The Ladder of Divine Ascent

The 4th Sunday of Great Lent in current Orthodox practice is dedicated to the memory of St. John Climacus (d. 649AD), author of The Ladder of Divine Ascent.

Many Orthodox saints and monastic writers address the spiritual metaphor of a ladder that one climbs to reach heaven as a description of spiritual life.  St. Isaac of Nineveh (also 7th Century) writes:

“The ladder to the Kingdom is hidden within you, and within your soul. Dive down into your self, away from sin, and there you will find the steps by which you can ascend up.” (The Wisdom of St. Isaac of Nineveh, pg. 2)

The Ladder of Divine Ascent a popular spiritual writing in the Orthodox tradition offers many practical ideas for living the spiritual life.  It is part of the monastic literature which has guided Orthodox Christians through Great Lent for centuries.

An example of practical ascetic thinking from the Orthodox monastic tradition which is also good advice for any of us working on our own repentance through Lent is a saying of Abba Poemen:

“He also said, ‘Wickedness does not do away with wickedness; but if someone does you wrong, do good to him, so that by your action you destroy his wickedness.’ ” (The Sayings of the Desert Fathers pg. 191)