Salvation involves ridding ourselves of the effects of the Fall, undoing the Fall within ourselves. This being so, the general culture of America - pleasure-seeking, purely materialistic, etc. - presents a grave threat to those who wish to save their souls and bodies. Fr Zacharias said once in an address,
In paradise man was in communion with God, and God was life and security for him. Disobedience and the fall into sin disrupted this life-giving unity with God, and death entered man’s life with all its devastating consequences. Thus, man lost the security and support he had from God, the Giver of life, and out of fear and the struggle for survival, he conceived his own way of life, based thenceforward on his natural, created, powers. Previously, he had kept the commandments of God and enjoyed every good thing, and lived in incorruption. After the transgression, though, seeking protection from the threat of death, he took refuge in the following three substitutes or pseudo-supports, which were to alienate him from the life of God (cf. Eph. 4:18). The first pseudo-support is his self-will and the persuasiveness of his logical reasoning. The second is the pleasure (hedoné) of the senses and the desires naturally associated with reproduction; and the third pseudo-support is the possession of material goods. These are the three substitutes that man turned to for survival, having lost the true security and life of God.
By relying on the persuasiveness of his own logical judgement and will, man undergoes the first alienation and falls into the Luciferian delusion of self deification, raising a wall between himself and God. In succumbing to the lure of progeny and the pleasure of the senses, he puts on the “garments of skin” (Gen. 3:21), and undergoes the second alienation. The first alienation occurred through the arrogance of his mind, the second took place by putting his trust in the pleasure of the senses, and in the desire for progeny. His life is thus preserved, but it is changed into a “living death”, that is, into a life of self-love combined with spiritual death – a prolongation of life in death. Finally, so as to feel secure he makes efforts to acquire “much goods for many years” (cf. Luke 12:19), as “the fool hath said in his heart” (Ps. 14:1), and so he brings upon himself and the third alienation, which completely darkens his intellect and hardens his heart. He is now given over to the vanities of this world and the folly of idolatry.
The fall into the whirlpool of these three alienations disposes the conscience of man negatively with regard to God, to his neighbour, and to the material world. In his relationship with God, he gives preference to himself; in his relationship with his neighbour, he is led by the passionate desire to dominate – lust for power; in his relationship to the material world, he is given over to the frenzy of acquisitiveness.
Monasticism aims to remove these three alienations, and to restore man to a genuine hypostatic form of existence. Aside: To the true universality, which is the fulfilment of the purpose of man’s creation. End of aside. The aim is realized by the accomplishment of the three monastic vows: obedience, virginity or chastity, and poverty or non-acquisitiveness. Obedience, however, is of particular importance, because the other two vows draw their power from it, as a natural corollary (‘On Monasticism II’, The Enlargement of the Heart, ed. Veniamin, 2nd edition, Mount Thabor Publishing, 2012, pgs. 222-4).
Sadly, in trying to live the so-called ‘American Dream’, which glorifies each of the three alienations spoken of by Fr Zacharias, many not just in the States but around the world have fallen away from God. Fr Andrew Phillips spoke well when he called America and Western culture in general ‘an anti-St John the Baptist . . . preparing the way for the coming of Antichrist’.
So then, ræther than saving the world and bettering it, the American way of life is in a very real sense condemning it to a bitter hell, though pride will often blind Americans to this truth.
The South’s kinship to the þree (three) alienations is a bit more complex than the rest of the Union’s. Certainly there is a strong streak of rationalism within her, holding as she does to a Calvinist form of Christianity. But her life lived down through the years so close to the soil has kept within her something of the pre-modern mindset, as Dr Clark Carlton has said in one of his lectures: It has kept her from completely throwing away all sense of reverence for mystery, Providence, revelation, and other non-logical, paradoxical ideas.
Her life on the land has likewise taught her to be content with fewer material things (though as we have seen before, this lesson has not been taken fully to heart). But as she succumbs to the New England-Yankee (i.e., American) mode of living, these Southern traits are fading away.
On the subject of marriage vs. monasticism in the South we hope to say more soon.