On this day: St. John Climacus

by Gerelyn Hollingsworth

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On this day we commemorate St. John Climacus.

The word Climacus means "of the Ladder". St. John is known for his book, The Ladder of Divine Ascent, Paulist Press, 1982. The book has been translated into many languages over the centuries and is read with devotion in Eastern Churches during Great Lent.

"Hardly anything is known of the author, and the most reliable information about him can be summarized in the statement that he lived in the second half of the sixth century, survived into the seventh, passed forty years of solitude at a place called Tholas; that he became abbot of the great monastery of Mount Sinai and that he composed there the present text." Page xxi.

In 2009, Pope Benedict XVI presented a Catechesis on St. John Climacus at a General Audience.

"He was born in about 575 a.d. He lived, therefore, during the years in which Byzantium, the capital of the Roman Empire of the East, experienced the greatest crisis in its history. The geographical situation of the Empire suddenly changed and the torrent of barbarian invasions swept away all its structures. Only the structure of the Church withstood them, continuing in these difficult times to carry out her missionary, human, social and cultural action, especially through the network of monasteries in which great religious figures such as, precisely, John Climacus were active."

The Pope explained the various rungs of the ladder. Nearing the end of his address, he said, "At this point, a last question must be asked: can the Ladder, a work written by a hermit monk who lived 1,400 years ago, say something to us today? Can the existential journey of a man who lived his entire life on Mount Sinai in such a distant time be relevant to us? At first glance it would seem that the answer must be 'no', because John Climacus is too remote from us. But if we look a little closer, we see that the monastic life is only a great symbol of baptismal life, of Christian life. It shows, so to speak, in capital letters what we write day after day in small letters."

Click here to see the icon of the Ladder of Divine Ascent.

Click here for the Holy Transfiguration Monastery's 2001 edition of Ladder of Divine Ascent.

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