St. John Climacus (of the Ladder) was a monk in the monastery of St. Catherine on Mt. Sinai. He lived from the late sixth to the early seventh century. He left us one of the treasures of Orthodox spirituality, The Ladder of Divine Ascent. The book is written in a monastic context–from a monk to a monk–but the description and experience of our spiritual life described therein have been a support and aid for many in the world as well.
Having been written for the monastic life, there are elements of the book that can be difficult to understand outside of that context. So several books are available which present the teachings of the Ladder to the non-monastic audience. I am looking forward to reading the latest of these books, Thirty Steps to Heaven by Archim. Vassilios Papavassiliou, having read and appreciated his online thoughts on his blog, vassilios-papavassiliou.blogspot.com.
Books like this are important because they help dispel a misconception that we sometimes have about our spiritual lives. It is possible to think of monastic spirituality and spirituality in the world as two completely different items. Yet, both the goals and the tools of the spiritual life are the same. The monastic and non-monastic together strive to know God and they both do so using the same tools. Prayer, alms-giving, fasting, and even things we may not think of in the world such as self-denial and obedience, are part and parcel of everyone’s spiritual journey. Indeed, they are often applied in different ways in the two contexts, but we are well served to drink from the wisdom that comes to us from those who have dedicated themselves to living the Christian life at its fullest.
May our Lord, through the prayers of St. John Climacus, give us the wisdom to follow His guidance towards Him.
With love in Christ,