A seventh-century Greek monk, St. John Climacus (also known as John of the Ladder, John Scholasticus, and John Sinaites), is the author of the renowned spiritual book called The Ladder, a collection of sayings and examples to illustrate how to live the monastic life.
There is much to say about this holy man and the love he anchored in this world. But my words will do him no justice. Therefore, I will keep silent and let his own words shine light on him.
26 Life-Changing Lessons to Learn from St. John Climacus
1. Do not give up, but stand your ground courageously.
“Do not be surprised if you fall every day and do not surrender. Stand your ground bravely and you may be sure that your guardian angel will respect your endurance.” ~ St. John Climacus
2. He who despairs is committing suicide.
“Nothing equals or excels God’s mercies. Therefore, he who despairs is committing suicide. A sign of true repentance is the acknowledgment that we deserve all the afflictions, visible and invisible, that come upon us, and ever greater ones. Moses, after seeing God in the bush, returned again to Egypt, that is, to darkness and to the brick-making of Pharaoh, who was symbolical of the spiritual Pharaoh. But he went back again to the bush, and not only to the bush, but also up the mountain. Whoever has known divine vision will never despair of himself. Job became a beggar, but he became twice as rich again.”
3. No one will fight with a resolute fighter.
“Let us charge into the good fight with joy and love without being afraid of our enemies. Though unseen themselves, they can look at the face of our soul, and if they see it altered by fear, they take up arms against us all the more fiercely. For the cunning creatures have observed that we are scared. So let us take up arms against them courageously. No one will fight with a resolute fighter.”
4. The goal is a perfect peacefulness.
“The first stage of this tranquility consists in silencing the lips when the heart is excited. The second, in silencing the mind when the soul is still excited. The goal is a perfect peacefulness even in the middle of the raging storm.”
5. Ascend, my brothers, ascend eagerly.
“… Let your hearts’ resolve be to climb. Listen to the voice of the one who says: ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of our God’ (Isa. 2:3), Who makes our feet to be like the feet of the deer, ‘Who sets us on the high places, that we may be triumphant on His road’ (Hab. 3:19).”
6. God belongs to all free beings.
“… He is the life of all, the salvation of all ~faithful and unfaithful, just and unjust, pious and impious, passionate and dispassionate, monks and laymen, wise and simple, healthy and sick, young and old just as the effusion of light, the sight of the sun, and the changes of the seasons are for all alike; ‘for there is no respect of persons with God.'” ~ John Climacus
7. Everything is possible for the believer.
“… I have watched impure souls mad for physical love but turning what they know of such love into a reason for penance and transferring that same capacity for love to the Lord. I have watched them master fear so as to drive themselves unsparingly toward the love of God. That is why, when talking of that chaste harlot, the Lord does not say, ‘because she feared,’ but rather, ‘because she loved much’ she was able to drive out love with love (Lk. 7:47).”
8. Let us love God at least as much as we respect our friends.
“Let us eagerly run our course as men called by our God and King, lest, since our time is short, we be found in the day of our death without fruit and perish of hunger. Let us please the Lord as soldiers please their king; because we are required to give an exact account of our service after the campaign. Let us fear the Lord not less than we fear beasts. For I have seen men who were going to steal and were not afraid of God, but, hearing the barking of dogs, they at once turned back; and what the fear of God could not achieve was done by the fear of animals. Let us love God at least as much as we respect our friends. For I have often seen people who had offended God and were not in the least perturbed about it. And I have seen how those same people provoked their friends in some trifling matter and then employed every artifice, every device, every sacrifice, every apology, both personally and through friends and relatives, not sparing gifts, in order to regain their former love.”
9. The proud never really discover their true selves.
“It happens, I do not know how, that most of the proud never really discover their true selves. They think they have conquered their passions and they find out how poor they really are only after they die.”
10. As long as anger lives, it continues to be the fruitful parent of many unhappy children. ~ St. John Climacus
“Anger stirs confusion in the mind.ust as the winds whip up the sea, so does anger stir confusion in the mind.” ~ St. John Climacus
11. Meekness is an unchanging state of mind, which both in honor and dishonor remains the same.
“… Meekness consists in praying sincerely and undisturbedly in the face of afflictions from one’s neighbor. Meekness is a cliff rising from the sea of irritability, against which all the that waves that strive against it break, but which is itself never broken.”
12. Show love.
“When you hear that your neighbor or friend has reproached you in your absence or presence, then show love and praise him.”
13. The lover of silence draws close to God.
“… He talks to Him in secret and God enlightens him.” ~ St. John Climacus
14. Pride is the utter poverty of soul disguised as riches…
“… imaginary light where in fact there is darkness.”
15. A proud soul is the slave of fear.
“Whoever has become a servant of the Lord fears only his Master. But whoever is without the fear of God is often afraid of his own shadow. Fearfulness is the daughter of unbelief. A proud soul is the slave of fear; hoping in itself, in comes to such a state that it is startled by a small noise, and is afraid of the dark.” ~ John Climacus
16. Anything left unconfessed we continue to do without fear as if in the dark.
“Confession is like a bridle that keeps the soul which reflects on it from committing sin, but anything left unconfessed we continue to do without fear as if in the dark.” ~ St. John Climacus
17. Forgetting offenses is a sign of sincere repentance.
“… If you keep the memory of them, you may believe you have repented but you are like someone running in his sleep. Let no one consider it a minor defect, this darkness that often clouds the eyes even of spiritual people.” ~ St. John Climacus
18. Repentance lifts a man up.
“Repentance lifts a man up. Mourning knocks at heaven’s gate. Holy humility opens it.”
19. When a man has found the Lord, he no longer has to use words when he is praying…
“… for the Spirit Himself will intercede for him with groans that cannot be uttered.”
20. Often the Lord heals vainglory by dishonor. ~ St. John Climacus
21. Do not regard the feelings of a person who speaks to you about his neighbor disparagingly…
“… but rather say to him: “Stop, brother! I fall into graver sins every day, so how can I criticize him? In this way you will achieve two things; you will heal yourself and your neighbor with one plaster. This is one of the shortest ways to the forgiveness of sins; I mean, not to judge. `Judge not, and ye shall not be judged.” John Climacus
22. Love is greater than prayer.
“It can happen that when we are at prayer some brothers come to see us. Then we have to choose either to interrupt our prayer or to sadden our brother by refusing to answer him. But love is greater than prayer. Prayer is one virtue among others, whereas love contains them all.”
23. Our inhuman enemy inspires the thought that God loves mankind and that He quickly forgives this sin.
“… But when we observe the guile of demons, then we see that after the commission of the sin, they suggest to us that God is a righteous and implacable Judge. The first they say in order to lead us to sin, the second, in order to weigh us down in despair.”
24. We experience the fruit of prayer in the defeat of our enemies.
“We know the utility of prayer from the efforts of the wicked spirits to distract us during the divine office; and we experience the fruit of prayer in the defeat of our enemies.”
25. Simplicity is an enduring habit within a soul that has grown impervious to evil thoughts. ~ St. John Climacus
26. A man flooded with the love of God reveals in his body the splendor of his soul.
“Holy love has a way of consuming some. This is what is meant by the one who said, ‘You have ravished our hearts’ (Sg. Of Sgs. 4:9). And it makes others bright and overjoyed. In this regard it has been said: ‘My heart was full of trust and I was helped, and my flesh has revived’ (Ps. 27:7). For when the heart is cheerful, the face beams (cf. Prov. 15:13), and a man flooded with the love of God reveals in his body, as if in a mirror, the splendor of his soul, a glory like that of Moses when he came face to face with God (cf. Ex. 34:29-35). John Climacus
BONUS: St. John Climacus Quotes
“When the soul betrays itself and loses the blessed and longed-for fervor, let it carefully investigate the reason for losing it. And let it arm itself with all its longing and zeal against whatever caused this. For the former fervor can return only through the same door through which it was lost.”
“Just as fire burns and destroys the wood, so pure tears wash away every impurity, both external and internal.”
“A discerning man, when he eats grapes, takes only the ripe ones and leaves the sour. Thus also the discerning mind carefully marks the virtues which he sees in any person. A mindless man seeks out the vices and failings … Even if you see someone sin with your own eyes, do not judge; for often even your eyes are deceived.” ~ St. John Climacus
“A proud monk needs no demon. He has turned into one, an enemy to himself.”
“Even though one is well advanced in virtue, should he stop mortifying himself, he soon would lose his modesty and virtue – just as fertile soul quickly becomes dry and arid and produces nothing but thorns and thistles if it is not cultivated.”
“Everyone who asks something of God and does not receive it doubtless does not receive it for one of these reasons: either because they ask before the time, or they ask unworthily, or out of vainglory, or because if they received what they asked they would become proud or fall into negligence.”
“A servant of the Lord stands bodily before men, but mentally he is knocking at the gates of heaven with prayer.”
“I know a man who, when he saw a woman of striking beauty, praised the Creator for her. The sight of her lit within him the love of God.” ~ St. John Climacus
“But Adam did not wish to say, “I sinned,” but said rather the contrary of this and placed the blame for the transgression upon God Who created everything “very good,” saying to Him, “The woman whom Thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree and I ate.” And after him, she also placed the blame upon the serpent, and they did not wish at all to repent and, falling down before the Lord God, beg forgiveness of Him. For this, God banished them from Paradise, as from a royal palace, to live in this world as exiles. At that time also He decreed that a flaming sword should be turned and should guard the entrance into Paradise. And God did not curse Paradise since it was the image of the future unending life of the eternal Kingdom of Heaven. If it were not for this reason, it would have been fitting to curse it most of all, since within it was performed the transgression of Adam. But God did not do this, but cursed only the whole rest of the earth, which also was corrupt and brought forth everything by itself; and this was in order that Adam might not have any longer a life free from exhausting labors and sweat…”
“It is not the self -critical who reveals his humility ( for does not everyone have somehow to put up with himself? ). Rather, it is the man who continues to love the person who has criticized him.”
“Those who submit to the Lord with simple heart will run the good race. If they keep their minds on a leash, they will not draw the wickedness of the demons onto themselves.”
~love, Luminita 💫