Saint John Climacus and the Ladder of Divine Ascent (Part II)

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My beloved spiritual children 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.

SAINT JOHN CLIMACUS: THE LADDER OF DIVINE ASCENT (Part II)

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Step 7

On Mourning

Mourning which is according to God is a melancholy of the soul, a disposition of an anguished heart that passionately seeks what is thirsts for, and when it fails to attain it, pursues it diligently and follows behind it lamenting bitterly.

Alternatively, mourning is a golden spur within a soul that has been stripped of all bonds and ties, set by holy sorrow to keep watch over the heart.

Compunction is an eternal torment of the conscience which brings about the cooling of the heart through silent confession.

Confession is a forgetfulness of nature since because of this a man forgot to eat his bread (cf. Psalm 101:5).

Repentance is a cheerful renunciation of every creature comfort.

The tears that come after baptism are greater than baptism itself, though it may seem rash to say so. Baptism washes off those evils that were previously within us, whereas the sins committed after baptism are washed away by tears. 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. If nothing befits mourning as much as humility, certainly nothing opposes it as much as laughter. Hold fast to the blessed and joyful sorrow of holy compunction and do not cease laboring for it until it lifts you high above the things of the world to present you, a cleansed offering, to Christ.

Step 8

On Placidity and Meekness

As the gradual pouring of water on a fire puts out the flame completely, so the tears of genuine mourning can extinguish every flame of anger and irascibility. Hence this comes next in our sequence.

Freedom from anger is an endless wish for dishonor, whereas among the vainglorious there is a limitless thirst for praise. Freedom from anger is a triumph over one's nature. It is the ability to be impervious to insults and comes by hard work and the sweat of one's brow.

Meekness is a permanent condition of the soul which remains unaffected by whether or not it is spoken well of, whether or not it is honored or praised.

The first step toward freedom from anger is to keep the lips silent when the heart is stirred, the next, to keep thoughts silent when the soul is upset; the last, to be totally calm when unclean winds are blowing.

Anger is an indication of concealed hatred, of grievance, nursed. Anger is the wish to harm someone who has provoked you.

Step 9

On Malice

Remembrance of wrongs comes as the final point of anger. It is a keeper of sins. It hates a just way of life. It is the ruin of virtues, the poison of the soul, a worm in the mind. It is the shame of prayer, a cutting off of supplication, a turning away from love, a nail piercing the soul. It is a pleasure-less feeling cherished in the sweetness of bitterness. It is a never-ending sin, and unsleeping wrong, rancor by the hour. A dark and loathsome passion, it comes to be but has no offspring, so that one need not say too much about it.

The man who has put a stop to anger has also wiped out remembrance of wrongs since offspring can come only from a living parent. A loving man banishes revenge, but a man brooding on his hatreds stores up troublesome labors for himself. A banquet of love does away with hatred and honest giving brings peace to the soul, but if the table is extravagant then license is brought forth and gluttony comes jumping in through the window of love.

Let your malice and your spite be turned against the devils. Treat your body always as an enemy, for the flesh is an ungrateful and treacherous friend. The more you look after it, the more it hurts you.

Step 10

On Slander

I imagine that no one with any sense would dispute that slander is the child of hatred and remembrance of wrongs. Hence the need to discuss it next in the order after its forbears.

Slander is the offspring of hatred, a subtle and yet crass disease, a leech in hiding and escaping notice, wasting and draining away the lifeblood of love. It puts on the appearance of love and is the ambassador of an unholy and unclean heart. And it is the ruin of charity...

If you want to overcome the spirit of slander, blame not the person who falls but the prompting demon. No-one wants to sin against God, even though all of us sin without being compelled to it...

Do not allow human respect to get in your way when you hear someone slandering his neighbor. Instead, say this to him: "Brother stop it! I do worse things every day, so how can I criticize him?" You accomplish two things when you say this. You heal yourself and you heal your neighbor with the one bandage...

You can always recognize people who are malicious and slanderous. They are filled with the spirit of hatred. Gladly and without a qualm, they slander the teaching, the doings and the virtues of their neighbor. I have known men who secretly had committed very grave sins and had not been found out, yet cloaked in their supposed goodness they lashed out against people who had done something minor in public.

To pass judgment on another is to usurp shamelessly a prerogative of God, and To condemn is to ruin one's soul.

Step 11

On Talkativeness and Silence

Talkativeness is the throne of vainglory on which it loves to preen itself and show off. Talkativeness is a sign of ignorance, a doorway to slander, a leader of jesting, a servant of lies, the ruin of compunction, a summoner of despondency, a messenger of sleep, a dissipation of recollection, the end of vigilance, the cooling of zeal, the darkening of prayer.

Intelligent silence is the mother of prayer, freedom from bondage, custodian of zeal, a guard on our thoughts, a watch on our enemies, a prison of mourning, a friend of tears, a sure recollection of death, a painter of punishment, a concern with judgment, servant of anguish, foe of license, a companion of stillness, the opponent of dogmatism, a growth of knowledge, a hand to shape contemplation, hidden progress, the secret journey upward.  For the man who recognizes his sins has control of his tongue, while the chatterer has yet to discover himself as he should.

The lover of silence draws close to God. He talks to Him in secret and God enlightens him. (Source: John Climacus--The Ladder of Divine Ascent)

(To be continued)

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"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"--Saint John Chrysostom

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With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George