4th Sunday of Great Lent: St John Climacus (of the Ladder)
The Fourth Sunday of Lent is dedicated to Saint John Klimakos, the author of The Ladder of Divine Ascent. In this book the Igoumen of Saint Katherine’s Monastery on Mount Sinai bears witness to the great effort which is required for entry into God’s Kingdom (Matthew 10:12). The spiritual struggle of the Christian life is difficult since it is “not against flesh and blood, but against … the rulers of the present darkness … the hosts of wickedness in heavenly places …” (Ephesians 6:12). Saint John encourages the faithful in their efforts for, as the Lord has said, only “he who endures to the end will be saved” (Matthew 24:13).
Saint John was born around the year 525, the son of devout and wealthy parents. He received a very good education, but at the age of sixteen, he forsook the world and went to Mount Sinai, subjecting himself to the spiritual guidance of Elder Martyrios. When he was nineteen years of age,1 his Elder reposed. Then Saint John entered the arena of hesychasm, visiting the monastic communities of Skḗtē and Tabénnisē in Egypt. For another forty years, he lived in a cell at Thora in the Sinai Desert, which was a two hour (5 mile) walk from the Monastery of Saint Katherine.
Aflame with indescribable longing for God, he ate everything that was permitted by the monastic Rule, but only in very small quantities, and not unto satiety. By so doing, he overcame the vice of pride; and by eating just a little food, he humbled the stomach, which always wants more. He raised his body from death and paralysis by the remembrance of death, and he overcame the tyranny of anger with the sword of obedience.
Who can describe the fountain of his tears, which is now to be seen in very few individuals? He slept only as much as was necessary to prevent his mind from being distracted. Before going to sleep he prayed a great deal, and he also wrote books. This was how he subdued despondency. His entire life was spent in unceasing prayer, and incomparable love for God.
After writing The Ladder at the request of Igoumen John of Raithu Monastery, and leading a God-pleasing life, Saint John fell asleep in the Lord when he was about seventy-five years old (ca. 603). He is also commemorated on March 30.
1 This was his monastic age. He was, in fact, thirty-five years old.