Lent Week of John Climacus
The fourth week of Great Lent is dedicated to John Pilot, the author of The Ladder, probably the most authoritative ascetic treatise of Orthodoxy.
Does the Ladder need the laity?
It is often possible to doubt whether laymen should read monastic literature — it is not clear how to use what was written for monks from the countryside to family working citizens. This is the first doubt.
Second, what should I, an ordinary layman, do with the height of the Ladder? I am not able to restrain anger at the man who hurt me in the train; I also need the “milk” of elementary moral counsel, and not the “solid food” of the Ladder.
And third: “The Ladder” simply scares. Here, for example: “These blessed convicts did just that. They had visible knees, numb from a variety of bows; eyes that are black and deep; eyelids (eyelids) without eyelashes; lanites (cheeks), wounded and scorched by the hotness of many tears; faces, faded and pale, no different from the dead; percy (chest), painful from blows, and bloody sputum, discharged from chest stresses. Where was the bed making there? Where are the clothes clean or strong? All of them were torn, stinking and covered with insects. What is compared with the merciless rituals of rage, or weeping over the dead, or imprisoned, or condemned for murder? Truly involuntary anguish and yearning of these nothing, in comparison with the arbitrary suffering of these … ”So Ladtchnik describes repentance, sets it as an example. “Some kind of concentration camp” – I think. Maybe this is a metaphor? No: “I pray you, brethren, do not think that what I narrate is a fable.” What to do with it?
How to read the "Ladder"?
Let the ladder will answer these three doubts.
On the first and second: “Some people who are carelessly living in the world asked me, saying:“ How can we, living with our wives and weaving ourselves with worldly care, can imitate monastic life? ”I answered them:“ All the good that you can do, do; Do not reproach anyone, do not rob, do not lie to anyone, do not ascend to anyone, do not hate anyone, do not leave church meetings, be merciful to the needy, do not seduce anyone, do not touch someone else's part, be pleased with the tilting of your wives. If you do this, you will not be far from the kingdom of heaven. ”
On the second and third: “Negligent, though not concerned with what is described here, so that he, in despair, will not squander what he does; and then the Gospel word will come true on him: out of indomitable zeal, and he hesitates to take it from him (Matthew 25:29). ”
So, Ladder advises to read it with the mind: not everything here should be applied immediately and literally, something just need to "not touch"; but what good can be done – to do. Otherwise, the reader will suffer despair, about which he also writes: “There is nothing equal to the mercy of God; nothing more than hers. Therefore, the desperate ruins himself. " So, first of all, and among other things, in the “Ladder” it is necessary to see the love of God.
Any text is not just a string of words. The composition of the text, the way it works, governs everything else, everything private. The description of the “dungeon” quoted above scared us just because we viewed it out of context.
In his book, John Climacus describes the path of metanoi performed in freedom (repentance, turning the mind), acquiring passionlessness (true freedom), and through it – the sacred silence in which it becomes possible to hear the voice of God. From the beginning to the end, more and more, this is the way of igniting love, the ever-increasing dynamics of striving towards God.
At the beginning of a long journey, the Ladder recalls the main thing – God's Love knows no boundaries: “All those who are gifted with free will are both God’s life and the salvation of all, faithful and unfaithful, righteous and unjust, pious and unholy, passionless and passionate, monks and worldly, wise and simple, healthy and frail, young and old; for all, without exception, enjoy the outpouring of light, the shining of the sun, and the changes of the air; there is no tolerance of God. "
On the last (thirtieth) step of the “Ladder”, the ascetic meets this Love: “Then She (Agape) is this Queen, as if coming to me from heaven, and talking to the ear of my soul, said: until you, My lover, decide to this dumb flesh, you cannot know my beauty, what it is. But the ladder (…) let you teach you to make a spiritual ladder of virtues, on top of which I affirm, just as the great mystery of mine says: Now faith, hope, loves, and three are: the more so, loves. ”
So, the compositional principle of the Ladder is “a love story for God”. Ladder writes: “Blessed is he who has such a love for God, what a passionate lover has for his beloved. <…> Blessed is he who is so much jealous of virtues, how many are jealous husbands who deprive themselves of sleep from jealousy of their spouses. ”
However, he warns: “He who wants to talk about the love of God will attempt to talk about God Himself; to stretch the word about God is a mistake and dangerous for the inattentive. " “Love is God (1 John 4, 8); and who wants to define in a word what God is, he blindly walks with his mind, attempts to measure the sand in the abyss of the sea ”. And even more serious: "Before our fall, demons represent God as human-loving, and after a fall they are cruel." Let's pay attention to the word "representations" – images, illusions. “Every concept of God is an idol,” as Gregory of Nyssa teaches. In the Love of God you can live, then you can talk about it – and without it even talking about the love of God will be an illusion, a delusion.
Therefore, probably, we need to shut up – and listen to what the Church says.
“Father St. John the Monk, / winged the mind to God by faith, / you are outraged by worldly confusion, impermanent / and, taking your cross, followed the All-Seeing; / body unruly by teaching the ascetic mind after subjugating / by the power of the Divine Spirit. " Before the week of the Ladder, there was a Cross, a middle week of Great Lent, reminiscent of the main thing in Christianity – the Cross.
“The robbers attacked me, the unfortunate, / and left me / as if dead from beatings, lifeless. / Therefore, I pray Thee: / "God, visit me!" Um, my mind was robbed / impermanent thoughts / and, astonished by passions, / I was left dead for many sins; / but You, Savior, heal me. When he saw me a Levite / from wounds suffering, / not tolerating my ulcers, as incurable, / passed by me, my Savior; / But you yourself heal me. " – Divine services these days incessantly assimilate us to the unfortunate of the parable of the merciful Samaritan. We are amazed by the passions, we die. But the merciful Lord will save us. “Repentance is the rejection of despair and the daughter of hope,” so Ladder teaches. Repentance is born from the desire to be saved, in the hope of salvation, and not in the strange masochistic enjoyment of self-humiliation. Repentance, hope and salvation go together.
"Into the light, immaterial and comprehensible / having risen from the desolation of the material world, / John the Monk, / through Your prayers to the Lord enlighten me. As abstinence sweetness full, / you rejected pleasures bitterness: / because it is better honey and honeycomb / delight, father, our feelings. Having risen to the heights of virtues / and base pleasures in defying, / you have revealed the sweetness of salvation, / reverend father, to your flock ". It is very important. The meaning of asceticism is not to get away from the defilement of the world (the world is not bad at all, but good, because it was created by the good God), but to gain even better. What John did was “sweeter than honey,” because the joys of asceticism make worldly pleasures bitter. If this is not so, then all is in vain, and after chasing one, we will lose what we had. “Renunciation of the world is an arbitrary hatred of matter boasted by the worldly, and rejection of nature, in order to obtain those benefits that are above nature,” teaches Lesvichnik. Everything is done for the sake of these supernatural goods, and not contrary to worldly goods.
Ladder and books about her
Of course, we recommend reading The Ladder itself for reading — both an audiobook and text.
In Philokalia you can find a short life of the Ladder and excerpts from his book.
In the magnificent book of Florovsky, Byzantine Fathers, there is an essay about the Ladder and an analysis of his ascetic teachings.
Of course, The Ladder had a tremendous influence on the subsequent patristic literature. As an example, the “Instructions for the Silent” of Xanfopules, dazzling with references to the “Ladder”.
Several sermons of our contemporaries on this work:
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