Highlights from Oxford Patristics: The Beards

So it’s been a week since I got back from the Oxford Patristics Conference. This is the first of a few posts of highlights:

The Beards. Now, the photo of +Kallistos is outdated, but +Rowan and Andrew Louth look like that in real life. There were also various Orthodox monks and priests present, all of them with outstanding beards. I wonder what would have happened if +Kallistos’ and +Rowan’s beards collided. Could the space-time continuum have handled it?

Met. Kallistos of Diokleia and Great Britain

Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury

Andrew Louth

Andrew Louth is the most wizardly of these three. What made him stand out amongst the conference-goers was the fact that, since he was off-duty, he wasn’t in a voluminous black robe. Still in black, though. Not that Patrists need beards, of course, as evidenced by the number of high-quality papers given by female scholars, such as Sarah Coakley and Dame Averil Cameron.

Still, it doesn’t hurt.

As for the Orthodox, the beards are part of a programme of self-abasement. As a growing symbol of one’s vows either as priest or as monk, many Orthodox priests and monks — especially Greek and Cypriot — do not trim their beards or hair. This is also part of the desire to avoid vanity — a physical reminder of humility, that one is nothing, following the same line of thought as Tertullian’s advice back in the 2nd-3rd century.

Out of these three bearded wonders, I only heard +Kallistos. He spoke on St. Maximus. But more on that later ….

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