On the fourth week of Lent, the Orthodox Church honors the memory of St. John of the Ladder. His book "The Ladder, or the Tablets of the Spirit" is one of the most authoritative works on spiritual perfection and asceticism. This work is especially honored by Orthodox monks, including and on the Holy Mountain Athos. For Athos monks, this book has been a practical guide for more than a thousand years in their daily monastic temptations and exploits.
About the origin of the Monk John almost no information. There is a legend that he was born around 570 year and was the son of the saints Xenophon and Mary, whose memory is celebrated by the Church 26 January. Sixteen years the boy John came to the Sinai monastery. After four years of staying in Sinai, St. John Climacus was tonsured to monasticism. One of those present at the tonsure, Abba Stratigii, predicted that he would become a great lamp of the Church of Christ. During 19-ies, the Monk John struggled in obedience to his spiritual father. After his death, St. John chose a hermit's life, retired to a deserted place called Fola, where he spent 40 years in the feat of silence, fasting, prayer and penitential tears. It is known about the way of life of St. John that he ate what was not forbidden by the charter of the post-nuncular life, but - moderately. I did not spend nights without sleep, although I slept no more than I needed to maintain my strength, so as not to wipe my mind with incessant wakefulness.
Hiding his exploits from people, the Monk John sometimes retired in a cave, but the glory of his holiness spread far beyond the place of feats, and visitors were constantly coming to him, eager to hear the word of edification and salvation. At the age of 75-ти years, after forty years of asceticism in solitude, the monk was elected hegumen of the Sinai monastery. About four years, the Monk John of the Ladder managed the holy abode of Sinai. The Lord endowed the Reverend with the end of his life with the gracious gifts of foresight and miracles.
During the management of the monastery, at the request of St. John, the hegumen of the Raifa Monastery (commemorated on the Saturday's Saturday), the famous "Ladder" was written by the Reverend, a guide for ascending to spiritual perfection. Knowing about the wisdom and spiritual gifts of the monk, the Raiffean hegumen, on behalf of all the monks of his monastery, asked to write for them "the true guidance for the subsequent ones is unswerving, and as though the ladder is approved, which builds wishing to the Heavenly Gates ..." The Monk John, opinion, at first was embarrassed, but then out of obedience began to fulfill the request of the Raif monks. The monk called it "Lestvitsa", explaining the name in the following way: "I built a ladder of ascension ... from earthly to holy ... in the image of the thirty years of the Lord's coming of age, significantly built a ladder of 30 degrees, according to which, having reached the Lord we will be righteous and safe from falling. " The goal is to teach that the achievement of salvation requires a man of hard self-sacrifice and intensified feats. Although the book was written for the monks, any Christian living in the world receives in it a reliable guidebook for the ascent to God, and the pillars of the spiritual life are the Monk Theodore Studit (commemorated 11 November and 26 January), Sergius of Radonezh (commemorated 25 September and 5 July ), Joseph Volokolamsky (commemorated 9 September and 18 October) and others - referred in their instructions to "Ladder" as the best book for the salutary leadership.
The Ascension Book
There are books that people read and reread for centuries, which you take in hand with the feeling that you are touching the great and mysterious treasure that has come to you with the special Providence of God.
The "spiritual ladder" of St. John is one of these books. The Monk John of the Ladder lived and worked in the 6th century - it seems a long time ago. Then the books were copied from hand, they demanded expensive materials and huge work, and his works reached us through generations of zealous scribes who believed his teachings to be something extremely important and valuable.
His book is built as a ladder for ascension to heaven - it's a biblical image, which is found twice in Scripture. For the first time in the vision of Jacob: "And I dreamed, behold, a ladder is on the earth, and its top touches the sky; and, behold, the angels of God are ascending and descending upon it. And now, the Lord stands on it and says: I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father, and the God of Isaac. "(Gen. 28: 12-13) The second time is in the Gospel where the Lord Jesus identifies Himself with God in this vision:" Verily, verily, I say to you: from henceforth you will see the heaven open and the angels of God ascending and descending to the Son of Man "(John 1: 51).
St. John points out the ladder of virtue, which must be passed by one who rushes to God. The book consists of 30 chapters, representing the "steps" of virtues - according to them a Christian ascends to God. And as it is said in the foreword to the book:
"To all who hasten to write their names in the book of life in heaven, this book shows the most excellent way. Proceeding this way, we will see that she infallibly guides her subsequent directions, keeps them unafraid of any stumbling, and presents us with a ladder approved, erecting from the earthly to the holy of holies, on top of which the God of love is affirmed. This, I think, saw the ladder and Jacob, the impostor of passions, when he rested on the ascetic bed. But let us go up, I implore you, with zeal and faith, on this mental and heavenly rising, whose beginning is a renunciation of the earthly, and the end is the God of love. "
Hardly now there is a believing person who would not know what the "Ladder" of John Climacus is. This work is guided in monasteries, it is read in theological seminaries, it is useful for lay people.
We, modern people, are weak. But the realization of spiritual poverty is already the beginning of the spiritual path. At all times, God equally equally loves every man. And the goal of Christianity is not to save only monks or elders, but to save as many people as possible. All Christians, regardless of position, should go up one spiritual ladder to the house of the Heavenly Father. For this, there are such spiritual guides.
And a person always has a choice - to adapt to the conditions of "peace" or to become "not of this world". You can move away from reading the "complex material", or, on the contrary, courageously recognizing your weakness, look at the "Ladder" as an ideal of spiritual perfection, with judiciousness extracting a grain of true wisdom for the salvation of the soul.
It is very important, this week, when the Church especially honors St. John of the Ladder, to concentrate attention and try to fulfill at least one advice from his spiritual creation. Paisius the Holy One wrote that he reads no more than a line from the works of the holy fathers in a day, but all day he reflects on them and strives to fulfill his deeds.
Just as the ladder is a gradual ascent, the "Ladder" of John Climacus in 30 talks reveals the steps of spiritual ascent to perfection.
The enslavement of man to passions John Lestvichnik calls slavery and sickness. Passions are the natural impulses of the soul, distorted by man.
John Climacist compares the vice of cursing with a clinging leech, which "sucks and absorbs the blood of love" and advises the neighbor to notice only virtues, "like a grape picker, who is only eaten by ripe berries." Vanity gives rise to pride and, in the end, leads to blasphemy. Vanity consists in the fact that man instead of pleasing God constantly wants to adorn himself with people, which is vain and pointless. John Climacist describes bitterly the insidiousness of this passion: "... I am vain when I fast; but when I allow fasting to hide my abstinence from people, again I am vain, considering myself wise. I win over vanity, dressed in good clothes; but also dressed in thin clothes, I'm also vain. I will speak, I overcome vanity; I will shut up and again I will win. "
The last 4 steps of "Ladder" tell of virtues: silence, prayer, dispassion and love, as the highest manifestations of personal connection with God.
Humility is preceded by meekness. A gentle man acquires childlike simplicity in his conversion and becomes incapable of deceit, and the nonluke, in the words of John of the Ladder, is in a state of pristine purity. Having attained the level of humility, the ascetic enters a qualitatively new state, which can not be accurately conveyed in words, can only be understood by personal experience. Humility is the forefront of the Kingdom of Heaven and a true imitation of Christ.
Love is the beginning and the end of a spiritual journey. The love of God sets the prospect of selfless life, compared to which everything else is insignificant. Moved by a divine love, the ascetic forgets about sleep and food, he is like a lover, who is constantly busy with thoughts about his beloved being, even in his sleep his heart is awake. Therefore, when the Heavenly Master enters the soul, tormented by a holy lust, the flame of purity is kindled in it, and the perfection of purity is the true beginning of theology.
This and other examples in Lestwitz serve as a model of that holy zeal for their salvation, which is necessary for every person who wants to live godly, and a written account of his thoughts, which are the fruit of many and subtle observations of him over his soul and deep spiritual experience, is the guidance and great aid on the path to truth and good.
The Monk John, a man who knew and loved God - or rather knows and loves Him now, staying with Him, - shows us the way of salvation. The Church, rejoicing, recalls it with great gratitude.
Yako the Divine Lestvitsa, the Obscure, John the Monk, / your Divine Virtues, / To the Nebesi erecting us: virtues you were imagination. // So moths of Christ God, may our souls be saved.