Beginning today, I will be regularly posting daily meditations from St. John Climacus’ book The Ladder of Divine Ascent. Below is something of an introduction to these meditations, the first of which will be posted tomorrow. I may not post every day, but I hope to post almost daily.

Introduction

The idea for this particular series of devotionals came to me during Lent of 2011, while I was in the process of teaching an adult Sunday School series on The Ladder. It quickly became apparent that 6 30 minute classes would not even scratch the surface of the riches found in the text. The Ladder of Divine Ascent ranks second only to the Holy Scriptures in its influence in the Christian world, especially within in the Orthodox Christian Church. For this reason, a book of practical meditations for those of us living in the world seemed like a worthy undertaking.

St. John truly lays out for us the science of the Christian life – if you follow the commandments of Christ, it always works. Wholeheartedly following Christ will always heal us of our brokenness, and will always lead us to life in the Kingdom of God. St. John moves us slowly from our first desires to abandon sin and cleave to God, through the struggles for obedience and repentance, into the discerning of demonic influences in our lives, all the way to the celebratory life in Christ. The Ladder is a textbook for those of us who truly desire to follow after Christ.

A few words about the reading of Orthodox ascetic literature: it can be difficult for those of us living in the world in the 21st century to pick up the books “born of the desert” and understand how they apply to our lives. We can even be tempted (and some have even taught) to think that this literature is not applicable to us. This is far from the truth – there is only one Gospel, only one set of commandments, and they apply to us all equally. The only difference is circumstance. My separation from the world may take on a different appearance than that of a monastic, for instance, but we are both called to be in the world but not of the world (e.g. John 17:11, 16). We must possess some measure of discernment in order to digest the words of the Fathers, and then to see how they apply to our specific circumstance in life.

I pray that these meditations will make the words of St. John accessible to us all, and that we will be aided by his prayers to the Heavenly Kingdom.

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