The Ladder of Divine Ascent

The Ladder of Divine Ascent

The Ladder of Divine Ascent

The Ladder of Divine Ascent

Excerpt

With the exception of the Bible and the service books, there is no work in Eastern Christendom that has been studied, copied and translated more often than The Ladder of Divine Ascent by St. John Climacus. Every Lent in Orthodox monasteries it is appointed to be read aloud in church or in the refectory, so that some monks will have listened to it as much as fifty or sixty times in the course of their life. Outside the monasteries it has also been the favorite reading of countless lay people in Greece, Bulgaria, Serbia, Russia, and throughout the Orthodox world. The popularity of The Ladder in the East equals that of The Imitation of Christ in the West, although the two books are altogether different in character.

The author of The Ladder lived in the desert of Sinai, at the foot of Jebel Musa, Moses' Mount, that rises rocky and precipitous to a height of nearly 7,500 feet. The surroundings would often have called to his mind the scene in Exodus: the lightning and thunder, the mountain shrouded in thick cloud, and Moses climbing up alone into the darkness to speak with God face to face (Exod. 20:18-21). But St. John Climacus was also reminded constantly of another mountaintop, belonging to the New Covenant—Tabor, "the high mountain apart" (Matt. 17:1), where our Lord was transfigured before the three disciples. For, when he prayed in the church built for the monks of Sinai by the Emperor Justinian in 556-7, each time he looked up John . . .

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