Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
THE LADDER OF DIVINE ASCENT
by Saint John Climacus (of the Ladder)
"Prayer is the mother and daughter of tears. It is an expiation of sin, a bridge across temptation, a bulwark against affliction. It wipes out conflict, is the work of Angels, and is the nourishment of everything spiritual".
FOR YOUR INFORMATION:
The Ladder of Divine Ascent was the most widely used handbook of the ascetic life in the ancient Greek Orthodox Church. Popular among both lay and monastics, it was translated into Latin, Syriac, Arabic, Armenian, Old Slavonic, and many modern languages. It was written while the author (who received his surname from this book) was Egoumenos (Abbot) of the Monastery of Saint Catherine on Mount Sinai. As reflected in the title, the ascetical life is portrayed as a ladder which each aspirant must ascend, each step being a virtue to be acquired, or a vice to be surrendered. Its thirty steps reflect the hidden life of Christ Himself. This work had a fundamental influence in the development of Christian Monasticism generally, and particularly the Hesychastic, Jesus Prayer, or Prayer of the Heart movement. Pierre Pourrat in his History of Christian Spirituality calls Saint John Climacus the "most important ascetical theologian of the East, at this epoch, who enjoyed a great reputation and exercised an important influence on future centuries."
On Renunciation of Life
"When writing to the servants of God, one should begin with our God and King Himself, the good, the supremely good, the all-good of all created and rational beings, endowed with the dignity of free will, some are friends of God, some are His true servants, some are useless servants (cf. St. Luke 17:10), some entirely estranged, and there are some who, for all their weakness, take their stand against Him...His true servants are all those who have done and are doing His will without hesitation or pause. His useless servants are those who think of themselves as having been worthy of the gift of baptism, but have not at all guarded their covenant with Him; while, it seems to us, the strangers from God, His opponents, are the unbelievers or heretics. His enemies are those who not only contravene and repudiate the commands of the Lord, but make stern war against all who obey Him...
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)... A Christian is an imitator of Christ in thought, word and deed, as far as this humanly possible. A friend of God is the one who lives in communion with all that is natural and free from sin and who does not neglect to do what good he can. The self-controlled man strives with all his might amidst the trials, the snares, and the noise of the world, to be like someone who rises above them.
In this world when an Emperor summons us to obedience, we leave everything aside and answer the call at once without delay, not to refuse, through laziness or inertia, the call to the heavenly life in the service of the King of kings, the Lord of lords, the God of gods. Let us not find ourselves unable to defend ourselves at the Great Tribunal of judgment..."
"If we really wish to enter the contest of religious life, we should pay careful heed to the sense in which the Lord described those remaining in the world as living corpses (St. Matthew 8:22). What he said was, in effect, "Let the living dead who are in the world bury those dead in the body." Riches did not prevent the young man from coming to receive baptism, and it is quite wrong to say, as some do, that the Lord told him to dispose of his wealth so that he could be baptized. Let us be sure of this, and let us be satisfied with the promise of very great glory that goes with our vocation."
"If someone has hatred the world, he has run away from its misery; but if he has an attachment to visible things, then he is not yet cleansed of grief. For how can he avoid grief when he is deprived of something he loves? We need great vigilance in all things, but especially in regard to what we have left behind.
I have observed many men in the world assailed by anxiety, by worry, by the need to talk, by all-night watching, and I have seen them run away from the madness of their bodies."
"There is such a thing as exile, an irrevocable renunciation of everything in one's familiar surroundings that hinders one from attaining the ideal of holiness. Exile is a disciplined heart, unheralded wisdom, an unpublicized understanding, a hidden life, masked ideals. It is unseen meditation, the striving to be humble, a wish for poverty, the longing for what is divine. It is an outpouring of love, a denial of vainglory, a depth of silence."
"Exile is a separation from everything, in order that one may hold on totally to God. It is a chosen route of great grief. An exile is a fugitive, running from all relationships with his own relatives and with strangers."
"Obedience is a total renunciation of our own life, and it shows up clearly in the way we act. Or, again, obedience is the mortification of the members while the mind remains alive. Obedience is unquestioned movement, death freely accepted, a simple life, danger faced without worry, an unprepared defense before the God, fearlessness before death, a safe voyage, a sleeper's journey. Obedience is the burial place of the will and the resurrection of lowliness. A corpse does not contradict or debate the good or whatever seems bad, and the spiritual father who has devoutly put the disciple's soul to death will answer for everything. Indeed, to obey is, with all deliberateness, to put aside the capacity to make one's own judgment."
Repentance is the renewal of baptism and is a contract with God for a fresh start in life. Repentance goes shopping for humility and is ever distrustful of bodily comfort. Repentance is critical awareness and a sure watch over oneself. Repentance is the daughter of hope and the refusal to despair. Repentance is reconciliation with the Lord by the performance of good deeds which are the opposite of the sins. It is the purification of conscience and the voluntary endurance of affliction. The penitent deals out his own punishment, for repentance is the fierce persecution of the stomach and the flogging of the soul into intense awareness."
On Remembrance of Death
"As thought comes before speech, so the remembrance of death and of sin comes before weeping and mourning. It is therefore appropriate to deal now with this theme.
To be reminded of death each day is to die each day; to remember one's departure from life is to provoke tears by the hour. Fear of death is a property of nature due to disobedience, but terror of death is a sign of unrepented sins. Christ is frightened of dying but not terrified, thereby clearly revealing the properties of His two natures.
Just as bread is the most necessary of all foods, so the thought of death is the most essential of all works. The remembrance of death brings labors and meditations, or rather, the sweetness of dishonor to those living in community, whereas for those living away from turbulence it produces freedom from daily worries and breeds constant prayer and guarding of the mind, virtues that are the cause and the effect of the thought of death."
The man who lives daily with the thought of death is to be admired, and the man who gives himself to it by the hour is surely a Saint. And yet not every desire for death is good. A habitual sinner prays humbly for death, but the man who does not want to change his ways may, in sheer despair, actually long for death. And there are some who out of conceit consider themselves to be dispassionate, and for a while they have no fear of death, while a rare few hunger to leave by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit."
Mourning which is according to God is melancholy of the soul, disposition of an anguished heart that passionately seeks what it thirsts for, and when it fails to attain it, pursues it diligently and follows behind it lamenting bitterly.
Those making some progress in blessed mourning are usually temperate and untalkative. Those who have succeeded in making real progress do not become angry and do not bear grudges. As for the perfect--these are humble, they long for dishonor, they look out for involuntary sufferings, they do not condemn sinners and they are inordinately compassionate. The first kind are acceptable, the second praiseworthy, but blessed surely are those who hunger for suffering and thirst for dishonor, for they will be filled to abundance with the food that cannot satiate them.
The baptism received by us as children we have all defiled, but we cleanse it anew with our tears. If God in His love for the human race had not given us tears, those being saved would be few indeed and hard to find.
Groans and sadness cry out to the Lord, trembling tears intercede for us, and the tears, shed out of all-holy love show that our prayer has been accepted."
(To be continued)
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God