In Paradise, man was in communion with God and God was life and security for him. Disobedience and the falling into sin disrupted this life giving union with God. And thus death entered the life of men with devastating consequences. Men lost the security and support that he had from God. Out of fear and the struggle for survival, he then conceived his own way of life based on his own natural created powers. Previously, he had kept the commandments of God and enjoyed every good thing and lived in-corruption. After transgression however wishing to be protected from the fear of extinction, he took refuge in the following three substitutes.
- Self-will and the persuasiveness of his logical reasoning. He put his confidence in his mind.
- The pleasure of the senses and the desires associated naturally with reproduction.
- The possession of material goods.
Each one of these three alienated him from the life of God in their respective fashions by relying on the persuasiveness of his own logical judgment and his own will, he built a wall between himself and God. In succumbing to the pleasure of the senses, he puts on the garments of skin and undergoes the second estrangement. Although life is maintained, it is changed into death, that is into life of self-love combined with spiritual death. Finally, through his attempt to acquire much goods for many years so as to feel secure, he undergoes the third estrangement which completely darkens his intellect and hardness his heart. He is thus given over to vanity and to the folly of worshiping the creature more than the Creator. The fall into these three forms of alienation disposes the conscious of men negatively with regard to God, to his neighbor and to the world. In his relationship to God, he gives preference to himself. In his relationship with his neighbor, he is led by his passionate desire to dominate and in his relationship to the material world, he is given over to the frenzy of acquisitiveness. Monasticism aims to alienate the above three fold alienation and thus to restore men to a genuine existence. This aim is realized by the accomplishment of three corresponding monastic vows.
- Virginity or chastity
- Non-acquisition or Poverty
The observance of these 3 vows together with a fourth vow of stability that the monk should remain at the Monastery unless he is assigned to another place, aims at the attainment of pure prayer and perfect likeness to Christ, the Son of God. It is in this sense, that monasticism offers men the possibility of emulating Christ in humility and crucifixion without being destroyed.
The one who wishes to learn in the spiritual school of the Gospel must keep firmly to three principles.
- To blame himself
- Not to trust in his own reasoning
- To hate his own will
When man blames himself, he becomes aware of his spiritual poverty and he finds a firm base of his ascent to the kingdom of his heavenly father. The principle of self-condemnation establishes in him, the unshakable conviction that without the grace of God, he can do nothing. Self-condemnation requires faith. It is not a psychological state. It is a spiritual practice in the face of God. Furthermore, when he places his trust in the Words of Christ rather than in his own reasoning he perceived the Luciferic pride which has corrupted his existence from the very beginning of the very first day of his life. He is crushed by his nothingness before the divine measure of Christ’s commandments. Because the commandments of Christ is not given by men. This will humble his heart and attracts the grace of the Holy Spirit which removes corruption accumulated through sin. Finally, the principle of hating his own will implies perfect acceptance of the cross of Christ in his life which frees him entirely from every attachment to this world.
Archimandrite Zacharias on ‘Living outside the camp of the world’
Virtues when taken to grotesque extremes cease to be virtues. People living in society, outside of the monastrey setting, can be quite virtuous and authentic, and, yes even more spiritual than monks and nuns. Let’s keep a balanced perspective.