The Fourth Sunday of Lent is dedicated to St John of the Ladder (Climacus), the author of the work, The Ladder of Divine Ascent. The abbot of St Catherine’s Monastery on Mount Sinai (6th century) stands as a witness to the violent effort needed for entrance into God’s Kingdom (Mt.10: 12). The spiritual struggle of the Christian life is a real one, “not against flesh and blood, but against … the rulers of the present darkness … the hosts of wickedness in heavenly places …” (Eph 6:12). Saint John encourages the faithful in their efforts for, according to the Lord, only “he who endures to the end will be saved” (Mt.24:13).
And from the Antiochian Orthodox site:
Born in the sixth century, John spent the first sixteen years of his life in Palestine, the ancient Holy Land of his birth whose traditions he respected and whose Christian heritage is cherished. His early ambitions were realized when he went to the monastery of St. Catherine at Mt. Sinai, the oldest Christian monastery in the world. There he became one of the most scholarly monks in Christendom. The site of St. Catherine’s was conducive to prayer and meditation, for there the scene of the burning bush took place and there Moses received the word of God himself. Moreover, to this place the grieving St. Helen, mother of St. Constantine the Great, came on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land some three hundred years before.
John is remembered not only as the author of the masterful “Ladder of Perfection,” but also as the originator of hesychasm, the divine quietness that leads one to God through constant prayer, the prayer which has come to be known as the pure or intellectual “Jesus Prayer.” Regarding this John wrote: “ Let the remembrance of Jesus be present with each breath, and then you will know the value of hesychlia.” He continued to champion this doctrine which found eager support among Christian thinkers, chief among them was St. Gregory Palamas, whose sponsorship brought about official Church recognition of hesychasm in the fourteenth century.
For more than seventy years, John of the Ladder practiced what he preached in the confines of his desert monastery. He achieved such a reputation for piety and wisdom that men from all walks of life were drawn to his side and came from all over the east to make a pilgrimage to his retreat. From John’s strong faith and fervent prayer came the power of healing through the divine intervention of the Jesus. If nothing else, St. John’s visitors would leave him with a serenity which they had never before experience and with a sense of fulfillment that would last a lifetime.
One of the Christendom’s finest figures, he died on March 30 at the age of eighty-six. His feast day is celebrated on the fourth Sunday of Lent.
Back copy from Orthodox Saints written by George Poulos, published by Holy Cross Orthodox Press.