Today marks the 4th Sunday of Great Lent when we commemorate the Ladder of Divine Ascent.
Our Metropolitan Ephraim has shared a wonderful homily on The Path of True Christian Life by Archbishop Averky (translated by Father Samuel of Holy Transfiguration Monastery) that gives us much insight into The Ladder and its meaning for us as Orthodox Christians.
In the Ladder of Divine Ascent, Saint John Climacus lists out 30 steps or stages of the spiritual development of Orthodox monastics. And though written for monastics, and depicted in the icon with monastics, the Ladder is an essential guide for all Orthodox Christians.
The icon is based upon the text of the Ladder with each rung of the angled ladder representing one of the 30 hidden years of Our Savior’s life here on earth. Each rung represents a stage of a person’s spiritual development.
In the bottom right hand corner of the icon, Saint John stands outside of a monastery and gestures towards the ladder while holding a scroll that reads “Ascend, ascend, Brethren, ascend with eagerness and resolve in your hearts”.
Monks appear on various rungs of the ladder – some securely on rungs heading upward, others just hanging on in fear of being pulled off by the many winged demons.
Angels are also depicted, usually in the upper corner, encouraging the monks and reaching forward to help them on their way up the ladder. The Angels are painted as bright and strong, the demons as weak and dark.
At the very top, Our Saviour meets the monks with outstretched hands and some icons depict a crown of glory being placed on their heads.
Excerpt from The Ladder of Divine Ascent below, copies of the Ladder are available online here
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. STEP 1:23
Remember, this Friday is our 5th and last Akathist Hymn to the Theotokos of this Lenten period. If you can’t make it that night, you may read the service here.
As always, make sure to check the updated Weekly Schedule of Services for all daily services at Saint Anna’s and the convent and monastery.
This week, the beautiful and compuncionate Canon of Saint Andrew of Crete is read at both the convent and monastery on Wednesday evening, please check schedule for times. If you cannot make the service, you may read the Canon of Saint Andrew of Crete here.
A reminder to visit the Daily Calendar of Feasts and Saints (available in Greek/Russian/English/French) page for brief lives of saints of the day.
Added to the website this week – the Small Compline / Readers’s Service
And, if you haven’t already, be sure to check out the audio additions to our website including
- Hymns of the Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysystom chanted by the nuns of Holy Nativity Convent (in English)
- Life of the Theotokos (in Greek)
Last but not least, don’t forget the Fasting Food Resources page to help you make delicious, fasting foods the whole family will love!
Coming Soon – the Children’s Book Corner! Stay tuned for reviews and suggestions on the best books for Orthodox Christian children and families. Please feel free to share your favorites so that they can be included in our list.
Excerpts from The Ladder of Divine Ascent by Saint John Climacus, Revised Edition translated and © Holy Transfiguration Monastery, all rights reserved.