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(Christianity Today) - You're more likely to see a beard in the pulpit today than at any time since the 1800s. But beards—especially among clergy—were once serious, symbolic matters. They separated East from West during the Great Schism, priests from laity during the Middle Ages, and Protestants from Catholics during the Reformation. Some church leaders required them; others banned them. To medieval theologians, they represented both holiness and sin. But historian Giles Constable says that rules on beards sound more forceful than they really were. Clergy (especially powerful ones) were likely to follow fashion in their day, too.
Clement of Alexandria calls the beard "the mark of a man" and says "it is therefore unholy to desecrate the symbol of manhood." Many other church fathers made similar remarks about beardly manliness. But most early church clergy were either beardless or had a closely trimmed beard.
Roman Emperor Julian sports a beard to show his break with the shaven Christian emperors before him, and to mark his connection to pagan Roman religion.
Euthymius says only men with a beard can enter his Judean Desert monastery, not boys "with female faces."