Saint John Climacus and the Ladder of Divine Ascent

On the Fourth Sunday of Great and Holy Lent we commemorate Saint John Climacus, Egoumenos (Abbot) of Sinai (6th Century), who is assigned a special Sunday in Lent because, by virtue of his writings and his own life, he forms a pattern of the True Christian Ascetic. Saint John is the author of The Ladder of Paradise, one of the spiritual texts appointed to be read in church during holy Lent. His memorial, like that of Saint Theodore, has been transferred to the movable from the fixed calendar, where he is remembered on 30 March. The first Canon at Matins (Orthros) on this Sunday is based on the Parable of the Good Samaritan (St. Luke 10: 30-35): the repentant Christian is likened to the man who fell among thieves.

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Great and Holy Lent: Where Do the Souls Live After Death?

One wonders where the souls, which have been separated by death from the body, live? To a similar question, the pillar of Orthodoxy, Saint Athanasius, gives the following answer:

"This question is "a strange and fearful one and hidden from mankind". For God has not permitted someone to return from there to tell us where and how the souls live after they have departed. But, the Holy Father continues, we are informed by the Holy Scripture, "that the souls of the sinners are in Hades", and according to the Psalmist, they are "in the depths of the Pit, in the regions dark and deep" (Psalm 88:6).

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Great and Holy Lent: The Ladder of Divine Ascent by Saint John Climacus

"... God is the life of all free beings. He is the salvation of all, of believers or unbelievers, of the just or the unjust, of the pious or the impious, of those freed from the passions or caught up in them, of monks or those living in the world, of the educated or the illiterate, of the healthy or the sick, of the young or the very old. He is like the outpouring of light, the glimpse of the sun, or the changes of the weather, which are the same for everyone without exception. "For God is no respecter of persons" (Romans 2:11). An impious man is a rational being, one that must die, who willingly runs away from life, and refuses to believe in the existence of his own everlasting Creator. A transgressor is someone who observes the Divine law only in his own depraved fashion and holds on to heretical belief in opposition to God.

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The Particular Judgment According to the Orthodox Christian Church

The holy Apostle Paul clearly and definitely teaches about the judgment which every man incurs immediately upon his death. He says, "As it is appointed for men to die once but after this the judgment" (Hebrews 9:27). The words of the holy Apostle apparently do not admit any lapse of time between death and the judgment; consequently, it is a particular, individual judgment that he has in mind, rather than the general judgment at the Second Coming of Christ.

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The Intermediate State of Souls According to Orthodox Christianity

Our external, biological and earthly life ends with death but the soul continues to live on. The Psalmist in time of grief and despair asked the following question: "What man can live and never see death? Who can deliver his soul from the power of Sheol?" (Psalm 89:48). To this desperate question the answer is given in Psalm 59 which examines the conditions of the present and of the future life of the impious. In this beautiful Psalm, which foreshadows the vivid Parable of the Lord regarding poor Lazarus and the rich man, the Psalmist writes: "But God will ransom my soul from the power of Sheol, for He will receive me" (Psalm 49:15). Moreover, from the God-inspired book of Genesis we are informed that "Abraham (...) died (...) and was gathered to his people" (Genesis 25:8), that is, he was added to his pious and God-loving ancestors. Also, the son of the Patriarch Ishmael "died and was gathered to his kindred" (Genesis 25:17). This means that the ancestors of Abraham and of Ishmael continued to live even after death.  

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The Sign of the Cross

The Sign of the Cross is a symbolic ritual gesture which marks the four points of the Cross on Calvary over one's body. It also represents loving God with all one's heart, soul, mind and strength. The sign of the Cross is most often made at the name of the Holy Trinity, to show reverence for a Saint, holy object, or person, at the beginning or end of a prayer, to show humility or agreement, or on numerous other occasions which may vary slightly according to regional/ethnic practice or personal piety. Some Orthodox Christians may make the sign of the Cross a hundred or more times during a Divine Liturgy or lengthy divine service.

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