Saint John Climacus

Fourth Sunday of Great Lent: St John Climacus 

Epistle Reading

The Lord is the Anchor of Our Salvation (Hebrews 6:13-20)

1- God does not need to make an oath, but He condescended to make us understand the importance of His purposes that do not to change.

2- God accepts to say things that are not worthy of His majesty for our sake when He makes an oath to confirm His promise. As for Abraham, it appears that everything ultimately returns to God, despite Abraham's patience, since God is pledging by himself. Humans do not equal God in the oath because humans do not prevail over themselves and cannot swear by themselves.

3- What happened with Abraham guides us to what will happen in the future. If the earthly promises were fulfilled after a long time, after much patience, then how much more will the heavenly promises also be fulfilled with our patience and faith.

4- As when the anchor is thrown from the boat and keeps it from going here and there even if strong winds strike it, but rather make it steady, so is hope. Without any hope, we would have drowned for a long time.

5- Everyone can see in hope a great power, as is the case of trade, agriculture, and war. If there was no hope, one could not do anything.

6- The Apostle Paul was not satisfied with the word "anchor" alone, but added "trustworthy and steadfast", to show the stability of those who rely on it for their salvation. Therefore, he also adds that it enters across the veil. Now, what does that mean? He means that it can reach heaven.

7- The Apostle Paul also speaks of faith in addition to hope, so that hope does not remain alone. After the oath, he shows things that were fulfilled, saying that Jesus entered as a forerunner, and a forerunner precedes other people as St John the Baptist preceded Jesus. Thus we are expected to follow Him. For the forerunner and the followers are both on one path, the first is walking and the others are trying to follow up.

8 - "After the order of Melchizedek". This is another consolation that our Chief Priest in heaven and is better than the Jewish chief priests, not only in terms of the manner but also in terms of location, structure, covenant, and face; all this in relation to His human nature.

Patristic Teachings- St John Chrysostom


Gospel Reading

Mark 9: 17-31

The Lord gave humans a blessing in His name, but one must be purified in order to preserve and activate it.

2- Prayer and fasting are two weapons that a Christian should not neglect nor abandon their grace.

3- Healing in body and soul is based primarily on the firm belief in the Lord Jesus.

4- St. John Climacus says: “Faith is the mother of virtues.”

5- It is good for a person to acknowledge his weakness before the Lord.

6- Prayer and fasting help humankind to return to the previous condition of the Kingdom, which they lost by sin.


Prokeimenon. Mode Plagal 4.

Psalm 75.11,1

Make your vows to the Lord our God and perform them.

Verse: God is known in Judah; his name is great in Israel.

The reading is from St. Paul's Letter to the Hebrews 6:13-20

BRETHREN, when God made a promise to Abraham since he had no one greater by whom to swear, he swore to himself, saying, "Surely I will bless you and multiply you." And thus Abraham, having patiently endured, obtained the promise. Men indeed swear by a greater than themselves, and in all their disputes an oath is final for confirmation. So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he interposed with an oath, so that through two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible that God should prove false, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to seize the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner shrine behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high

a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.



Gospel Reading

Mark 9: 17-31

At that time, a man came to Jesus kneeling and saying: "Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a dumb spirit; and wherever it seizes him it dashes him down; and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid, and I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able." And he answered them, "O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me." And they brought the boy to him; and when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. And Jesus asked his father, "How long has he had this?" And he said, "From childhood. And it has often cast him into the fire and into the water, to destroy him; but if you can do anything, have pity on us and help us." And Jesus said to him, "If you can! All things are possible to him who believes." Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, "I believe; help my unbelief!" And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, "You dumb and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him, and never enter him again." And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse; so that most of them said, "He is dead." But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose. And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, "Why could we not cast it out?" And he said to them, "This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer and fasting." They went on from there and passed through Galilee. And he would not have anyone know it; for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, "The Son of man will be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him; and when he is killed, after three days he will rise."



Life of Saint John Climacus


Saint John Climacus was probably born in the second half of the sixth century.



At the age of sixteen, after having received a solid intellectual formation, he renounced all the pleasures of this vain life for the love of God and went to Mount Sinai where monasteries abound.

Setting aside, from the moment of his entry into the stadium, all self-trust and self-satisfaction through unfeigned humility, he yielded himself body and soul to an elder called Martyrios and set himself, free from all care, to climb the spiritual ladder." His only care was to reject his own will.

John lived nineteen years in blessed obedience gives, preserved by the prayer of his spiritual father. On the death of his teacher, he resolved to continue his ascension in solitude, so as not to be even for a moment deprived of the "sweetness of God." He did not commit himself to this path, on his own judgment, but on the recommendation of another Elder called George, who instructed him in the way of life proper to Hesychasts. John chose a solitary place called Tholas, situated five miles from the main monastery. He stayed there for forty years, consumed by an ever-increasing love of God, having unceasing prayer and vigilance as his only occupation, as an angel clothed in the flesh.

Sometimes he was ravished in the Spirit in the midst of the angelic choirs, not knowing if he was in the body or out of it. When he came out of the furnace of prayer, he sometimes felt purified as if by fire, and sometimes totally radiant with light.

Abbot of Sinai

When the Saint had sojourned these forty years in the desert, like another Moses, he was charged to be the abbot of Sinai Monastery. He became for all a good shepherd, the great physician, and the spiritual master. Carrying within him the Book written by God, he did not need other books to teach his monks the science of the sciences and the art of arts.

The Monastery of Sinai became famous for the lifestyle of its monks, which was established by their superior. This is what made the monastery a beacon for all the monks and pilgrims who began to come from all sides. 

Having been informed of the wonderful manner of life of the monks of Sinai John the Abbot of Raitho wrote to Climacus, asking him to give, in an organized and brief manner, counsels for the salvation of the monks who live the angelic life.

Thus, John started to jot down the Tablets of the Spiritual Law, and the fruit of his spiritual labor was “The Ladder of Divine Ascent”, which remained a classical reference for the principles of spiritual life through the ages.

The idea of the book is that to reach spiritual perfection one advances in the level of virtues just like ascending a ladder where every virtue is a degree. It is inspired by Jacob’s ladder in the Old Testament (Genesis 28:12).

Saint John Climacus listed the virtues in 30 degrees, which corresponds to the age of the Lord Jesus Christ on earth prior to the beginning of his three-year mission before He was crucified at the age of 33 years. As for Satan, he fights us with evil thoughts to bring us down from the divine Ladder to the abyss (these are temptations).

The first of these degrees is "renunciation", and we mention among the most important other degrees: obedience (degree 4), remembrance of death (degree 6), silence (degree 11), overcoming lying (degree 12), overcoming cowardice (degree 21), humility (degree 25), discernment of thoughts (degree 26), Godlike dispassion (degree 29), the most important of which is number 30, and he makes it a "trinity": "faith, hope, and love".

On this Sunday of Lent, the Church stresses the importance of acquiring these "virtues", comparing the journey of Lent towards the desired Resurrection and the temptations that we encounter to this Ladders of virtues.


His repose:

After years of arduous struggle, to attain the life of holiness, Saint John appointed his brother Georges as head of the monastery, after he felt that he was close to it. Thus he surrendered his soul and deposited it in the hands of the Heavenly Father, to enjoy the blessing and heavenly love where peace is definitely irreplaceable.

It is unknown when he reposed in the Lord exactly but it is most likely between the sixth and first half of the seventh century AD.


On Pride

Saint John Climacus

Pride is a denial of God, an invention of the devil, contempt for men. It is the mother of condemnation, the offspring of praise, a sign of barrenness. It is a flight from God's help, the harbinger of madness, the author of downfall. It is the cause of diabolical possession, the source of anger, the gateway of hypocrisy. It is the fortress of demons, the custodian of sins, the source of hardheartedness. It is the denial of compassion, a bitter pharisee, a cruel judge. It is the foe of God, it is the root of blasphemy.

Pride takes up residence wherever we have lapsed, for a lapse is, in fact, an indication of pride.

Pride and nothing else caused an angel to fall from heaven. And so one may reasonably ask whether one may reach heaven by humility alone without the help of any other virtue. Pride loses the profits of all hard work and sweat.

An old man, very experienced in these matters, once spiritually admonished a proud brother who said in his blindness: "Forgive me, father, but I am not proud." "My son," said the wise old man, "what better proof of your pride could you have given than to claim that you were not proud?"

While it is disgraceful to be puffed up over the adornments of others, it is sheer lunacy to imagine that one has deserved the gifts of God. You may be proud only of the achievements you had before the time of your birth. But anything after that, indeed the birth itself, is a gift from God. You may claim only those virtues in you that are there independently of your mind, for your mind was bestowed on you by God. And you may claim only those victories you achieved independently of the body, for the body too is not yours but a work of God.

Do not be self-confident before judgment has been passed on you. Remember the guest at the marriage feast. He got there, and then, tied hand and foot, he was thrown into the dark outside (cf. Matt. 22:13). So do not be stiff-necked, since you are a material being. Many although holy and unencumbered by a body were thrown out even from heaven.

Pride makes us forget our sins, for the remembrance of them leads to humility.

Pride is utter poverty of soul disguised as riches, imaginary light where in fact there is darkness. This abominable vice not only stops our progress but even tosses us down from the heights we have reached.

A proud monk needs no demon. He has turned into one, an enemy to himself.

Darkness is alien to light. Pride is alien to every virtue.

Blaspheming words rise up in the hearts of the proud, heavenly visions in the hearts of the humble.

Step 23- The Ladder of Divine Ascent”