Tuesday, May 19, 2009

How Orthodox Is Your Priest?

The mere fact that a man has been ordained to the Holy Priesthood by an Orthodox bishop in good standing does not necessarily mean that such a priest is Very Orthodox. Nor does a priest’s personal piety, adherence to Orthodox dogma, excellence as a liturgist, or love for his flock necessarily place him the ranks of the “Very Orthodox.” If the priest is a convert, it matters little what personal sacrifice he has made to become an Orthodox priest.

Instead, we all know that the most important thing in determining the “Orthodoxness” of a priest is his personal appearance, particularly the way he dresses and grooms himself. For as the Scripture says, “Man looks at the heart, but the LORD looks at the outward appearance” (1 Sam. 16:7, NRIWISTV).

In light of this, it is important that each priest be evaluated on his Orthodoxness, so that those who are Very Orthodox can be commended, while those who are Not Very Orthodox can be encouraged to become more so (and perhaps also chided for being closet Roman Catholics or Protestants). So, please take a moment to answer the following questions, and then refer to the scoring guide to determine the Orthodoxness of your priest.

1. Headgear. My priest wears the following on his head:
A. Nothing ever.
B. A liturgical hat at the appropriate times in services, but nothing otherwise.
C. A liturgical hat at the appropriate times in services, and a skufi (or equivalent)at other times when on the church grounds.
D. A liturgical hat at the appropriate times in services, and a skufi (or equivalent)at all other times.

2. Hair. My priest’s hair is as follows:
A. Short and shaved tight on the back and sides in a semi-military style.
B. Short, but not shaved.
C. Collar or shoulder-length, but with no pony tail.
D. Collar or shoulder-length, with a pony tail.
E. Longer than shoulder-length, with a pony tail.

3. Beard. My priest’s facial hair configuration is as follows:
A. Mustache only or (gasp!) clean-shaven
B. Closely-trimmed goatee
C. Long goatee or closely-trimmed full beard
D. Longer full beard, but trimmed
E. Very long beard, untrimmed

4. Outerwear. When not conducting services at my parish, my priest wears the following outer garment(s):
A. A Roman collar with a suit.
B. A Roman collar with a cassock, but only while on the church grounds or off-grounds performing a sacramental act.
C. A Roman collar with a cassock, at all times
D. A Roman collar with a cassock and exorasson at all times.
E. A cassock and exorasson at all times, but with no Roman collar
(Note: If B, C, or D applies, but without a Roman collar, give your priest one extra point)

5. Shoes: I normally see the following on my priest’s feet:
A. Black dress shoes like one would see in a corporate office.
B. Plain black shoes, but nicely polished.
C. Plain black shoes, but scuffed up and covered with wax, oil, etc.
D. Open- or closed- toed Birkenstocks (or similar sandals), with socks
E. Open-toed sandals without socks.

Scoring Guide: For each “A”, award your priest 0 points. Each B equals 1 point, each C equals 2 points, each D equals 4, and each E is worth 5 points. In addition, award your priest one bonus point if he bathes only once a week or less often. Now refer to the following rubric to see just how Orthodox your priest is.

21-25 Points: Uber-Orthodox. Your priest is a paragon of Orthodoxy, a shining example for the clergy, and well on his way to sainthood. He will probably end up on an iconostasis somewhere in 200 years or so.

16-20 Points: Very Orthodox. While your priest will probably not find his way onto an iconostasis, he is nonetheless a paragon of proper Orthodoxness. He is worthy of commendation and honor.

11-15 Points: Solidly Orthodox. Your priest is quite Orthodox, but has much room to improve. But at least he is not likely to be mistaken for a Roman Catholic or Anglican priest, which would be tragic.

6-10 Points: Barely Orthodox. Your priest runs the risk of being mistaken in public for a Roman Catholic or an Anglican priest. He needs to study photographs of eighteenth and nineteenth century Russian priests (or monastics of any period since the middle ages) and adjust his appearance accordingly.

0-5 Points: Is He Even Orthodox? Your priest may well be a Roman Catholic or (more likely) an Evangelical at heart. Clearly, his highly westernized dress and grooming is motivated by shame for Orthodoxy and a desire to fit in to society. He should be ashamed of himself.


Katie said...


Michael Kendall said...

Ah, I did this test for you and, uhm, I won't bother to publish the results.


Clint said...

Since I started growing my beard, I am more Orthodox than my priest...

Well, at least one of them....

Not naming names or anything...

Jason E. said...

It's refreshing to have my suspicion confirmed that I don't need to listen to my priest's inconvenient opinions, lessons, or advice. Everything I need in order to judge him is right in front of my eyes. In fact, if I can judge my priest this way, why not all those other less-holy-than-me people standing around (or sitting!) at liturgy? I can't wait to get to church!

s-p said...

The bigger question is "How Orthodox are the people filling out the questionairre?" :)

November In My Soul said...

Hilarious but of couse ints at a very sad truth. Although I must admit that initially the motivation for growing a beard was to follow what I believed to be a cool Orthodox tradition. But to shave it off now would make me too Lutheran.

charlene said...

Silly me. I thought priests that had hair did not wear a hat because their head would be sufficiently warm without one. Alternately, tall priests did not wear hats because they did not want to offend shorter clergy who did wear hats. Besides,I always judge them on how pretty and colorful their liturgical garb is during services in different seasons. Who cares about the beard or anything else when the priest, facing the alter, lifts and spreads out his ares and you see three glorious yards across of rich creamy brocade furled out in front of you? The purples, the greens, reds, golds, the embroidery, the details... Now that is what I judge their Orthodoxness by.

Mat. Donna said...

haahhaha, Fr., you should send this to the Onion Dome....:-)

s-p said...

Charlene, LOL! I always tell newbies I LOVE Orthodoxy because its the only place I can wear a gold lame dress in public and people think its cool and don't think I'm a crossdresser. :)
(Subdeacon s-p)

Justin said...


Philip the Apostle has a pretty unOrthodox icon.

On a related note, I was troubled on my first visit to a monastery. Folks who were ardent critics of our pews spent most of the service sitting in the kathismata/stasidia.

November In My Soul said...


It's probably not the ONLY place. LOL

propolislady said...

Dear Father james,

LOL, and the pic is the perfect fit.
Trust me on this, my husband looks very similar ( without the sheep, of course:)))
The Africans call him - brother Jesus- back in 1994 during the first free elections in South Africa he was the one Africans came to ask for a transport to the voting place.( Distances are probably similar to the ones in Texas.)

God bless,
Presbitera Dana Sumar

Anonymous said...

You folks are NUTS!