St. John Climacus’ “The Ladder of Divine Ascent”

This Sunday, we will be commemorating St. John Climacus. St. John was a 7th century monk who joined the Monastery of St. Catherine at the tender age of 16. He remained a monk in that region, pursuing holiness, loving God, and writing books and icons for the rest of his life. He is much remembered for the book he wrote, “Klimax” (Greek for “ladder”), from which he gained his name “Climacus.” The book primarily addresses monastics, but is a wonderful guide for anyone seeking to grow in their faith and become more like God. It is appropriate for us to remember him in the midst of our Lenten journey, and for us to (re)visit the ladder of divine ascent at this time.

Many monastics read this book during Great Lent, as a guide to help them in their pursuit of holiness. Many laypeople do the same! Each “step” of the ladder describes a way in which an Orthodox Christian can climb one step closer to holiness.

The ladder can help us as parents to become more like God; and thus, better lead our children as they, too, “climb the ladder.” Each of the ladder’s 30 steps is listed at http://saintanna.org/assets/forms/st_john_climacus.pdf, along with a few suggestions of how to learn about them together as a family. Let us take time to study these steps and work on them together as a family!

The book itself is available as a pdf at http://www.prudencetrue.com/images/TheLadderofDivineAscent.pdf or as an ebook at http://www.orthodoxebooks.org/node/53. An accompanying lectionary is posted at http://www.stbasils.com/ECS/Ladder.pdf. One mother’s ideas of introducing the ladder to her children is found at http://workisprayer.blogspot.com/2011/03/orthodoxy-children-and-ladder-of-divine.html.

The icon of the ladder is a useful tool for children to see how we can become closer to God; and how there are angels and demons working against each other in attempt to aid/thwart that climb. It is briefly explained at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3rgGoVWmUww, and there is a printable clip art image of the ladder athttp://festalcelebrations.files.wordpress.com/2008/09/ladderdivineascent1.pdf orhttp://festalcelebrations.files.wordpress.com/2008/09/ladderdivineascent3.pdf.

Parents may also benefit from listening to podcasts about the ladder, such as http://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/mysterion/the_topsy_turvy_ladderor http://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/hopko/4th_sunday_of_lent_st_john_of_the_ladder.

Whatever method we choose to do so, let us learn more about the ladder of divine ascent, and, together with our children, continue taking steps on it, toward Christ.

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