Long Hair & Beards in light of Orthodox Holy Tradition by thefifthseal


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									Concerning the Tradition of Long Hair and Beards
The question of the appropriateness of long hair and beards is frequently put to traditional
Orthodox clergy. A comprehensive article appeared in Orthodox Life concerning clergy
dress in the J./F. 1991 issue. At this time we would like to address the topic of clergy
appearance, i.e. hair and beards.

Anyone looking at photographs and portraits of clergy in Greece, Russia, Rumania, and
other Orthodox countries taken in the early twentieth century will notice that almost
without exception both the monastic and married clergy, priests and deacons, wore
untrimmed beards and hair. Only after the First World War do we observe a new, modern
look, cropped hair and beardless clergy. This fashion has been continued among some of
the clergy to our own day. If one were to investigate this phenomenon in terms of a single
clergyman whose life spanned the greater part of our century one would probably notice
his style modernize from the first photographs up through the last.

There are two reasons given as an explanation for this change: it is said, "One must
conform with fashion, we cannot look like peasants!" Or even more absurd, "My wife
will not allow it!". Such reasoning is the "dogmatic" line of modernists who either desire
to imitate contemporary fashion (if beards are "in," they wear beards, if beards are "out,"
they shave), or are ecumenically minded, not wanting to offend clergy in denominations
outside the Orthodox Church. The other reason is based on a passage of Holy Scripture
where Saint Paul states, Both not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long
hair, it is a shame unto him? (I Cor. 11:14) In answer to the first justification, Orthodox
tradition directly condemns Modernism and Ecumenism. It is necessary however to deal
in more detail with the argument that bases its premise on Holy Scripture.

Orthodox Christian piety begins in the Holy Tradition of the Old Testament. Our
relationship to the Lord God, holiness, worship, and morality was formed in the ancient
times of the Bible. At the time of the foundation of the priesthood the Lord gave the
following commandments to the priests during periods of mourning, And ye shall not
shave your head for the dead [a pagan practice] with a baldness on the top; and they shall
not shave their beard... (Lev. 21:5), and to all men in general, Ye shall not make a round
cutting of the hair of your head, nor disfigure your beard (Lev. 19:27). The significance
of these commandments is to illustrate that the clergy are to devote themselves
completely to serving the Lord. Laymen as well are called to a similar service though
without the priestly functions. This out ward appearance as a commandment was repeated
in the law given to the Nazarene, a razor shall not come upon his head, until the days be
fulfilled which he vowed to the Lord: he shall be holy, cherishing the long hair of the
head all the days of his vow to the Lord... (Numbers 6:5-6).

The significance of the Nazarene vow was a sign of God's power resting on the person
who made it. To cut off the hair meant to cut off God's power as in the example of
Samson (see Judges 16:17-19). The strength of these pious observances, transmitted to
the New Testament Church, were observed without question till our present times of
willfulness and the apostasy resulting from it. Why, one might ask, do those Orthodox
clergymen, while rejecting the above pious ordinances about hair, continue to observe the
custom of granting various head coverings to clergy, a practice which also has its roots in
the ancient ordinances of the Old Testament (cf. Ex. 24:4-6) and the tradition of the early
Church (see Fusebius and Epiphanius of Cyprus concerning the miters worn by the
Apostles John and James)?

The Apostle Paul himself wore his hair long as we can conclude from the following
passage where it is mentioned that "head bands," [Webmaster note: he then cites the
Slavonic word using a special font. Consult the original article if needed.], and "towels"
touched to his body were placed on the sick to heal them. The "head bands" indicate the
length of his hair (in accordance with pious custom) which had to be tied back in order to
keep it in place (cf. Acts 19:12). The historian Egezit writes that the Apostle James, the
head of the church in Jerusalem, never cut his hair (Christian Reading, Feb. 1898, p.142,
[in Russian]).

If the pious practice among clergy and laity in the Christian community was to follow the
example of the Old Testament, how then are we to understand the words of Saint Paul to
the Corinthians cited earlier (I Cor. 11:14)? Saint Paul in the cited passage is addressing
men and woman who are praying (cf. I Cor. 11:3-4). His words in the above passages, as
well as in other passages concerning head coverings (cf. I Cor. 11: 4-7), are directed to
laymen, not clergy. In other passages Saint Paul makes an obvious distinction between
the clerical and lay rank (cf. I Cor. 4:1, I Tim. 4:6, Col. 1:7, and others). He did not
oppose the Old Testament ordinance in regard to hair and beards since, as we have noted
above, he himself observed it, as did Our Lord Himself, Who is depicted on all occasions
with long hair and beard as the Great High Priest of the new Christian priest hood.

In our passage noted previously, Both not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have
long hair, it is a shame unto him? (I Cor. 11:14) Saint Paul uses the Greek word for
"hair." This particular word for hair designates hair as an a ornament (the notion of length
being only secondary and suggested), differing from [Gr.] thrix (the anatomical or
physical term for hair). [1] Saint Paul's selection of words emphasizes his criticism of
laymen wearing their hair in a stylized fashion, which was contrary to pious Jewish and
Christian love of modesty. We note the same approach to hair as that of Saint Paul in the
96th canon of the Sixth Ecumenical Council where it states: "Those therefore who adorn
and arrange their hair to the detriment of those who see them, that is by cunningly
devised intertwinings, and by this means put a bait in the way of unstable souls." [2]

In another source, The Eerdmans Bible Dictionary, we read the following concerning the
Old Testament practice: "To an extent, hair style was a matter of fashion, at least among
the upper classes, who were particularly open to foreign [pagan] influence. Nevertheless,
long hair appears to have been the rule among the Hebrews (cf. Ezek. 8:3), both men and
women" [3] (cf. Cant 4:1; 7:5). Thus we observe that cropped or stylized hair was the
fashion among the pagans and not acceptable, especially among the Christian clergy from
most ancient times up to our contemporary break with Holy Tradition. It is interesting to
note that the fashion of cropped or stylized hair and shaved beards found its way into the
Roman Catholic and Protestant worlds. So important had this pagan custom be come for
Roman clergy by the 11th Century that it was listed among the reasons for the Anathema
pronounced by Cardinal Humbert on July 15, 1054 against Patriarch Michael in
Constantinople which precipitated the Western Church's final falling away from the
Orthodox Church: "While wearing beards and long hair you [Eastern Orthodox] reject the
bond of brotherhood with the Roman clergy, since they shave and cut their hair." [!] [4]

Igumen Luke


* Webmaster note: In the original article footnotes 2 and 3 were reversed in the text and footnotes.

1) Joseph Thayer D. D., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, p. 354.

2) The Rudder, trans. by D. Cummings, p. 403.

3) A. C. Myers ed., The Eerdmans Bible Dictionary, p.455

4) N. N. Voekov, The Church, Russia, and Rome, (in Russian), p. 98.

From Orthodox Life, Vol. 45, No. 5 (Sept-Oct 1995), pp. 41-43.


Uncut Hair and Beards of the Clergy
You often state that clergy must not cut their hair and beards. There are church canons to support this and
certainly it is part of church tradition. But you also know that St. Paul says that men should not have long
hair and that certain church canons even allow for a monk with hair that is too long to cut it, as well as to
cut his hair when he is away from the monastery. I would like your guidance on this apparent contradiction
in tradition. (Fr. J.K., MA)

Your comments are intelligently stated and do not, as is often the case, seek to dispense
with a difficult discipline—the uncut hair and beard of Orthodox clergy—by posing false
contradictions in practice. The tradition of maintaining uncut hair and beard among the
monastic and married clergy no doubt traces back to the ascetics of the desert. Just as
monastic practice has influenced parish worship, so monastic dress and grooming have
played an observable role in establishing the standard for clerical dress among married
Priests. Except among "Westernized" Orthodox, with their anti-monastic bias, this
influence by the barometer of spiritual life, the monastic estate, on the so-called "secular"
clergy has always been thought positive.

Since an ascetic monastic foregoes the cutting of his hair and beard in order to avoid
vanity, this custom has a practical purpose. Thus, it is obvious that a monastic would also
avoid looking effeminate or styling his hair. It is for this reason that, if his hair gets too
long, such that it resembles that of a woman, a monastic may ask his superior to cut it.
When he goes out into the world, too, he should, in such circumstances, trim his hair and
keep it tied up in back, as is the custom in the Greek and some Slavic Churches. This is in
keeping with the spirit of St. Paul's admonition against men having long hair like that of
women, when this admonition is read in context.

What we must understand, here, is that the cutting of hair in all of these instances means
nothing more than trimming off hair that falls below the middle of the back. We are not
talking about the modern haircut, which is, in fact, the equivalent of the desecration of the
head that led to Samson's loss of strength and power. Clergymen are, therefore,
unjustified in cutting their hair in the modern style, which is almost unknown in Christian
history, until recent centuries. With regard to shaving, the Old Testament, the Church
Fathers, and the Canons forbid a clergyman to cut his beard. One of the observations
made by the Orthodox against the Popes during the union councils (and repeated by a
number of Orthodox Fathers in modern times) was that, as they began to deviate from the
Apostolic Faith, they also, oddly enough, began to shave off their beards. Moreover, not
only should clergymen not shave, according to various Church authorities, but many holy
men, such as St. Kosmas Aitolos, hold that laymen should let their beards, or least a
moustache, grow naturally.

All of this does not, of course, mean that an Orthodox clergyman should not be clean and
well groomed. The Canons allow for the trimming of the moustache (primarily for the
purpose of insuring care in taking Holy Communion), and certainly by economy a Priest
can trim his beard slightly, if he has to hold a secular job. Long hair should also be tied
up in back or tucked under the collar, for which reason it rarely presents a problem for a
working Priest who truly wishes to abide by canonical exactitude. (And by Priest, here,
we mean, of course, both the Presbyter and the Deacon.) Nor would we argue that a beard
and uncut hair are the sure signs of a good Priest. They are, as Bishop Chrysostomos of
Etna always tells us, no more or less important to a Priest than "feathers are to a bird."

Finally, in anticipation of those who oppose the canonical disciplines placed on Orthodox
clergy, let us acknowledge that some monks, in the history of the Church, maintained a
tonsure which involved cutting hair from the top of the head. This was one of many
customs which did not last, and is not an argument against the living tradition of the
Church as it has survived today, which assigns to monastics and "secular" clergy alike the
discipline of leaving the hair and beard uncut, This discipline, combined with adherence
to the canonical dress of the clergy (in Church, on the street, and at home), is a powerful
deterrent against improper behavior on the part of Priests, who should be moral
exemplars for the people, and provides a vivid witness of the peculiar nature to the people
of God, the Christians.

St. Tikhon and Clerical Appearance
When Patriarch St. Tikhon was Bishop in America early this century, he ordered his clergy to shave and
wear Western clerical dress. What does this say of your "traditional" dress? (J.K., NJ)
We have seen only one directive attributed to St. Tikhon on this subject, and it by no
means "orders" clergy in America under his jurisdiction to abandon traditional Orthodox
dress and grooming. It is also well known that the late Father Georges Florovsky disputed
the authenticity of this directive. Whatever the case, St. Tikhon did openly speak of a
distinction between the "essentials" and "accidentals" of the Faith, allowing for a number
of innovations, including some in clerical appearance. A distinction of the kind made by
the Saint is atypical in Orthodoxy, wherein "externals" (matters of apparent accident) are
thought to reflect and to be inseparable from an "internal" (or essential) reality. St.
Tikhon of course embraced this principle, and his deviation from it merely entailed
practical accommodations necessitated by difficulties facing the early Orthodox
immigration to America. It is both dishonest and an insult to the Saint's memory that his
use of justifiable oikonomia in what was then a relatively new mission is now invoked as
a standard of Orthodox practice in a local Church that is more than two centuries old.

From Orthodox Tradition, Vol. XII, No. 3, pp. 19-21.


St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite's Comments on Canon 96 of the Sixth
Oecumenical Synod
Those too incur the excommunication of this Canon, according to Zonaras, who do not
put a razor to their head at all, nor cut the hair of their head, but let it grow long enough
to reach to the belt like that of women, and those who bleach their hair so as to make it
blond or golden, or who twist it up and tie it on spills in order to make it curly; or who
put wigs or rats on their head. This excommunication is incurred also by those who shave
off their beard in order to make their face smooth and handsome after such treatment, and
not to have it curly, or in order to appear at all times like beardless young men; and those
who singe the hair of their beard with a red hot tile so as to remove any that is longer than
the rest, or more crooked; or who use tweezers to pluck out the superfluous hairs on their
face, in order to become tender and appear handsome; or who dye their beard, in order
not to appear to be old men. This same excommunication is incurred also by those
women who use rouge and paint on their face, in order to look pretty, and in this way to
attract men beholding them to their Satanic love. Oh, and how the miserable women have
the hardihood to dishonor the image which God gave them with their wicked
beautifications! Ah! how is God to recognize them and tell whether they are His own
creatures and images, at a time when they are wearing another face which is devilish, and
another image, which is that of Satan? Hence it is that St. Gregory the Theologian says
the following in his epic verses:

Build yourselves not towers of spurious tresses on your head, women,
While petting soft necks of rocks invisible;
Nor apply shameful paint to forms of Gods,
So as to be wearing masks, and not faces.
Lest God requite you for such things when He has come to resent them.
Who? Whence is the Creator? Avaunt, get thee away from me, strange female!
I did not paint thee a bitch, but created an image of myself.
How is it that I have an idol, a specter instead of a friend?

And the poor wretches do not know that by what they are doing they are managing only
to make themselves like that hag and whore called Jezebel (II Kings 9:30), and are
themselves becoming new and second Jezebels, because she too used to paint her face in
order to please the eyes of men, just as is written: And when Jehu was come to Jezreel,
Jezebel heard of him; and she painted her face, and attired her head, and peeped through
the window (ibid.). So all men and all women who do such things are all
excommunicated by the present Ecumenical Council. And is these things are forbidden to
be done by the laity in general, how much more they are forbidden to clerics and those in
holy orders, who ought by their speech and by their conduct, and by the outward decency
and plainness of their garments, and of their hair, and of their beard, to teach the laity not
to be body-lovers and exquisites, but soul-lovers and virtue- lovers. Note that the present
Canon censures the priests of the Latins who shave off their moustache and their beard
and who look like very young men and handsome bridegrooms and have the face of
women. For God forbids men of the laity in general to shave their beard, by saying: Ye
shall not mar the appearance of your bearded chin (Lev. 19:27). But He specially forbids
those in holy orders to shave their beard, by saying to Moses to tell the sons of Aaron, or,
in other words, the priests, not to shave the skin of their bearded chin (Lev. 21:5). Not
only did He forbid this in words, but He even appeared to Daniel with whiskers and beard
as the Ancient of Days (Dan. 7:9); and the Son of God wore a beard while he was alive in
the flesh. And our Forefathers and Patriarchs and Prophets and Apostles all wore beards,
as is plainly evident from the most ancient pictures of them wherein they are painted with
beards. But, more to the point, even the saints in Italy, like St. Ambrose, the father of
monks Benedict, Gregory Dialogus, and the rest, all had beards, as they appear in their
pictures painted in the church of St. Mark in Venice. Why, even the judgment of right
reason decides the shaving of the beard to be improper. For the beard is the difference
which in respect of appearance distinguishes a woman from a man. That is why a certain
philosopher when asked why he grew a beard and whiskers, replied that as often as he
stroked his beard and whiskers he felt that he was a man, and not a woman. Those men
who shave their beard are not possessors of a manly face, but of a womanly face. Hence
it was that Epiphanius blamed the Massalians for cutting off their beard, which is the
visage peculiar to man as distinguished from woman. The Apostles in their Injunctions,
Book I, ch.3, command that no one shall destroy the hair of his beard, and change the
natural visage of the man into one that is unnatural. For, says he, God the Creator made
this to be becoming to women, but deemed it to be out of harmony with men. The
innovation of shaving the beard ensued in the Roman Church a little before Leo IX,
Gregory VII even resorted to force in order to make bishops and clerics shave off their
beard. Oh, and what a most ugly and most disgusting sight it is to see the successor of St.
Peter close-shaven, as the Greeks say, like a fine bridegroom, with this difference,
however, that he wears a stole and a pallium, and sits in the chief seat among a large
number of other men like him in a council called the college of cardinals, while he
himself is styled the Pope. Yet bearded Popes did not become extinct after insane
Gregory, a witness to this fact being Pope Gelasius growing a beard, as is stated in his
biography. See the Dodecabiblus of Dositheus, pp. 776-8. Meletius the Confessor
(subject 7, concerning unleavened wafers) states that a certain Pope by the name of Peter
on account of his lascivious acts was arrested by the king and one half of his beard was
shaven off as a mark of dishonor. According to another authority, in other temples too
there were princes, even on the sacerdotal list, who had a beard, as in Leipzig they are to
be seen painted after Martin Luther in the church called St. Pauls and that called St,
Thomass. I saw the same things also in Bardislabia.

From The Rudder, pp. 403-405.

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