St John Climacus – Ascent to Heaven

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, one God. Amen. Dear beloved, let us remember Saint John Climacus on Bright Thursday, may the saint pray for us.

St John Climacus, also known as John of the Ladder, John Scholasticus, or John Sinaites, was a 7th century monk at St Catherine’s monastery in Mount Sinai. He became a monk at the young age of 16, and eventually became St Catherine monastery’s abbot. He authored many works, and the one most of us may have heard or better yet, read, is “The Ladder of Divine Ascent”, one of the works most of us Eastern Orthodox are familiar with.

We know, to begin on the journey of reconciliation with God, we must first repent, and then be baptized (John 3:1-15, Acts 2:38-43). In the Acts, we are reminded that we are to joyfully receive the Gospel of Christ, not by coercion or aggression. We are to receive God’s Truth out of joy and love.

In the Book of Genesis 28:10-15, we read about the dream of Patriarch Jacob where it was described there was a ladder, which came to be known as Jacob’s Ladder, a bridge between earth and Heaven. This ladder is the paradigm that we can ascend to God’s Heaven, even as we look around us and see nothing but a volume of the sky separating us standing on the earth. It is gratifying indeed, that what we visibly perceive as a clear separation of Heaven and earth, with no visible way to reach God, is in fact merely our blindness.

Our Lord Jesus too implied of this bridge between Heaven and earth in John 1:51, “and He said unto him, verily, verily, I say unto you, hereafter ye shall see Heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man.” Early saints described this bridge too, such as St Irenaeus (2nd century), St Gregory of Nazianzus (4th century), and St John Chrysostom (4th century). This mystery of the bridge that allows us to reach God, is most richly described in the work “The Ladder of Divine Ascent” by St John Climacus.

St John Climacus said, “Do not be surprised that you fall every day; do not give up, but stand your ground courageously. And assuredly, the angel who guards you will honour your patience.”

We have taken early steps, by our first repentance, accepting our Lord and Christ through baptism, as Christ said the only way through to God is through Him our Lord (John 3:1-15).

It is an incredibly difficult journey to reconcile with God, no doubt, as it is our weakness. But God does not hide in Heaven away from us. We are moved when we read Psalm 18:16-19, that God will reach out from Heaven to grab us towards Him, to draw us out from our own darkness and muddy waters. You can immediately see that God is not a remote or absent God, but a present and ever-loving God who will relentlessly drag us out of misery. All we need to do is reach out and open to Him in repentance and prayer, and His mighty Hands will grab us from whatever misery we are in, and redeem us. Heaven, is not impossibly far from us, as long as we keep reaching out to God.

Let us pray, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner”.

Let us close by praying the thanksgiving prayer:

It is truly meet to call thee blest, the Theotokos, ever blessed and most pure, and the Mother of our God. More honorable than the Cherubim, and more glorious than the Seraphim, without corruption thou gavest birth to God the Word: True Theotokos, we magnify thee.

O virgin Theotokos, rejoice; O Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, for thou hast borne the Savior of our souls, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Fr Raphael+

Genesis 28:10-15
Psalms 18:16-19
John 3:1-15
Acts 2:38-43