Saint John of the Ladder
Metropolitan Anthony Bloom of Sourozh
9 April 1989
In the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.
Lent is a time of repentance, a time when our heart of stone must be made by the power of God into a heart of flesh, from insensitive to become perceptive, from cold and hard to become warm and open to others, and indeed, to God Himself.
Lent is a time of renewal when like spring, everything become new again; when our life that had gone into a twilight becomes alive with all the intensity which God can communicate to us, humans, by making us partakers of His Holy Spirit, by making us partakers, through the Holy Sacraments and the direct gift of God, of the Divine nature.
It is a time of reconciliation, and reconciliation is a joy: it is God’s joy, and it is our joy; it’s a new beginning.
“Repentance, that is our return to God is renewal of our baptism; it is our effort to renew our covenant with God, our promise to change our life. It is a time when we can acquire humility, that is peace; peace with God, peace with ourselves, peace with all the created world. Repentance is born of hope and rejection of despair. And one who repents, is one who deserves condemnation – and yet, goes away from the tribunal without shame, because repentance is our peace with God. And this is achieved through a worthy life, alien to the sins we committed in the past. Repentance is cleansing of our conscience. Repentance implies carrying off all sadness and pain.”
And if we ask ourselves how we can achieve it, how we can come to this, how we can respond to God Who receives us as the father received the prodigal son, a God Who has waited for us, longingly, Who, rejected, never turned away from us – how can we respond to Him? Here is a short word about prayer:
“Don’t use in prayer falsely wise words; because it is often the simple and uncomplicated whispering of children that rejoices our heavenly Father. Don’t try to say much when you speak to God, because otherwise your mind in search of words will be lost in them. One word spoken by the publican brought Divine mercy upon him; one word filled with faith saved the thief on the cross. The use of the multiplicity of words when we pray disperses our mind and fill it with imaginations. One word spoken to God collects the mind in His presence. And if a word, in thy prayer, reaches you deeply, if you perceive it profoundly – dwell in it, dwell in it, because at such moments our Angel guardian prays with us because we are true to ourselves and to God”.
Let us remember what Saint John of the Ladder says, even if you forget the short comments (which I introduced) to make his text more readily understandable. Let us remember his words because he was a man who knew what it means to turn to God, to stay with God, to be God’s joy and to rejoice in Him. He is offered us in this time, when we are ascending towards the days of the Passion, he is offered us as an example of what grace Divine can do to transform an ordinary, simple human being into a light to the world.
Let us learn from him, let us follow his example, let us rejoice in what God can do by His power in a human being, and let us confidently, with faith, with an exulting and yet serene joy follow the advice, listen to God begging us to find a way of life and telling us that with Him, in Him we will be alive, because He is the Truth but also the Way and also Life eternal. Amen.
Hymn of Praise
Saint John of the Ladder (Climacus)
by Saint Nikolai Velimirovič
As a kind of torch on Sinai, the Mount,
John was glowing in heavenly light
Subduing the body, subdued his thoughts,
Thirty steps, he numbered toward victory.
Miraculous strategy, wonderful tactic
As a legacy, to the spiritual warrior he gave
The spiritual warfare, who desires to learn
And in this warfare to gloriously conquer.
“The Ladder,” all miraculous, by the Spirit written,
After the dreadful strife was ended,
When John the Victor, the world from himself shed,
As a precious gift, to the brethren he brought it.
An epic poem, that is the soul of man,
When from dust, toward heaven it desires to climb,
An awesome epic poem of struggle and suffering,
A sparkling epic poem of faith and hoping.
This, John, to us gave, illumined by God,
Weapons, all-glowing, to you and to me.
And now before the Lord, John prays
That the Lord be pleased to send us help
When, to Him, by the Ladder we climb.
That to us, His hand He extends, that we
May to Him arrive.
The Prologue from Ohrid: Lives of Saints by Saint Nikolai Velimirovič
http://prologue.orthodox.cn/March30.htmScripture readings for the Fourth Sunday of Lent are the following: At the Orthros (Matins): The prescribed weekly Gospel reading. At the Divine Liturgy: Hebrews 6:13-20; Mark 9:17-31.
Eldress Mary Magdalene (Marie Madeleine Le Beller), Hermitess of Sinai (2013). Virtue has the habit of betraying man, wherever he may hide.
Apolytikion: Plagal of the Fourth Tone
With the rivers of your tears, you have made the barren desert fertile. Through sighs of sorrow from deep within you, your labors have borne fruit a hundredfold. By your miracles you have become a light, shining upon the world. O John, our Holy Father, pray to Christ our God, to save our souls.
The Canons To the Saint
Irmos: Thou art the strengthening of all who come to Thee …,
The aroma of the sanctifying myrrh of thine ascetic struggles, O venerable father, Hath filled all with the odor of the spiritual fragrance of God.
Ikos: Truly, O father, thou hast made thyself into a temple of God, adorned through thy divine virtues with faith, hope and true love, as if with gold shining from afar; thou hast explained the laws of God, and practiced abstinence as a if a fleshless one; having acquired wisdom, courage, chastity and humility, thou hast been raised on high, illumined with unceasing prayer, and attained unto the tabernacles of heaven, O father John our teacher.
Glory of Psalm 140, Sunday of St. John Climacus; Great Vespers: Tone Plagal of the First
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.
O righteous Father, thou heardest the voice of the Gospel and forsook the world, riches, and glory, counting them as naught. Wherefore, thou didst cry unto all: love God, and ye will find eternal favor. Put nothing above His love, that when He cometh in His glory ye may find rest with all the saints. Wherefore, by their intercessions, O Christ God, preserve and save our souls.