Lenten Thoughts – 30 March – Saturday of the Third week of Lent, Year C and the Memorial of St John Climacus (c 525-606)
The Ladder of Divine Ascent is an ascetical treatise on avoiding vice and practising virtue so that at the end, salvation can be obtained. Written by Saint John Climacus initially for monastics, it has become one of the most highly influential and important works used by the Church as far as guiding the faithful to a God-centred life, second only to Holy Scripture.
Structure and Purpose:
The aim of the treatise is to be a guide for practising a life completely and wholly devoted to God. The ladder metaphor—not dissimilar to the vision that the Patriarch Jacob received—is used to describe how one may ascend into heaven by first renouncing the world and finally ending up in heaven with God. There are thirty chapter,; each covers a particular vice or virtue. They were originally called logoi, but in the present day, they are referred to as “steps.” The sayings are not so much rules and regulations, as with the Law that St Moses received at Sinai, but rather observations about what is being practised. Metaphorical language is employed frequently, to better illustrate the nature of virtue and vice. Overall, the treatise does follow a progression that transitions from start (renunciation of the world) to finish (a life lived in love).
The steps are:
On renunciation of the world
On exile or pilgrimage – concerning dreams that beginners have
On blessed and ever-memorable obedience (in addition to episodes involving many individuals)
On painstaking and true repentance which constitutes the life of the holy convicts; and about the Prison
On remembrance of death
On joy-making mourning
On freedom from anger and on meekness
On remembrance of wrongs
On slander or calumny
On talkativeness and silence
On that clamorous mistress, the stomach
On incorruptible purity and chastity, to which the corruptible attain by toil and sweat
On love of money, or avarice
On non-possessiveness (that hastens one Heavenwards)
On insensibility, that is, deadening of the soul and the death of the mind before the death of the body
On sleep, prayer and psalmody with the brotherhood
On bodily vigil and how to use it to attain spiritual vigil, and how to practise it
On unmanly and puerile cowardice
On the many forms of vainglory
On mad pride and (in the same Step) on unclean blasphemous thoughts; concerning unmentionable blasphemous thoughts
On meekness, simplicity, and guilelessness which come not from nature but from conscious effort, and about guile
On the destroyer of the passions, most sublime humility, which is rooted in spiritual perception
On discernment of thoughts, passions and virtues; on expert discernment; brief summary of all aforementioned
On holy stillness of body and soul; different aspects of stillness and how to distinguish them
On holy and blessed prayer, the mother of virtues, and on the attitude of mind and body in prayer
Concerning Heaven on earth, or Godlike dispassion and perfection, and the resurrection of the soul before the general resurrection
Concerning the linking together of the supreme trinity among the virtues; a brief exhortation summarising all that has said at length in this book.
Read the book, here
“Repentance is the renewal of baptism.
Repentance is a contract with God for a second life.
A penitent is a buyer of humility.
Repentance is constant distrust of bodily comfort.
Repentance is self-condemning reflection of carefree self-care.
Repentance is the daughter of hope and the renunciation of despair.
A penitent is an undisgraced convict.
Repentance is reconciliation with the Lord
by the practice of good deeds contrary to the sins.
Repentance is purification of conscience.
Repentance is the voluntary endurance of all afflictions.
A penitent is the inflicter of his own punishments.
Repentance is a mighty persecution of the stomach
and a striking of the soul into vigorous awareness.”