Wednesday, November 05, 2008

On Beardless Clergy

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MYTH
The Latin clerical practice of shaving beards is wrong

1. The Eastern Fathers and Western Fathers taught alike about the procession of the Holy Spirit: the formula of the former ("through the Son") and the formula of the latter ("and the Son") emphasized different aspects of the same truth. In the same way, the practice of beardless clergy in the Latin Church is no less legitimate than the practice of bearded clergy in the Eastern Churches. Having the clergy retain their beards symbolizes the maturity of the clergy and distinguishes them from women. Having the clergy shave their beards symbolizes the innocence, humility, purity, and angelic youthful vivacity of the clergy and removes a potential obstacle to drinking the precious Blood of Christ.{1}

2. Patriarch St. Photios the Great of Constantinople († 2/6/891) says in 861 [Epistle 2 to Pope St. Nicholas I the Great of Rome in PG 102:604-605D],
Everybody must preserve what was defined by common ecumenical decisions, but a particular opinion of a church father or a definition issued by a local council can be followed by some and ignored by others. Thus, some people customarily shave their beards; others reject this practice by local conciliar decrees. ... When the faith remains inviolate, common and catholic decisions are also safe; a sensible man respects the practices and laws of others; he considers it neither wrong to observe them nor illegal to violate them.
Notes & References
{1} Thurston, Herbert. "Beard." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 2. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1907. 31 Oct. 2008 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02362a.htm.

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