Quest of John Climacus
Remember the well-known icon-illustration to the fundamental ascetic work of the Monk John, Hegumen of Sinai, we also commemorate him the very next Sunday, “The Ladder”? Monks climb the ladder to heaven, angels help them, and demons try to push them together. Good picture, very convincing. The more a person has achieved, the more he can lose and the harder he gets.
If you visit Sinai, where John Climacus lived and worked, you can easily understand where he came from this image. Not only from the Old Testament: the staircase to heaven, through which angels flew up and down, once dreamed about the forefather Jacob. A path leads to the top of Mount Moses – a staircase in the rocks. True, there are not thirty steps (in the “Ladder” – thirty-three chapters in accordance with the age of Christ), but a couple more orders of magnitude. The stairs are steep, almost vertical. The steps come across very high, these are uncouth stones. Collapse is easy. You can’t collect the bones. The higher the worse the fall. Unlike many other holy places, you can’t have a halt under the trees in the Sinai (they just aren’t), you can’t breathe clean air (breathing goes up and down), the beauty here is creepy: lifeless stone desert, hot during the day, even at night in summer – almost ice. This is a place of prayer and overcoming. Passion.
The sequence of chapters-steps "Ladder" could also be born in this amazing place.
Here a man begins to climb – leaves a cozy monastery in the valley. – The abdication of worldly life. Here the monastery is hidden from view. – The deposition of sadness about the world. A difficult and long journey begins, there will be nowhere to bow the heads for several hours. – Wandering. It is necessary to move strictly along the road so as not to stray and not get lost. – Obedience.
The next group of steps is the struggle with passions.
Recognize that everything that you did before, led in the opposite direction from the desired peak. – repentance. Feel that from fatigue you can collapse at any time and not reach the top. – The memory is mortal. Mourning about the time spent and the almost inaccessible peak. – Crying. Do not get annoyed by the hard road, but move, no matter what. – Meekness and negligence. Do not go in cycles in difficulties, do not reflect over each pricked spine or over a bruised finger – go yourself and go. – Overcoming rancor. Do not swear, breaking your knee (not only do not swear, but in general – do not say anything bad, do not be distracted by anger, which only takes strength). – The fight against profanity. Generally not be distracted. Do not clog your brains with anything that can confuse and lead you off the route. – Silence. Do not build illusions for yourself and your companions on the rise, so as not to create a false picture of the road. – Removal from lies. Do not whine and do not be lazy. – Fight against despondency and laziness. Do not chew anything. It will be hard to go. – Fighting gluttony. Do not drive to a girlfriend / boyfriend with whom you are crossing the path (no comment). – Chastity. Do not be greedy, share water, a panama hat from the heat and a windbreaker from the cold. – Overcoming the love of money. Throw out all the excess until it is overstrained. You put this stupid thermos with hot tea, someone will drink. You barely drag him. – Non-possessiveness. Perform all of the above, do not take off. Don’t whine, don’t swear, don’t put heavy “shrines” -column in a backpack. Observe the preceding paragraphs, not just pronounce them. – Overcoming insensibility is a difficult step, the struggle with an inconsistent attitude to sins and virtues. “Satisfies silence, but praises it with verbosity. He teaches meekness, but often in that very teaching he is angry, and again angry for his chagrin, ”writes St. John. Do not peck, support comrades. – Small dream, brotherly prayer. Listen to yourself, do not let the body relax and violate previous tips. Put crackers. Do not build eyes neighbor. Stop sleeping. – Body vigil. You will reach, do not hesitate. You're on the right track. – Strengthening in faith. You do this not for someone, but for yourself. – Overcoming vanity. Do not lift your nose, this is not a feat for the sake of humanity, but the achievement of your own goal. – The eradication of pride. Comrades begin to grumble and get you to the liver? They are tired, treat them with understanding and affection. – Meekness and malice. And in general, you are not an angel, you can tolerate. – Humility. Analyze all the previous. What do you get better, what's worse? Only honestly, and somewhere you will not show due diligence, and all the work is worthless. – Reasoning.
The top, meanwhile, is approaching. The last steps are the coolest.
Be quiet, move evenly, breathe rhythmically. Do not waste precious energy. – The silence of the soul and body. Two hundred meters to the top, the road becomes unbearably difficult. Jokes aside, our quest comes to an end. Pray. God help you. – Prayer. If you have done it, you are great. Just don’t think about it, see paragraph 23. – Compassion. Here we humbly fall silent. Vertex. Here Moses spoke to God face to face. You can still fall, and it will be a complete disaster, because repeatedly after such a fall is not something to return – to climb at least one step will be difficult. But at this peak in the heart is a union of faith, hope and love.
"Wait! – another Christian will scream. – Are you kidding me?! This is beyond the power of a normal person! ”
And, you know, he is not far from the truth. A ladder is more a direction of movement than a road actually feasible in this life. This is worth remembering when opening the book of St. John.
And one more, calendar. This year, the Sunday of John Climacus coincides with the feast of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Handsomely. The Virgin Mary is often associated with the “Staircase from Earth to Heaven,” which Jacob saw. Do you remember? “This is impossible for man, but everything is possible for God” (Matthew 19:26). So God throws us the Ladder and Himself descends on Her — the Virgin Mary. And we, too, can hold on to Him and approach Him. Appeals to the Mother of God are built on this – since Christ through Her came to us on this earth, it means that from earth to heaven we can rise to Him with Her help. There will be no elevator, do not expect it, so you have to sweat.
But at the end – Meeting.
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