Sunday, December 10, 2006

The Beard Theory

...for the "gaying and graying" of the Roman Catholic priesthood. I'm surprised there hasn't been more debate over this, cuz I've come around to the idea that it's one of most overlooked and underrated differences between Eastern and Western Churches, especially after watching all the Eastern and Western bishops intermingling on camera in the Phanar. This is totally coming off the top of my and is based on zero research into why the Eastern Churches have required beards.

My sense is that beards are like the iconostases in Eastern churches -- they veil that which is luminous and mysterious; but in so veiling, they highlight a dignity and maturity that is far more difficult to discern socially among the shorn and shaven. I don't see a particularly compelling theological reason why the West has opted against beards among its clergy, other than as a sign of the vow of poverty or chastity, but even facial tonsuring should permit regrowth into full beards, for there is a greater vanity in regular grooming. The Roman clergy furthermore don't even have to deal with wives who might find beards this side of sexy. Much more could be said on this but, but I'm started to sound weird even to myself, so I'll leave this brainfart while I'm ahead. But if I were in the Congregation of the Clergy or of Institutes of Consecrated Life I'd propose restoring mandatory beards, at least for all monks and bishops. Where would His Flocculence Cardinal O'Malley be without his beard?