Thinks No Evil
The following short excerpts are
from The Ladder of Divine Ascent by
John Climacus, abbot of St. Catherine's
Monastery in Sinai, Egypt during the 7th
century. John Climacus is revered in many
Eastern churches as a great teacher of
spiritual wisdom. Orthodox monasteries
throughout the centuries have read his
Ladder of Divine Ascent during Lent.
Light, fire and flame
Love in its nature makes a human being like God,
as far as is possible for a human being. The soul
is intoxicated by the effects of it. Its
characteristics are a fountain of faith, an abyss
of patience, an ocean of humility.
Love is the complete repudiation of any unkind
thought about one’s neighbor, since, "Love
thinks no evil" (1 Corinthians 13:5).
Love, unchangeable tranquility, and our
adoption as children of God are different from
each other only in name. As light, fire and
flame are present in the selfsame operation, so
are these three manifestations of the Spirit.
When someone is completely permeated with the
love of God, the brightness of his soul is
reflected by his whole personality as if in a
Therefore the one who loves God also loves his
brother or sister. Indeed, the second love is
the proof of the first.
Poison in your heart: the
memory of insults
The memory of insults is the residue of anger.
It keeps sins alive, hates justice, ruins
virtue, poisons the heart, rots the mind,
defeats concentration, paralyzes prayer, puts
love at a distance, and is a nail driven into
If anyone has appeased his anger, he has
already suppressed the memory of insults, while
as long as the mother is alive the son persists.
In order to appease the anger, love is
Remembrance of Jesus’ passion will heal your
soul of resentment, by making it ashamed of
itself when it remembers the patience of the
Some people have wearied themselves and
suffered for a long time in order to extract
forgiveness. By far the best course, however, is
to forget the offences, since the Lord says:
"Forgive at once and you will be forgiven in
generous measure" cf. Luke 6:37-38.
Forgetting offences is a sign of sincere
repentance. If you keep the memory of them, you
may believe you have repented but you are like
someone running in his sleep.
Let no one consider it a minor defect, this
darkness that often clouds the eyes even of
renewal, daughter of hope
Nothing equals or excels God's mercies.
Therefore, he who despairs is committing
suicide. A sign of true repentance is the
acknowledgment that we deserve all the
afflictions, visible and invisible, that come
upon us, and ever greater ones.
Repentance is the renewal of baptism.
Repentance is a contract with God for a second
life. A penitent is a buyer of humility.
Repentance is the daughter of hope and the
renunciation of despair.
Repentance is reconciliation with the Lord by
the practice of good deeds contrary to the sins.
Repentance is purification of conscience.
Repentance is the voluntary endurance of all
Hypocrisy and lies, mother
Fire is produced from stone and steel; lying
comes from loquacity and gossip. And the lie
No one who has any sense would say that telling
lies is not an important sin. The Holy Spirit
has severely condemned it. "You destroy those
that speak lies," says David to God ( Psalm 5:
The mother of lying is hypocrisy, mother and
also, often, its substance as well. Hypocrisy in
fact works out the lie beforehand and then puts
it into practice.
Those who possess the fear of God are the
furthest from telling lies, because they have an
honest judge, their own conscience.
As with all the passions, we ought to recognize
various types of lying according to the damage
done. One person tells lies from fear of
punishment; another when no danger is
threatening; another because of conceit; another
for enjoyment; another to raise a laugh; and yet
another to do harm to his neighbor.
A child does not know what a lie is, so his
soul is free of malice. Someone who is elated
with wine speaks the truth on all subjects, even
without meaning to. In the same way, anyone who
is inebriated with the spirit of penitence will
never be able to tell lies.
Do not give up, but stand
Let us charge into the good fight with joy and
love without being afraid of our enemies. Though
unseen themselves, they can look at the face of
our soul, and if they see it altered by fear,
they take up arms against us all the more
fiercely. For the cunning creatures have
observed that we are scared. So let us take up
arms against them courageously. No one will
fight with a resolute fighter.
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
honor your patience.
He who really keeps account of his actions
considers as lost every day in which he does not
mourn, whatever good he may have done in it.
I consider those fallen mourners more blessed
than those who have not fallen and are not
mourning over themselves; because as a result of
their fall, they have risen by a sure
Life of John Climacus
Climacus, also known as John of Sinai or
John of the Ladder, was born around 579,
possibly in Syria. He read widely in his
early years. At the age of 16 John decided
to join the monastic community at the foot
of Mount Sinai in Egypt at the spot believed
to be where Moses spoke to God face to face.
of St. Catherine, Mount Sinai, Egypt
the age of 35 John lived as a hermit at a
place called Tholas which was about five
miles from the main monastery. Many people
sought him out as a teacher and spiritual
guide. John received so many guests that
some monks complained that he had become a
chatterbox. John remained silent for a year
until his accusers asked that he go back to
receiving guests as had been his
was also customary at the time for small
clusters of monks to gather together in a
close-knit semi-eremitical way of life. John
accepted a disciple, named Moses, to live
with him. He also traveled to visit sick
hermits and monasteries near Alexandria and
solitaries in the Egyptian desert. He was
recognized for his great love for God and
for people, and he was also known for his
miracles, and his healing of the sick.
this period, political unrest and
persecution broke out in the region.
Forty-four monks were martyred at the
monastery of Sabas during the Persian
invasion of Jerusalem in 614. Some monks had
fled, forced to wander from place to place
as the Persians advanced. Syria fell to
Islam in 636, Palestine fell in 638, and
Egypt fell by 642. Many monks in these
regions fled to the west as the Arab empire
monastery at Sinai survived these invasions.
Around 649, after John had spent some 40
years of solitude in the desert, John was
persuaded by the monastic community at Sinai
to serve as their abbot. John's widespread
fame and admiration as a holy man of God was
evident when six hundred pilgrims arrived at
the monastery on the occasion of his
installation as abbot.
of Divine Ascent, icon from St. Catherine
abbot of a nearby monastery at Raithou asked
John to write a book of spiritual wisdom for
the monks in the desert communities. John
called the book The Ladder of Divine
Ascent, from which his name “John of
the Ladder” or "John Climacus" (climacus
is the Greek word for ladder) is
knew that he was living at the end of an
age, in a time of great turmoil and
uncertainty. He wrote not only for the monks
in the desert but also for Christians
elsewhere, to strengthen them in the faith
wrote The Ladder of Divine Ascent
primarily as an invitation to the journey
toward holiness and union with God in the
monastic life. It records what John had
learned from his forty-year journey in the
wilderness, both as a solitary hermit and as
a brother in monastic community. John wrote
as a pastor to help his fellow monks grow in
faith through “a personal encounter with
Christ at each step of the ladder.”
died between 654 and 679. Soon
afterward, The Ladder was translated
from the Greek into Syriac. By the tenth
century, it had also been translated into
Arabic and Georgian. It appeared in Latin by
the eleventh century.