Today, we observe the the Fourth Sunday of Great Lent and our Byzantine Catholic Church commemorates our Father among the saints, John Climacus of the 7th century. He is also called St. John of the Ladder. In addition to the commemoration made today his other feast day is March 30.
As you know, he is called Climacus due to his authorship of the great spiritual work, The Ladder of Divine Ascent. In this work, St. John posits describes how we can ascend to God, like the Ten Commandments or the Eight Beatitudes tells us how we will find order in our lives. Chaos –disorder– will never lead us to God but to further chaos and anxiety. Thus, the book outlines 30 steps of the spiritual life as rungs of a ladder leading to heaven. As we climb and gain a new understanding of what it means to live the virtuous life through God’s help and grace, we ascend further towards the Kingdom of God. You can understand why The Ladder of Divine Ascent is required reading for the season of Lent. Hence, now is an excellent time to approach the priest to receive the graces attained in the sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession of sins).
St. John’s commemoration on one of the Sundays of Lent is given to us, after the Sunday of the Holy Cross, as a bearer and proponent of Christian asceticism. The ascetic example of the great Saint John inspires us in our Lenten journey.
Sister Vassa explores in this video the meaning of remembering St. John Climacus:
As ever-blooming fruits, you offer the teachings of your God-given book, O wise John, most blessed, while sweetening the hearts of all them that heed it with vigilance; for it is a ladder from the earth unto Heaven that confers glory on the souls that ascend it and honor you faithfully. (Kontakion)
Do yourself a favor, spend time with the Word of the Lord in preparation for Sunday Liturgy.
A 7th century monk of Mount Sinai of Egypt. He is the author of a famous text of spiritual discipline. He spent 40 years as a hermit and later abbot. He is famous for his book, The Ladder of Divine Ascent, which was written with the presumption of a monastic context. That is, the contents speaks of how to raise the soul to God by the acquiring virtues and rejecting specific sins. The ascent is of the soul is described in 30 steps (think of the image of a ladder with 30 steps) and the number 30 corresponds with the age that Jesus began his public ministry. A widely read book in Byzantine spirituality.
Why are we celebrating a famous monk and his book when we are not monks? The activity that St John Climacus speaks about, just like the gospel passage read today, that of the Lord’s Transfiguration, is what we followers of Jesus desire, too. That is, we desire to be personally transfigured from someone not too acceptable, into someone beautiful and desirable. Just as Moses who saw God on the mountain and came back to his followers to convey what he is seen. The connection with the gospel of the Transfiguration and St John Climacus comes in the line, “Lord, I believe but help my unbelief.” Prayer and asking for help. Faith is strengthened in prayer and fasting.
We ought to read daily a spiritual book, first starting with a passage of Scripture and then a good spiritual book. Place yourself in the presence of the Lord, so that you can cast out demons. Have faith!