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Ladders and Great Lent

+Fr. Panayiotis Hasiakos, St. Demetrios Chicago | March 30, 2020

Peter Hasiakos Climbing a ladder can be a rather unnerving experience. Even when we have someone there supporting us, it is still a task that makes many of us cringe.

In the Church, however, the image of the ladder is meant to inspire us. The Mother of God is described as the ladder by which God came down to earth. The Cross is called a ladder that leads from earth to heaven. The overarching theme is that God has descended to us, so that we can ascend to Him.

But we are left with a practical question: how do we ascend? What does this look like in our daily life?

This very question is addressed by St. John Climacus, whose memory is celebrated today (March 30). St. John wrote a book entitled “The Ladder” (Ἡ Κλίμαξ), which speaks of the spiritual ladder of virtue that Christians are called to ascend. Although written for a monastic audience, this book offers spiritual counsels that are relevant to all Christians. St. John speaks as one who understands the obstacles and temptations that arise along our path—not only external ones, but especially the internal ones of our thoughts, habits, and dispositions. For today’s reflection, I would like to share one of his sayings about prayer.

The saint writes, “War proves the soldier’s love for his king; and the time and discipline of prayer show the monk’s love for God” (Step 28.33).

If we ever have felt that praying is difficult, now we have a saint to share this feeling with. He compares the Christian at prayer to a faithful soldier at war. The one fights out of devotion toward his earthly king, and the other struggles out of love for a Heavenly King. Thus, we should never feel discouraged if prayer does not come “easily” to us, whether it be in church or at home. This is a constant effort we make over the course of a lifetime. Even though it may feel that we are not accomplishing anything, we are—little by little. And this kind of slow but steady accomplishment is more powerful than anything that can happen quickly. In the words of the saint, “what is obtained by frequent and prolonged prayer is lasting” (Step 28.40).

May the Lord grant us all courage to continue climbing our spiritual ladder this Lent, one small step at a time.

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