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This series is a testimony to the Spirit breathing where He wills." America John Climacus: The Ladder of Divine Ascent edited and translated by Colm Luibheid and Norman Russell notes on translation by Norman Russell, preface by Kallistos Ware "Prayer is the mother and daughter of tears. It is an expiation of sin, a bridge across temptation, a bulwark against affliction. It This series is a testimony to the Spirit breathing where He wills." America John Climacus: The Ladder of Divine Ascent edited and translated by Colm Luibheid and Norman Russell notes on translation by Norman Russell, preface by Kallistos Ware "Prayer is the mother and daughter of tears. It is an expiation of sin, a bridge across temptation, a bulwark against affliction. It wipes out conflict, is the work of angels, and is the nourishment of everything spiritual." John Climacus (c. 579-649) The Ladder of Divine Ascent was the most widely used handbook of the ascetic life in the ancient Greek Church. Popular among both lay and monastics, it was translated into Latin, Syriac, Arabic, Armenian, Old Slavonic, and many modern languages. It was written while the author (who received his surname from this book) was abbot of the monastery of Catherine on Mount Sinai. As reflected in the title, the ascetical life is portrayed as a ladder which each aspirant must ascend, each step being a virtue to be acquired, or a vice to be surrendered. Its thirty steps reflect the hidden life of Christ himself. This work had a fundamental influence in the particularly the Hesychastic, Jesus Prayer, or Prayer of the Heart movement. Pierre Pourrat in his History of Christian Spirituality calls John Climacus the "most important ascetical theologian of the East, at this epoch, who enjoyed a great reputation and exercised and important influence on future centuries.


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This series is a testimony to the Spirit breathing where He wills." America John Climacus: The Ladder of Divine Ascent edited and translated by Colm Luibheid and Norman Russell notes on translation by Norman Russell, preface by Kallistos Ware "Prayer is the mother and daughter of tears. It is an expiation of sin, a bridge across temptation, a bulwark against affliction. It This series is a testimony to the Spirit breathing where He wills." America John Climacus: The Ladder of Divine Ascent edited and translated by Colm Luibheid and Norman Russell notes on translation by Norman Russell, preface by Kallistos Ware "Prayer is the mother and daughter of tears. It is an expiation of sin, a bridge across temptation, a bulwark against affliction. It wipes out conflict, is the work of angels, and is the nourishment of everything spiritual." John Climacus (c. 579-649) The Ladder of Divine Ascent was the most widely used handbook of the ascetic life in the ancient Greek Church. Popular among both lay and monastics, it was translated into Latin, Syriac, Arabic, Armenian, Old Slavonic, and many modern languages. It was written while the author (who received his surname from this book) was abbot of the monastery of Catherine on Mount Sinai. As reflected in the title, the ascetical life is portrayed as a ladder which each aspirant must ascend, each step being a virtue to be acquired, or a vice to be surrendered. Its thirty steps reflect the hidden life of Christ himself. This work had a fundamental influence in the particularly the Hesychastic, Jesus Prayer, or Prayer of the Heart movement. Pierre Pourrat in his History of Christian Spirituality calls John Climacus the "most important ascetical theologian of the East, at this epoch, who enjoyed a great reputation and exercised and important influence on future centuries.

30 review for John Climacus: The Ladder of Divine Ascent (The Classics of Western Spirituality)

  1. 4 out of 5

    Nicholas

    A wonderful read during the Lenten season as John Climacus guides monastics on their ladder of theosis.

  2. 5 out of 5

    7jane

    This book (the third English translation) offers an image of ladder as a way of ascetical life. It's true that it's aimed at monks, people that join a monastery like one on Mount Athos, but quite a few points work well even for us who are not these people. I'm not sure if I've read this before, but reading it was worth it. The number of ladders gives a nod to the number of years Jesus was when he began his preaching (30). The introduction talks about the author and his background, about the ladde This book (the third English translation) offers an image of ladder as a way of ascetical life. It's true that it's aimed at monks, people that join a monastery like one on Mount Athos, but quite a few points work well even for us who are not these people. I'm not sure if I've read this before, but reading it was worth it. The number of ladders gives a nod to the number of years Jesus was when he began his preaching (30). The introduction talks about the author and his background, about the ladder itself and it's text-structure, explores some themes, and lists some sources and influences on future audiences. It's good to read this first, because it clears the plot well. This book is an Orthodox classic, often read at Lent in monasteries. The author lived in a monastery in Sinai, around 7th century, with at least one long visit to a monastery in Alexandria (the description of the 'Prison' for unruly monks in this place is a bit shocking, but don't let it put you off). It's a case of body vs. mind, and the purpose is to help a person to see both perils and good ways on the road to perfection. Some later steps are of persons who have advanced quite far on their monk's life, but it's not talked in a way that those who are not yet there would lose their courage and think they would never achieve it - it takes time and work, but doesn't feel impossible. The author shows us the three ways within: at the monastery, in a smaller group with a leader, and the solitary life. The solitary life is not for the beginner, for it is mentally hard and demanding, and easy to do wrong if done too early or for wrong reasons. It's better to live a group or monastery life for years first. The text is not without some humor; in the 'Stillness' chapter, for example: "The cat keeps hold of the mouse. The thought of the hesychast keeps hold of his spiritual mouse. Do not mock this analogy. Indeed, if you do, it shows you still do not understand the meaning of stillness." And you do have to realise that although these steps go from 1 to 30, one may end up using some steps again, especially when not yet advanced in experience and years. This is a book not for fast reading, read and then forgotten. It is for pondering, to find inspiration and motivation. It holds more than might first appear. So for monks and non-monks this is a treasure - easy to see why the reading-aloud tradition uses this book. This is a book of quiet greatness.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Matthew Burden

    In the Western Christian tradition (Roman Catholicism and Protestantism), there are a small handful of classic books that have radically shaped the way we perceive the Christian life--and this is true for you even if you haven't read them. Our Christian culture and self-understanding has been deeply shaped by Augustine's Confessions and City of God, and, if you're an evangelical, by Pilgrim's Progress. The Eastern Christian tradition, however, was largely shaped by other works, and these have pl In the Western Christian tradition (Roman Catholicism and Protestantism), there are a small handful of classic books that have radically shaped the way we perceive the Christian life--and this is true for you even if you haven't read them. Our Christian culture and self-understanding has been deeply shaped by Augustine's Confessions and City of God, and, if you're an evangelical, by Pilgrim's Progress. The Eastern Christian tradition, however, was largely shaped by other works, and these have played into the distinctive flavor of Eastern Christian spirituality. Among the most influential books of that tradition, at least in terms of the Christian perception of the spiritual life, are Pseudo-Dionysius' works and The Ladder of Divine Ascent by John Climacus. So while most Westerners haven't heard of this book, that doesn't mean that it's obscure--rather, that we Westerners may simply be rather narrow in our experience and understanding of our Christian heritage. The Ladder was written somewhere around the year 600 AD, by a monk who had spent his life living with communities of other monks in the region of Palestine and Egypt. As such, it's primarily a text written for other monks. It takes the image of the ladder to heaven from the story of Jacob's dream in Genesis 28, and uses it to enumerate 30 steps of spiritual progress on the way to union with God. From this book, the Eastern Christian tradition learned much of its understanding of the life of Christians as a pattern of askesis, of self-discipline for the sake of spiritual growth. It outlines the particular vices to be on guard for, the ways that demons may try to tempt or undermine the progress made by varying temperaments of people, and offers advice for how to grow in one's habits of prayer and discipline. It's not an easy book to read, largely because it comes out of a time and culture that are radically different from our own. But, partly for that reason, it's a very important book. It challenges a great deal of our contemporary Christian assumptions. While admitting that the body is a good creation of God, it views this physical form as our battlefield. Christian theology tends to swing on a pendulum of understandings regarding the spirit/body dynamic, from an almost-Gnostic sensibility about the body's crude weightedness, tying down the spirit, to a blithe assumption that spirit and body dance together perfectly, such that we never give a thought to the ways that our body can impede our spiritual progress. Though there are still some near-Gnostic trends in evangelical thought, most of the theology coming out in recent decades has focused on body-affirming positions. Climacus and the Ladder come down on the other end of the spectrum--the body was created good, yes, but it was created as part of our labor. Following a traditional ancient-Christian perception of God's purpose in creation--that God created a developmental world, fashioned for the growth of its creatures, rather than an already-perfect creation that was later brought down from its heights of perfection by sin--Climacus would have us see our bodies as our battlefields, as the soil in which we labor to produce a harvest for the Lord. We are called as Christians to be agents of the Kingdom of God in this world, and to work for the expansion of that Kingdom. Well, part of that work is to plant the flag of Christ's Kingdom in our own unruly, fleshly natures. The first battle for the Kingdom of God begins at home, reclaiming the dust of our flesh. Thus The Ladder encourages us to be tremendously serious about things that we in American Christianity shrug off--the dual dangers of allowing our bodies to operate with unrestrained appetites (leading to gluttony) and of focusing so much on diet and exercise that we glorify the body itself (leading to vainglory and pride); further, it gives helpful advice to consider spiritual practices that almost none of us dare attempt anymore--challenging the way our bodies' appetites can master our lives in demands for sleep, for comfort, for idle play. There are sections of Climacus' work that leave me unsettled, thinking that, even amid the concessions he allows for the weakness of human nature, he may still drive us too hard. But at the same time, it challenges me to look hard at my life, spent in relative ease, and to consider the great question of whether I have fought hard enough to bring my whole person--body as well as soul--into the obedient submission of the Kingdom of God. As Paul says, "Nothing shall be my master," and that "nothing," I suppose, includes myself.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Samantha Penrose

    ugh. It's taking me sooooooo loooooonnnngggg to read this --- BECAUSE IT SUCKS SO HARD! This man's philosophy on how to live your life (if you are a monk that it) is the antithesis of everything I believe! He promotes good intentioned shaming, he is down on family, he advocates silence and detatchment... Excerpt; The man who really loves the Lord, who has made a real effort to find the future Kingdom, who is really pained by his sins, who is really mindful of eternal torment and judgement, who rea ugh. It's taking me sooooooo loooooonnnngggg to read this --- BECAUSE IT SUCKS SO HARD! This man's philosophy on how to live your life (if you are a monk that it) is the antithesis of everything I believe! He promotes good intentioned shaming, he is down on family, he advocates silence and detatchment... Excerpt; The man who really loves the Lord, who has made a real effort to find the future Kingdom, who is really pained by his sins, who is really mindful of eternal torment and judgement, who really lives in fear of his own departure, will not love, care or worry about money, or possessions, or parents, or worldly glory, or friends, or brothers, or anything at all on earth. But having shaken off all ties with earthly things and having stripped himself of all his cares, and having come to hate even his own flesh, and having stripped himself of everything, he will follow Christ without anxiety or hesitation, always looking Heavenward and expecting help from there, according to the word of the saint: My soul hath cleaved after Thee; and according to that other ever-memorable man who said: I have not wearied of following Thee, nor have I desired the day or rest of man, O Lord. GOOD GRIEF!

  5. 5 out of 5

    William white

    This cannot be titles or surnamed a book.. This work is a way of Life...meant for monks,but as Christians are we not all to live as religious? In an upward ascent i read this daily to instill what is not or to ask for perfection in something that has been hardened by sin... St John Climacus i feel put his life into this work as it is one of few he wrote. I HIGHLY SUGGEST THIS especially for all Christians Daily reading

  6. 4 out of 5

    Scott

    Meant for monks, it is nonetheless full of helpful advice and encouragement for anyone on the path. A true masterpiece that deserves to be read many times. The further you progress the more it will mean to you - and I would dare even suggest that the more this work rings true and speaks to you, the further along you are. At any stage, though, this is profitable reading!

  7. 4 out of 5

    Darrick Taylor

    One of the most revered works of theology and devotion in the Eastern Christian world, it is read in monasteries in the Eastern Churches every Lent, and is one of the most compelling, beautiful works of its type I have ever read. St. John takes you into the heart of the Christian mystery, and despite the fact that it was written for monks, its wisdom is really for everyone.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Charles

    One of the greatest spiritual manuals out side the holy Scriptures, read with care, remember this was written for monks not lay people but the greatest of treasure may be detected from these pages.

  9. 5 out of 5

    David

    It seems to me, after reading a good number of works of Christian spirituality and theology, the majority of them are profound and helpful. This makes sense since the ones we still read today have stood the test of time, I imagine the garbage of the ancient and medieval world was soon forgotten. While most are good, some are much easier to read through then others. It may be a translation thing, or maybe just some writers wrote more with a more complex structure than others. Whatever it is, John It seems to me, after reading a good number of works of Christian spirituality and theology, the majority of them are profound and helpful. This makes sense since the ones we still read today have stood the test of time, I imagine the garbage of the ancient and medieval world was soon forgotten. While most are good, some are much easier to read through then others. It may be a translation thing, or maybe just some writers wrote more with a more complex structure than others. Whatever it is, John Climacus is on the easier to read through side of things. Much of his writing is aphorisms, the sort of writing you find in the biblical book of Proverbs. So if you have never read many Christian classics and want to, this might not be a bad place to start. The problem of course is that this is written for monks. So the level of spiritual life, the standard he sets, seems both out of reach for normal people and legalistic. If you forget his audience, it would be easy to condemn what he says as works-righteousness blather. But if you can see through the high calling to the monks you can still find much to challenge normal people. For example, maybe some of us are lazy and sleep too much. We don't need to become monks and wake up twice in the middle of the night to pray, but it might not hurt to sleep a little less so we can spend more time in prayer. Overall, recommended.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Associate His name with His Face

    A hand book of of practical relevant and valid experience and observations made bu someone who was assiduously following the spiritual path --that of stilling the mind and seeing the relativity that our thoughts hide from us . For example: http://www.innerlightproductions.com/... says : ----------------------------------------------------------- STEP 27: On Holy Stillness of Body and Soul ----------------------------------------------------------- -- Stillness of the body is the knowledge and comp A hand book of of practical relevant and valid experience and observations made bu someone who was assiduously following the spiritual path --that of stilling the mind and seeing the relativity that our thoughts hide from us . For example: http://www.innerlightproductions.com/... says : ----------------------------------------------------------- STEP 27: On Holy Stillness of Body and Soul ----------------------------------------------------------- -- Stillness of the body is the knowledge and composure of the habits and feelings. And stillness of soul is the knowledge of one's thoughts and an inviolable mind. -- The beginning of stillness is to throw off all noise as disturbing for the depth (of the soul). And the end of it is not to fear disturbances but to remain insensible to them. He, who in actually going out does not go out, is gentle and wholly a house of love. He is not easily moved to speech, and he cannot be moved to anger. The opposite of this is obvious. -- A monk living with another monk is not like a monk living as a solitary. When a monk is alone, he has need of great vigilance and of an unwandering mind. The former is often helped by his brother; but an angel assists the latter. -- It is not safe to swim in one's clothes, nor should a slave of passion touch theology. -- He who is sick in soul from some passion and attempts stillness is like a man who has jumped from a ship into the sea and thinks that he will reach the shore safely on a plank. -- The hesychast (NOTE: one who lives in solitude or stillness) who has become lazy will tell lies, urging people by hints to end his stillness for him. And having left his cell, he blames the devils. He has not discovered that he is his own devil. -- Those whose mind has learned true prayer converse with the Lord face to face, as if speaking into the ear of the emperor. Those who make vocal prayer fall down before Him as if in the presence of the whole senate. But those who live in the world petition the emperor amidst the clamour of all the crowds. If you have learned the art of prayer scientifically, you cannot fail to know what I have said. -- Here are the signs, courses and proofs of those who are practising stillness in the right way: an unruffled mind, purified thought, rapture towards the Lord, recollection of eternal torments, the urgency of death, constant hunger for prayer, unsleeping vigilance, wasting away of lust, ignorance of attachment, death to the world, loss of gluttony, foundation of theology, a well of discernment, a truce accompanied by tears, loss of talkativeness, and many such things which the common run of men are wont to find quite alien to themselves. -- And here are the signs of those who are practising stillness in the wrong way: dearth of (spiritual) wealth, increase of anger, a hoard of resentment, diminution of love, growth of vanity; and I will be silent about all the rest which follow. -- When you go forth, guard what you have gathered. When the cage is opened, the birds fly out. And then we shall find no further profit in stillness. -- It is better to live (as a cenobite) in poverty and obedience than to be a hesychast who has no control of his mind. -- My experience is that the demons often persuade foolish busybodies to visit true hesychasts so as to use even such as those to throw some hindrance in the way of these active men. Look out for such people, and do not be afraid of offending these idle bodies by your devout behaviour; because, as a result of this offence, they will perhaps stop their meddlesomeness. But see that you do not mistakenly offend a soul who, in his thirst, has come to draw water from you. In all things you need the light (of discretion). -- Reading enlightens the mind considerably, and helps it concentrate. For those are the Holy Spirit's words and they attune those who attend to them. Let what you read lead you to action, for you are a doer. Putting these words into practice makes further reading superfluous. Seek to be enlightened by the words of salvation through your labours, and not merely from books. Until you receive spiritual power, do not study works of an allegorical nature because they are dark words, and they darken the weak. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- STEP 28: On Holy and Blessed Prayer, the Mother of Virtues, and on the Attitude of Mind and Body in Prayer --------------------------------------------------------------------------------- -- When you are going to stand before the Lord, let the garment of your soul be woven throughout with the thread of obliviousness to wrongs. Otherwise, prayer will bring you no benefit. -- Let your prayer be completely simple. For both the publican and the prodigal son were reconciled to God by a single phrase. -- The work of prayer is one and the same for all, but there are many kinds of prayer and many different prayers. Some converse with God as with a friend and master, interceding with praise and petition, not for themselves but for others. Some strive for greater (spiritual) riches and glory and for confidence in prayer. Others ask for complete deliverance from their adversary. Some beg to receive some kind of rank; others for complete forgiveness of debts. Some ask to be released from prison; others for remission from offences. -- Before all else, let us list sincere thanksgiving first on the scroll of our prayer. On the second line, we should put confession and heartfelt contrition of soul. Then let us present our petition to the King of all. This is the best way of prayer, as it was shown to one of the brethren by an angel of the Lord. -- Do not be over-sophisticated in the words you use when praying, because the simple and unadorned lisping of children has often won the heart of their Heavenly Father. -- Do not try to be verbose when you pray, lest your mind be distracted in searching for words. One word of the publican propitiated God, and one cry of faith saved the thief. Loquacity in prayer often distracts the mind and leads to phantasy, whereas brevity makes for concentration. -- If you feel sweetness or compunction at some word of your prayer, dwell on it; for then our guardian angel is praying with us. -- Though you may have climbed the whole ladder of the virtues, pray for forgiveness of sins. Listen to the cry of Paul regarding sinners: Of whom I am chief. (I Timothy 1:15) -- Oil and salt are seasonings for food; and tears and chastity give wings to prayer. -- Soiled prayer is one thing, its disappearance is another, robbery is another, and blemish another. Prayer is soiled when we stand before God and picture to ourselves irrelevant and inopportune thoughts. Prayer is lost when we are captured by useless cares. Prayer is stolen from us when our thoughts wander before we realize it. Prayer is blemished by any kind of attack or interruption that comes to us at the time of prayer. -- Faith gives wings to prayer, and without it we cannot fly up to Heaven. -- Do not say, after spending a long time in prayer, that nothing has been gained; for you have already gained something. And what higher good is there than to cling to the Lord and persevere in unceasing union with Him? -- Psalmody in a crowded congregation is accompanied by captivity and wandering of the thoughts; but in solitude, this does not happen. However, those in solitude are liable to be assailed by despondency, whereas in congregation the brethren help each other by their zeal. -- War proves the soldier's love for his king; but the time and discipline of prayer show the monk's love for God. -- Your prayer will show you what condition you are in. Theologians say that prayer is the monk's mirror. -- Do not be puffed up if you have prayed for another and been heard, for it is his faith that has been strong and effective. -- Do not admit any sensory phantasies during prayer, lest you become subject to derangement. -- Just as an earthly king is disgusted by a man who turns his face away and talks to his master's enemies while in his presence, so will the Lord be disgusted by a man who admits unclean thoughts during his set time of prayer. -- Ask with tears, seek with obedience, knock with patience. For thus he who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. -- Take care when you pray not to overdo your intercessions for those of the other sex, so as not to be despoiled from the right side. -- Do not go into detail in confessing carnal acts, lest you become a traitor to yourself. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------- STEP 29: Concerning Heaven on Earth, or Godlike Dispassion and Perfection, and the Resurrection of the Soul Before the General Resurrection ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------- -- That soul has dispassion which is immersed in the virtues as the passionate are in pleasures. -- If it is the acme of gluttony to force oneself to eat even when one has no appetite, then it is certainly the acme of temperance for a hungry man to overcome nature when it is blameless (NOTE: the point is, it is the height of temperance or self-control to master hunger which betokens a real need of nature and is therefore blameless). If it is extreme sensuality to rave over irrational and even inanimate creatures, then it is extreme purity to hold all persons in the same regard as inanimate things. If it is the height of cupidity to go on collecting and never be satisfied, it is the height of non-possessiveness not to spare even one's own body. If it is the height of despondency, while living in complete peace, not to acquire patience, then it is the height of patience to think of oneself even in affliction as being at rest. If it is called a sea of wrath for a person to be savage even when no one is about, then it will be a sea of long-suffering to be as calm in the presence of your slanderer as in his absence. If it is the height of vainglory when a person, seeing no one near him to praise him, puts on affected behaviour, it is certainly a mark of its absence, not to let your thought be beguiled in the presence of those who praise you. If it is a sign of perdition (that is to say, pride) to be arrogant even in poor clothing, then it is a mark of saving humility to have humble thoughts in the midst of high undertakings and achievements. If it is a sign of complete enslavement to the passions to yield readily to everything the demons sow in us, then I take it as a mark of holy dispassion to be able to say honestly: Because the evil one turned away from me, I knew him not (Psalms 100:4); nor how he came, nor why, nor how he went; but I am completely unaware of everything of this kind, because I am wholly united with God and always will be. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------- STEP 30: Concerning the Linking Together of the Supreme Trinity Among the Virtues ----------------------------------------------------------------------------- -- And now, finally, after all that we have said, there remain these three that bind and secure the union of all: faith, hope, love; and the greatest of these is love, for God Himself is so called. (I Corinthians 13:13 and I John 4: 8 and 16) -- The first can make and create all things; the Divine mercy surrounds the second and makes it immune to disappointment; the third does not fall, does not stop in its course and allows no respite to him who is wounded by its blessed madness. -- The angels know how to speak about love, and even they can only do this according to the degree of their enlightenment. -- God is love. So he who wishes to define this tries with bleary eyes to measure the sand in the ocean. -- Love is essentially the banishment of every kind of contrary thought, for love thinketh no evil. -- Even a mother does not so cling to the babe at her breast as a son of love clings to the Lord at all times. -- If the face of a loved one clearly and completely changes us, and makes us cheerful, gay and carefree, what will the Face of the Lord do when He makes His Presence felt invisibly in a pure soul? -- Those who have reached such an angelic state often forget about bodily food. I think that often they do not even feel any desire for it. And no wonder, for frequently a contrary desire expels the thought of food. -- I think that the body of those incorruptible men is not even subject to sickness any longer, because it has been rendered incorruptible; for by the flame of purity they have extinguished the flame. I think that even the food that is set before them they accept without any pleasure. For there is an underground stream that nourishes the root of a plant, and their souls too are sustained by a celestial fire. -- The growth of fear is the beginning of love, but a complete state of purity is the foundation of theology. -- He who loves the Lord has first loved his brother, because the second is a proof of the first. -- One who loves his neighbour can never tolerate slanderers, but rather runs from them as from fire. -- He who says that he loves the Lord but is angry with his brother is like a man who dreams that he is running. -- Love bestows prophecy; love yields miracles; love is an abyss of illumination; love is a fountain of fire, in the measure that it wells up, it inflames the thirsty soul. Love is the state of angels. Love is the progress of eternity. END

  11. 5 out of 5

    Kyle Johnson

    "There are some who undertake this holy way of life because of a delight in, a thirst for the love and sweetness of God, and they achieve a union of this kind only after they have shed all vice and acquired all virtue...I have put together a ladder of ascent, let each one take note of the step on which one is standing." Kallistos Ware, the great modern day Orthodox theologian, claims in the introduction that The Ladder of Divine Ascent has been and remains the most commonly read book outside of t "There are some who undertake this holy way of life because of a delight in, a thirst for the love and sweetness of God, and they achieve a union of this kind only after they have shed all vice and acquired all virtue...I have put together a ladder of ascent, let each one take note of the step on which one is standing." Kallistos Ware, the great modern day Orthodox theologian, claims in the introduction that The Ladder of Divine Ascent has been and remains the most commonly read book outside of the Bible in Eastern Christianity. Written around 600 by a monk to monks living in community on Mt. Sinai, John Climacus envisions a 30-runged ladder that one climbs in pursuit of union with God. While the 30 rungs metaphorically represent the 30 years leading up to Jesus' ministry, they more practically each highlight a virtue to be acquired or a vice to be overcome in any serious pursuit of spiritual growth. The monastic, ascetic, radical context of The Ladder should not be taken lightly; several sub-themes of his teachings will appear obscure to the modern reader, if not offensive. Nevertheless, read in community and with a sincere effort to bridge the cultural chasms between him and us, there is value for anyone here on the upward and onward journey to God.

  12. 5 out of 5

    SilverReader

    The more i learn and read, the guiltier i will feel during Judgement Day. And yet, here we are.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Finnian Lee

    This work helps one understand how underestimated the problem of gluttony is. No, it's not about what you see at Walmart, but there's a lot more to it. Truly horrifying. St John shows the marvelous nature of simplicity. He also said in the longest chapter, 4 on obedience many hard-hitting things. When St. John the Ladder speaks on the virtues or vices he shows its effects and causes, the stages of progress or regress within it, and the signs to discern these. If you want to identify where you are This work helps one understand how underestimated the problem of gluttony is. No, it's not about what you see at Walmart, but there's a lot more to it. Truly horrifying. St John shows the marvelous nature of simplicity. He also said in the longest chapter, 4 on obedience many hard-hitting things. When St. John the Ladder speaks on the virtues or vices he shows its effects and causes, the stages of progress or regress within it, and the signs to discern these. If you want to identify where you are with respect to any given one of these vices / virtues, this road map or conceptual 'ladder' and your experience need to be unified. In most people's condition, they can be told only by a spiritual guide. I'd say Aristotle still helps define virtue (and not his philosophy but this part was modified slightly and carried through the phronema of the Fathers. We have forgotten so could do well to remember it). He called this mysterious thing that takes the matrix of (true) concepts (general principles about what to do in such and such situation) and matrix of (accurate) empirical signs in real life (to see what the situation is) and can link them up rightly without discarding special features of the situation 'phronesis.' We can say that's true perception (not just physical perception, but living understanding). The fathers call it 'discernment', and say very different things about it than Aristotle does of course, for example about how to get it, and about the source.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Ted

    I am not a monk, so I don't read this book as a monk might, and it is written for monks like much of the spiritual literature in Orthodoxy. Like with most Patristic works, one has to read a lot to find the gems in the work. There are parts that don't speak to me at all, and some whole chapters didn't speak to me at all. But my rating such a work is rather meaningless. I could not recommend this book to every Orthodox Christian and even would quote it only selectively. I am not a monk, so I don't read this book as a monk might, and it is written for monks like much of the spiritual literature in Orthodoxy. Like with most Patristic works, one has to read a lot to find the gems in the work. There are parts that don't speak to me at all, and some whole chapters didn't speak to me at all. But my rating such a work is rather meaningless. I could not recommend this book to every Orthodox Christian and even would quote it only selectively.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Christopher Neill

    This is a great book but frankly not recommended for idle study. It is aimed at monastics in the context of Orthodox living, it is not a western self-help manual.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Eric

    I'm actually reading a version by the monks of Holy Transfiguration Monastery (Boston, 1979). I'm actually reading a version by the monks of Holy Transfiguration Monastery (Boston, 1979).

  17. 5 out of 5

    Connor Longaphie

    as somebody that loves ascetic works, this book disappointed me quite a lot. it is for the most part introductory. theres definitely a lack of depth and profound material that can be felt if one is acquainted with other ascetic writings and the theological material included is another huge downfall of this book. I find the bulk of the theological material in this book to not only be wrong but to be indefensible. No evidence is given or even makeshift explanation for many theological statements. as somebody that loves ascetic works, this book disappointed me quite a lot. it is for the most part introductory. theres definitely a lack of depth and profound material that can be felt if one is acquainted with other ascetic writings and the theological material included is another huge downfall of this book. I find the bulk of the theological material in this book to not only be wrong but to be indefensible. No evidence is given or even makeshift explanation for many theological statements. The practical ascetic suggestions in this book are not only more extreme than they should be, and not only illogical and without reason and purpose, but they dont come off as suggestions. It would not be out of character for the author to say something along the lines of "if you love God you will only drink dirty water". no reason would be given, no explanation and no room for discussion on the matter. For a book held in such high regard, this is without a doubt, a disappointing failure at christian devotion. Pick a different book.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Kenneth

    The author was a Greek monk at the monastery of St. Catherine in the Sinai Peninsula (which still exists) and eventually became its abbot. Sometime in the early 7th century he was asked to write about the monastic life and its spiritual struggles and the result was this book (written in Greek). It reflects a very different cultural milieu, very strange to modern Westerners (especially those of Protestant backgrounds) - the Byzantine Empire, almost on the eve of the Muslim conquest, in the early The author was a Greek monk at the monastery of St. Catherine in the Sinai Peninsula (which still exists) and eventually became its abbot. Sometime in the early 7th century he was asked to write about the monastic life and its spiritual struggles and the result was this book (written in Greek). It reflects a very different cultural milieu, very strange to modern Westerners (especially those of Protestant backgrounds) - the Byzantine Empire, almost on the eve of the Muslim conquest, in the early 600's A.D. The spiritual life is described as 30 steps (recalling Jacob's Ladder in Genesis), which can be a fierce struggle with onself and one's inner demons, which can last a lifetime. Reading it is not a breeze to say the least, but to anyone looking for a guide to a Christian spiritual life, it can repay the effort. It is a popular read to this day among the Eastern Orthodox.

  19. 4 out of 5

    David Di Giacomo

    I wish I could give this book 10 stars. There are very few other books that are so rewarding upon multiple re-reads. I do not understand at all the people who say it is only for monastics, or that it should only be read with adequate preparation. This was the first Orthodox book I read when I started getting interested in Orthodoxy. I didn't understand most of it, but it was the litterary equivalent of attending an All-Night Vigil for the first time: bewildering, intoxicating and wondrous. It "s I wish I could give this book 10 stars. There are very few other books that are so rewarding upon multiple re-reads. I do not understand at all the people who say it is only for monastics, or that it should only be read with adequate preparation. This was the first Orthodox book I read when I started getting interested in Orthodoxy. I didn't understand most of it, but it was the litterary equivalent of attending an All-Night Vigil for the first time: bewildering, intoxicating and wondrous. It "smelled like incense", so to speak, and gave me a sense of what Orthodoxy feels like. And the struggle against the passions is something every human being must undertake or else perish, whether monastic or not. Very little of this book is not applicable to laypeople.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Matthew

    I read this book in Eastertide 2015. I've been meaning to write about it for about a year, now! Sorry about that. I felt today would be a good day since it is his commemoration in the Eastern Orthodox Church. Anyway, The Ladder of Divine Ascent is one of the most popular works of spiritual writing in the Eastern Orthodox tradition. Its popularity in the Christian East is similar to St Thomas a Kempis, The Imitation of Christ -- this latter being the most copied, printed, and translated book of w I read this book in Eastertide 2015. I've been meaning to write about it for about a year, now! Sorry about that. I felt today would be a good day since it is his commemoration in the Eastern Orthodox Church. Anyway, The Ladder of Divine Ascent is one of the most popular works of spiritual writing in the Eastern Orthodox tradition. Its popularity in the Christian East is similar to St Thomas a Kempis, The Imitation of Christ -- this latter being the most copied, printed, and translated book of western Christendom next to the Bible. It is read in every Eastern Orthodox monastery in Lent as well as by many of the laity. St John 'of the Ladder' (translating klimakos) was the late sixth-century abbot of the monastery at Sinai, now known as St Catherine's. In this book, he distills the wisdom he has acquired through his own long years as a monk, a solitary, and a spiritual guide. It is hard when reviewing such a classic as this to find the right words (I used this same cop-out in my review of City of God, I know). I found much of value in it, but it was hard-going. It is not an easy book. Books by monks for monks rarely are. Nonetheless, there is much here even for the lay Anglican. That may not be the strongest recommendation. Nonetheless, I do recommend this book for the determined inquirer in the spiritual reality of the Triune God. A friend on Facebook asked me if this was a good guide to the via negativa. The answer is that this book is not a work of mystical theology. It is mainly a guide to praktike, the external practices that one must couple to theoria (or contemplation) in order to ascent the ladder to God. A great number of the steps are about how to do battle against the passions, using a slightly different schema of their division from the more famous Evagrian one that made its way into the 7 deadly sins via St Gregory the Great. This is not to say that theoria is completely ignored by any means. Theoria is the point of the ascent. This text lies historically near the beginning of the Jesus Prayer tradition, as we see in this quotation: "Let the remembrance of Jesus be present with your every breath. Then indeed you will appreciate the value of stillness." St John's Ladder is about the heart of monastic spirituality. It is about the quest for apatheia -- dispassion, that elusive state of being where the unclean logismoi of our flesh or of the demons, stirred up in our fallen hearts, break against our armour, as we storm the gates of Hell armed with prayer and the Holy Name of Jesus on our lips. In this, St John stands with Evagrian apatheia and St John Cassian's purity of heart. As the topics of discussion listed below show us, the ascetic practices of the Ladder are not restricted to those of prayer or those of daily life. They embrace the whole of our situation. This is in accord with Archimandrite Sophrony's warnings in His Life Is Mine against engaging in spiritual practices without the rest of the virtuous life and the doctrine of the Church to uphold us. It resonates also with the introductory remarks to The Philokalia, Volume 1: The Complete Text, where the translators remind us of so many people who get caught up in the externals of Christian life, forgetting the better part of Mary of Bethany. The 30 steps of the Ladder are: 1. On renunciation of the world 2. On detachment 3. On exile or pilgrimage 4. On blessed and ever-memorable obedience 5. On painstaking and true repentance which constitute the life of the holy convicts; and about the prison (this is about a monastery he visited in Alexandria where monks guilty of certain offences were sent to a "prison") 6. On remembrance of death 7. On mourning which causes joy 8. On freedom from anger and on meekness 9. On remembrance of wrongs 10. On slander or calumny 11. On talkativeness and silence 12. On lying 13. On despondency (akkedia 14. On the clamorous, yet wicked master—the stomach 15. On incorruptible purity and chastity to which the corruptible attain by toil and sweat 16. On love of money or avarice 17. On poverty (that hastens heavenwards) 18. On insensibility, that is, deadening of the soul and the death of the mind before the death of the body 19. On sleep, prayer, and psalm-singing in chapel 20. On bodily vigil and how to use it to attain spiritual vigil and how to practise it 21. On unmanly and puerile cowardice 22. On the many forms of vainglory 23. On mad pride, and, in the same Step, on unclean blasphemous thoughts 24. On meekness, simplicity, guilelessness which come not from nature but from habit, and about malice 25. On the destroyer of the passions, most sublime humility, which is rooted in spiritual feeling 26. On discernment of thoughts, passions and virtues 27. On holy solitude of body and soul 28. On holy and blessed prayer, mother of virtues, and on the attitude of mind and body in prayer 29. Concerning heaven on earth, or godlike dispassion and perfection, and the resurrection of the soul before the general resurrection 30. Concerning the linking together of the supreme trinity among the virtues

  21. 4 out of 5

    Volkert

    I have read parts of this volume a long time ago, and then decided to start over during Great Lent three years ago. Now in Great Lent, I finally finished it. This is one of the great spiritual classics of the Eastern Christian tradition, and is also read in the West. Many Orthodox monks read this every Lent. What strikes me is how little is said about Christian doctrine, or what is commonly called theology. Here theology is knowing God through prayer, through dispassion, through love.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Tom Schmdit

    I try to read this every Lent, but sometime fall flat. So much wisdom to digest. This book was written for monks, but almost everything applies to the layman/laywoman as well. An Orthodox classic that should be read by all.

  23. 4 out of 5

    John Moore

    Good spiritual reading This is a very powerful book and makes great Lenten reading. I found it to be thought-provoking and challenging. Highly recommended for those who want to be shaken up.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Steve Ronald

    Required Reading This book needs to be carefully read and re-read throughout your walk with Christ. It won't make sense, then it will, then you'll notice something you missed. Again and again and again. Required Reading This book needs to be carefully read and re-read throughout your walk with Christ. It won't make sense, then it will, then you'll notice something you missed. Again and again and again.

  25. 5 out of 5

    нєνєℓ ¢ανα

    This work is historical as how christianity develops in the first centuries of spiritual development on the church... it's meant for Monks in the core, but in today standards is a guide for historians and researchers who are delving into this period of time... This work is historical as how christianity develops in the first centuries of spiritual development on the church... it's meant for Monks in the core, but in today standards is a guide for historians and researchers who are delving into this period of time...

  26. 4 out of 5

    William Hecht

    Amazing presentation of early Christian monastic theory and practice.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Anton Relin

    Big boys DO cry - at least according to Climacus. Fascinating.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Fr. Robert

    A good spiritual read, but only for advanced readers in spiritual journeys. May be somewhat intense and misleading for the novice.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Caleb

    It was great meditative reading for Lent- however I did not find it as applicable to non-monastic life as many readers have said, especially the chapter on obedience which struck me as rather abusive

  30. 4 out of 5

    Luke T

    Interesting, dense, profound. I will need to revisit this. Date Started: Wednesday, February 6, 2019 Date Finished: Saturday, March 2, 2019 Time: 765 minutes (12.75 hours)

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