Friday, March 30, 2012

St. John Climacus

Today we commemorate St. John Climacus, a seventh century monk.

John was called Climacus (which means "of the ladder") because he wrote "Climax" also known as "The Ladder of Paradise." John was born in Palestine around the year 525. Although he was well-educated and brilliant, John decided at the at age 16 to retire to a life of solitude in Mount Sinai, which was inhabited by holy monks. There he was placed under the direction of a holy monk named Martyrius.

As a novice, John was fervent and unrelenting in his efforts for self-mastery. For the next four years, he spent his time in prayer, fasting, meditation and discernment while preparing to take solemn vows to the religious life. Through the direction of Martyrius, John curbed his vices and worked to perfect his virtues. After professing his solemn vows, John began to spend more of his time studying scriptures and the early fathers of the Church.

Martyius died when John was 35. At that time, John withdrew to a hermitage at the foot of the mountain, where he remained for forty years. He studied the lives and writings of the saints and was raised to an unusual height of contemplation. The fame of his holiness and practical wisdom drew crowds around him for advice and consolation.

When John had reached the age of seventy-five, he was chosen as Abbot of Mount Sinai by a unanimous vote of the Sinai religious. On the day of his installation,  he welcomed six hundred pilgrims to Saint Catherine’s Monastery, but at the hour of dinner, he could not be found to share the meal with them. He was encouraged by a brother abbot to write the rules by which he had guided his life; and the book which he had already begun, The Ladder, detailing thirty degrees of advancement in the pursuit of perfection, has been treasured in all ages for its wisdom and sanctity.

At the end of that time, he retired again to his solitude, where he died around 605, as he had foretold.


It is sheer lunacy to imagine that one has deserved the gifts of God. You may be proud only of the achievements you had before the time of your birth. But anything after that, indeed the birth itself, is a gift from God. You may claim only those virtues in you that are there independently of your mind, for your mind was bestowed on you by God. And you may claim only those victories you achieved independently of the body, for the body too is not yours but a work of God.

A chaste man is someone who has driven out bodily love by means of divine love, who has used heavenly fire to quench the fires of the flesh.

A person is at the beginning of a prayer when he succeeds in removing distractions which at the beginning beset him. He is at the middle of the prayer when the mind concentrates only on what he is meditating and contemplating. He reaches the end when, with the Lord, the prayer enraptures him.

A mother feels less pleasure when she folds within her arms the dear infant whom she nourishes with her own milk than the true child of charity does when united as he incessantly is, to his God, and folded as it were in the arms of his heavenly Father.

Humility has it signs: ...poverty, withdrawal from the world, the concealment of one's wisdom, simplicity of speech, the seeking of alms, the disguising of one's nobility, the exclusion of free and easy relationships, the banishment of idle talk.

If pride turned some of the angels into demons, then humility can doubtless make angels out of demons. So take heart, all you sinners.

Pride is utter poverty of soul disguised as riches, imaginary light where in fact there is darkness.

The fruit of arrogance is a fall; but a fall is often an occasion of humility for those willing to profit by it.

The lover of silence draws close to God. He talks to Him in secret and God enlightens him.

You will know that you have this holy gift (of humility) within you and not be led astray when you experience an abundance of unspeakable light together with an indescribable love of prayer.

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