To Orthodoxy, warts and all, has helped. Please come back often. You can also e-mail me: journeytoorthodoxy@gmail.com. Keep me posted on your JTO!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for your welcome! May God be merciful to you and keep blessing you to help others through this website and your life.

      Delete
  13. Anonymous10:59 PM

    Thank you for this article. My husband asked me about this. I converted, then left the church. Now I find myself singing parts of the liturgy etc, and began telling my husband about Orthodoxy. He had asked about the hair and beards and I couldn't give a solid answer but I said everything the Orthodox Church does has meaning behind it. God Bless You

    ReplyDelete
  14. Anon, I pray that you both will live in the peace and communion of His Holy Church.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Thanks for writing this, Nathan! I, too, see my long, full beard as an external expression of my theosis

    ReplyDelete
  16. ...now, if our wives have the same vision, there is peace. :)

    ReplyDelete
  17. the way to happiness is to please God, not to become man-pleaser. It's another form of self-denial! Glory be to Jesus Christ!

    ReplyDelete
  18. Divine peace or shalom in hebrew be upon those who follow divine guidance. I am a neo-orthodox Muslim missionary and I admire pro-traditionalism of orthodoxy like growing beards for example which we consider the universal sunnah(orthopraxy) of all Prophets.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Anonymous9:42 PM

    I work in the petrochemical industry where we are not allowed to have a beard. However when i retire i will be throwing my razor away.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Few decades back no one had heard about beard hair transplant as there were no technologies that could help men get fuller beard. But with new scientific techniques and modern equipments, this has become possible and that too in a very safe manner.
    beard hair transplant in dubai

    ReplyDelete
  21. A layman should not wear long hair. Canon Law does forbid it. There are Canons mandating the beard for all Christian men. Only the Old Believers follow this now. I've been told that there are some Greek bishops who won't commune clean shaven laymen; although for a layman, a moustache might be sufficient.

    ReplyDelete

Welcome to JTO. The ability to comment is currently open to all. All comments are filtered prior to posting. Anonymous posters are asked to sign their comment with an identifying name (first name is okay) to prevent confusion in the discussion.