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.