Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Thoughts on Reading the Ladder of Divine Ascent

Reflecting on tonight's group at the Oratory, I have to say that The Ladder of Divine Ascent by St. John Climacus is the most remarkable of spiritual treatises. The clarity of insight it offers is unmatched and I can understand why it is revered among Eastern Christians. It has been 25 years since I was first introduced to the work and there is still even now a temptation when reading it to set it aside. A kind of resistance wells up within me as I begin to realize that if I continue to read the way I view my life will never be the same - the way I live my life must never be the same. The call to radical conversion takes hold as St. John begins with the skill of a surgeon and the eloquence of a poet to uncover every hidden sin and reveal the beauty of each virtue. I find myself wrapped in confusion wondering why and how I could let anything other than seeking Christ and the Kingdom become the focus of my attention. God grant me the grace that with St. John as my guide to lose myself in the desire for You.

Dweller of the desert and angel in the body,
You were shown to be a wonder-worker, our God-bearing Father John.
You received heavenly gifts through fasting, vigil, and prayer:
Healing the sick and the souls of those drawn to you by faith.
Glory to Him who gave you strength!
Glory to Him who granted you a crown!
Glory to Him who through you grants healing to all!

Podcast Ladder of Divine Ascent Student Group - On Obedience


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Friday, May 17, 2013

Step Seven of the Ladder of Divine Ascent - On Mourning

             This chapter on the gift of tears has proved to be one of the most influential in the whole of The Ladder.  God, John points out forcefully, created us for laughter, not for tears.  Therefore, tears reflect man's fallen state and express his mourning for sin.
            Yet, there is more to it than that.  Tears can be "sweet" as well as "bitter."  Tears that begin by being "painful" become in the course of time "painless"; tears of fear develop into tears of love.  John insist that for the penitent, Christian sorrow is constantly interwoven with joy.  Tears, like the experience of repentance, spring from a sense not only of our sinfulness, but of God's mercy; there is gladness in them as well as grief.  John sums up the point in the composite word charmolypi, apparently of his own invention, signifying "joyful sorrow."  The repentant person is like a child who cries, yet smiles in the middle of his tears.  Spiritual mourning leads to spiritual laughter; it is a wedding garment, not a funeral robe.
            When genuinely spiritual, tears are a renewal of baptism and even John says, "greater than baptism itself, though it may seem rash to say so.  Baptism washes off those evils that were previously within us, whereas the sins committed after baptism are washed away by tears.  The baptism received by us as children we have all defiled, but we cleanse it anew with our tears.  If God in His love for the human race had not given us tears, those being saved would be few indeed and hard to find." 
            Here the positive character of spiritual tears is manifest.  Baptism is renunciation of sin, but it also in a positive sense rebirth, resurrection, entry into new life. The same is true of the "joyful sorrow" of supranatural tears: negatively it involves mourning for our sins, but positively it expresses joy at our reconciliation.
            While recognizing the importance of tears in the spiritual life, John remains cautious about saying that they are essential.  We should allow, he urges, for differences in temperament: some shed tears with the utmost difficulty, "like drops of blood," while others do so "with no trouble at all"; God looks, not at the outward intensity of weeping, but at the inward struggles of our heart.  Those who have been granted the gift of tears should on no account imagine themselves superior to those who lack it.  "Some are not granted the gift of mourning," but the desolation that they feel at their lack of tears may take the place of the gift itself.

(Taken from the Introduction to The Ladder, pp. 20-27)

1-6            What mourning is and the fruit it produces in the soul.

            Mourning which is according to God is a melancholy of the soul, a disposition of an anguished heart that passionately seeks what it thirsts for, and when it fails to attain it, pursues it diligently and follows behind it lamenting bitterly.

            Those making some progress in blessed mourning are usually temperate and untalkative.  Those who have succeeded in making real progress do not become angry and do not bear grudges.  As for the perfect - these are humble, they long for dishonor, they look out for involuntary sufferings, they do not condemn sinners and they are inordinately compassionate.

7-9            The tears that mourning produces and the cleansing that they bring.

            The tears that come after baptism are greater than baptism itself, though it may seem rash to say so.  Baptism washes off those evils that were previously within us, whereas the sins committed after baptism are washed away by tears.  The baptism received by us as children we have all defiled , but we cleanse it anew with our tears.  If God in His love for the human race had not given us tears, those being saved would be few indeed and hard to find.

10-16            Such a gift should be fostered, protected and practiced with constancy, but because of its preciousness remain hidden.

            He who has the gift of spiritual tears will be able to mourn anywhere.  But if it is all outward show, there will be no end to his discussion of places and means.  Hidden treasure is more secure than that which is exposed in the marketplace.  Ponder this, and apply it to yourself.
            Do not imitate those who in burying the dead first lament them - and then go off to get drunk.  Rather, be like those prisoners in the mines who are flogged every hour by their warders.
            The man who mourns at one time and then goes in for high living and laughter on another occasion is like someone who pelts the dog of sensuality with bread.  It looks as if he is driving him off when in fact he is actually encouraging him to stay by him.
17-23            Mourning as the thoughtful reflection upon death and judgement and as lamentation for one's sins.  God judges by the toil and struggle one undergoes within himself, not by the amount or frequency of tears.

            Think of your lying in bed as an image of the lying in your grave; then you will not sleep so much.  When you eat at table, remember the food of worms; then you will not live so highly.  When you drink water, remember the thirst of the flames; then you will certainly do violence to your nature.
            Let the thought of eternal fire lie down with you in the evening and get up with you in the morning.  Then indolence will never overwhelm you when it is time to sing the psalms.
            Wear something to encourage you in your mourning.  Those who lament the dead wear black.  And if you find yourself unable to mourn, then lament that very fact; but if you are able to mourn, be sure to lament that by your sins you have brought yourself down from a condition free from toil to one that is full of labor.
            Regarding our tears, as in everything else about us, the good and just Judge will certainly make allowances for our natural attributes.  I have seen small teardrops shed like drops of blood, and I have seen floods of tears poured out with no trouble at all.  So I judge toilers by their struggles, rather than their tears; and I suspect that God does so too.

24            In this paragraph John tells us that theology and mourning do not go together.  This needs some explanation.  Mourning is the state of one who finds himself struggling with and held captive by his passions, whereas theology arises from a state of dispassion - or freedom from the passions.  Theology as understood by the desert fathers "denotes far more than the learning about God and religious doctrine acquired through academic study.  It signifies active and conscious participation in or perception of the realities of the divine world - in other words, the realization of spiritual knowledge.  To be a theologian in the full sense, therefore, presupposes the attainment of the state of stillness and dispassion, itself the concomitant of pure and undistracted prayer, and so requires gifts bestowed on but extremely few persons."

            Theology and mourning do not go together, for the one dissipates the other.  The difference between a theologian and a mourner is that the one sits on a professorial chair while the other passes his days in rags on a dungheap.   

25-28            In the following paragraphs John tells us that we must seize the gift of tears when God offers it to us and keep it from the corruption of vainglory.  The test of true compunction is freedom from anger and pride and the cessation of wrongdoing.

            When the soul grows tearful, weeps, and is filled with tenderness, and all this without having striven for it, then let us run, for the Lord has arrived uninvited and is holding out to us the sponge of loving sorrow, the cool waters of blessed sadness with which to wipe away the record of our sins.  Guard these tears like the apple of your eye until they go away, for they have a power greater than anything that comes from our own efforts and our own meditation.

            A man misses the true beauty of mourning if he can mourn at will, rather than because he genuinely wants to, or, more accurately, because God wishes him to.  The ugly tears of vainglory mingle frequently with mourning which is pleasing to God, as we shall discover by experience whenever we find ourselves mourning and yet doing wrong.
            True compunction is pain of soul without any distraction.  It offers itself no rest and thinks hourly of death.  It stands in wait for the God Who brings comfort, like cool waters, to humble monks.  And those gifted with the heart's depth of mourning regard their lives as detestable, painful, and wearing, as a cause of tears and suffering, and they turn away from their body as an enemy. 
            If we observe anger and pride in those who have the appearance of mourning in a fashion pleasing to God, then such tears will seem contradictory to us.  "For what fellowship is there between light and darkness?" (2 Cor. 6:14).  True compunction brings consolation while that which is bogus produces self-esteem.  Like the fire that consumes the straw, so do real tears consume impurity of body and soul. 

29-45            In these paragraphs John discusses the source of tears and what they do for the soul.  Not only are they a gift of God which purifies our hearts and drains away our passions, but true tears produce joy within the heart.  Mourning gives way to the consolation of being forgiven by and reconciled with God.

            God does not demand or desire that someone should mourn out of sorrow of heart, but rather that out of love for Him he should rejoice with the laughter of the soul.  Take away sin and then the sorrowful tears that flow from bodily eyes will be superfluous.  Why look for a bandage when you are not cut?  Adam did not weep before the fall, and there will be no tears after the resurrection when sin will be abolished, when pain, sorrow, and lamentation will have taken flight.

            As I ponder the true nature of compunction, I find myself amazed by the way in which inward joy and gladness mingle with what we call mourning and grief, like honey in a comb.  There must be a lesson here, and it surely is that compunction is properly a gift from God, so that there is a real pleasure in the soul, since God secretly brings consolation to those who in their heart of hearts are repentant.

46-55            John continues to speak of how sorrow and joy mingle together - how sorrow at the loss or absence of love is transformed into holy joy at its return.  To illustrate his point John gives us the following example.

            When a baby starts to recognize its father, it is filled with happiness.  If the father has to spend time away on business before returning home, it has its fill of joy and sadness - joy at seeing the one it loves, sadness at the fact of having been deprived so long of that same love.  Sometimes a mother hides from her baby and is delighted to note how sadly the child goes about looking for her, because this is how she teaches the child to be always attached to her and stirs up the flame of its love for her.  He who has ears to hear, let him listen . . .

56-67            At the heart of our mourning, then, is love for God.  We weep because we long for God and the love that He alone can provide.  According to John, this makes it one of the most important and essential of virtues.

            . . . however exalted our style of life may be, we may label it stale and bogus if our heart is still without contrition; for, if I may so express the matter, it is absolutely essential that those who have lapsed after baptism should clean the pitch from their hands with continuous fire of the heart and the oil of God.

            When we die, we will not be criticized for having failed to work miracles.  We will not be accused of having failed to be theologians or contemplatives.  But we will certainly have some explanation to offer to God for not having mourned unceasingly.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Step Six of the Ladder of Divine Ascent - On Remembrance of Death

            This brief step considers a rather simple but essential practice of the desert fathers; to remember not only that one will die, but what death brings - judgment.  Such a thought spurs one on to repentance and conversion, prevents laziness, makes dishonor and indignity sweet, banishes worries and anxieties, and deters sin.  This alone is enough to make John call it the "most essential of all works."

1-5            Remembrance of death is defined, including how one recognizes it in others.

            To be reminded of death each day is to die each day; to remember one's departure from life is to provoke tears by the hour.  Fear of death is a property of nature due to disobedience, but terror of death is a sign of unrepented sins.  Christ is frightened of dying but not terrified, thereby clearly revealing the properties of His two natures.
            Just as bread is the most necessary of all foods, so the thought of death is the most essential of all works.  The remembrance of death brings labors and meditations, or rather, the sweetness of dishonor to those living in community, whereas for those living away from turbulence it produces freedom from daily worries and breeds constant prayer and guarding of the mind, virtues that are the cause and the effect of the thought of death.

            You can clearly single out those who hold the thought of death at the center of their being, for they freely withdraw from everything created and they renounce their own will.
            The man who lives daily with the thought of death is to be admired, and the man who gives himself to it by the hour is surely a saint.

6-12            John discusses how remembrance of death leads a monk to conversion and repentance and the practice of specific ascetical disciplines.

            Some, because they are puzzled, ask the following question: "If the remembrance of death is so good for us, why has God concealed from us the knowledge of when we will die?"  In putting such a question, they fail to realize how marvelously God operates to save us.  No one who knew in advance the hour of his death would accept baptism or join a monastery long before it, but instead would pass all his time in sin and would be baptized and do penance only on the day of his demise.  Habit would make him a confirmed and quite incorrigible sinner.

            The man who wants to be reminded constantly of death and of God's judgment and who at the same time gives in to material cares and distractions, is like someone trying at the same time to swim and to clap his hands.
            If your remembrance of death is clear and specific, you will cut down on your eating; and if, in your humility, you reduce the amount you eat, your passions will be correspondingly reduced.
            To have an insensitive heart is to be dulled in mind, and food in abundance dries up the well of tears.  Thirst, however, and the keeping of vigils afflict the heart; and when the heart is stirred, then the tears may run.  Now all this may sound disgusting to the gluttonous and unbelievable to the sluggish, but a man pursuing the active life will try this course and the experience will make him smile, whereas the one who is still casting about him will become even more depressed. 

13-15            Through the use of illustrative stories, John shows how remembrance of death prevents spiritual laziness and deters sin.

            This is what an Egyptian monk once said to me: "If it ever happened that I was inclined to offer some comfort to this carcass of mine, the remembrance of death that had been so firmly established in my heart would stand before me like a judge; and - a wonderful thing - even if I wanted to push it aside, I simply could not do so."
            And I must certainly tell you about Hesychius the Horebite.  All his life he was careless and he paid not the slightest attention to his soul.  Then a very grievous illness came on him, so that he was for a whole hour absent from the body.  After he had revived, he begged us all to go away at once, built up the door of his cell, and remained twelve years inside without ever speaking to anyone and taking only bread and water.  He never stirred and was always intent on what it was he had seen in his ecstasy.  He never moved and had the look of someone out of his mind.  And, silently, he wept warm tears.  But when he was on the point of death, we broke in and we asked him many questions.  All he would say was this: "Please forgive me.  No one who has acquired the remembrance of death will ever be able to sin."

            Just as some declare that the abyss is infinite, for they call it a bottomless pit, so the thought of death is limitless and brings with it chastity and activity.  The saint mentioned above proved this.  Men like him unceasingly pile fear on fear, and never stop until the very strength of their bones is worn out.

16-20            John warns against excessive trust in the leniency of God and exhorts his monks to embrace this holy practice.

             The man who has died to all things remembers death, but whoever holds some ties with the world will not cease plotting against himself.

            Do not deceive yourself, foolish worker, into thinking that one time can make up for another.  The day is not long enough to allow you to repay in full its debt to the Lord.
            Someone has said that you cannot pass a day devoutly unless you think of it as your last.

            This, then, is the sixth step.  He who has climbed it will never sin.  "Remember your last end, and your will never sin" (Ecclus. 7:36).     

Step Five of the Ladder of Divine Ascent - On Penitence

            John begins this step with a somewhat moderate and encouraging tone by describing repentance as a "renewal of one's baptism and a contract with God for a fresh start in life."  With repentance there is always hope and never despair.  As penitents we stand before our God guilty, but never disgraced.  Indeed, we inflict punishments on ourselves out of love for God, in an attempt to reconcile ourselves to him and to receive the peace that comes through his forgiveness.
            However, if there is a step in the "Ladder" which pierces one's heart, if there is any part of the book which really shakes us and brings the message home, it is precisely this step concerning those blessed and compunctionate and voluntary inmates of "the Prison."  For truly these holy ones, crazed for Christ, described by John, are a mirror for us, the sluggish and indolent, to look into and to behold how wanting we are in the realm of true heartfelt repentance.  They were earnest and serious about their repentance; we are light and distracted concerning our salvation.  Some are repelled by the Prison of the "Ladder", while others are pierced and moved by the love for God and strength of soul of these stouthearted inmates, and mourn the lack of both in themselves.
1-3            Repentance described and defined.

            Repentance is the renewal of baptism and is a contract with God for a fresh start in life.  Repentance goes shopping for humility and is ever distrustful of bodily comfort.  Repentance is critical awareness and a sure watch over oneself.  Repentance is the daughter of hope and the refusal of despair.  (The penitent stands guilty - but undisgraced.)  Repentance is reconciliation with the Lord by the performance of good deeds which are the opposites of the sins.  It is the purification of conscience and the voluntary endurance of affliction.  The penitent deals out his own punishment, for repentance is the fierce persecution of the stomach and the flogging of the soul into intense awareness.

4-16            John then tells of his visit to the "Prison".  He begins by describing the actions of the penitents and how their grief over their sin was expressed.  He examines their attitudes toward their sin; their bitter sorrow and contrition and how they humbly and without excuse acknowledged their failures.
            Let us give first place to the story of the dishonored workers - who still earned respect.  Let us listen, take heed, and act - we who have suffered an unexpected fall. . . Listen, all you who long to be reconciled with God again in a true conversion.
            I, the weakling, heard that there was a great and strange way of life and lowliness for those living in a separate monastery call "The Prison." 

            I went . . .to that abode of penitents, to that place of true grief, and if I may be so bold as to say so, I actually saw what the eye of an inattentive man never saw, what the ear of a lackadaisical man never heard, what never entered the heart of a sluggard.  I saw things done and said that could only draw down the mercy of God, deeds and attitudes of body that quickly win His love for men. 
            I saw there humble and contrite souls who were saddened by the weight of their burden.  The stones themselves would have been moved to pity by their voices and by their cries to God.  Looking down to the ground, they would say this: "We know, we know that we deserve every punishment and every torment.  Rightly so.  How could we make up for all that we owe, even if we had the entire world there to weep for us?  All we ask, all we pray for, all we implore is that 'in your anger You do not rebuke us or chasten us in Your wrath' (Ps. 6:2).  Be sparing.  It is enough for us if You deliver us from Your great threat and from unknown and hidden torments.  We dare not ask for complete forgiveness.  How could we, when we have failed to keep our vow unstained, but after all Your past loving kindness and forgiveness have defiled it?
            The words of David could surely be seen to be fulfilled there, for there were men in hardship and bowed down to the end of their lives, going about each day in sadness, their bodies' wounds stinking of rottenness (Ps. 37:6-7) and yet unnoticed by them.  They forgot to eat their bread; their drink was mixed with tears.  They ate dust and ashes instead of bread; their bones stuck to their flesh and they were dried up like grass (Ps. 101:4-12).  The only words you could hear from them were these: "Woe, woe, alas, alas!  It is just, it is just.  Spare us, spare us, O Lord."  Some said, "Be merciful, be merciful"; others, more sadly: "Forgive us, Lord, forgive us if it is possible."

17-20            After having described their attitudes and behaviors, John then considers the effects of their penitence; the extreme humility it created and the detachment from worldly possessions and honors it fostered.  Their repentance became a source of blessing and holiness.

            Would you witness any laughter among them?  Idle talk?  Irritation?  Anger?  No, indeed.  They no longer knew what it was for a man to be angry, for grief had done away with their capacity for rage.
            Where was quarreling among them?  Or merrymaking?  Or bold speech?  Or concern for the body?  Where among them was any trace of vanity, or longing for comfort, or the thought of wine, or the taste of fresh fruit, or the enjoyment of cooked food, or the pleasing of the palate?  The fact was that even the hope of such things in this world had been extinguished in them.
            Did any of them worry about earthly things?  Or pass judgment on anyone?  Certainly not.

21-25            John takes us into their minds and hearts by showing us the kinds of questions they would ask themselves - how they refused to be presumptuous about the mercy and forgiveness of God.

            All of them sat ceaseless contemplating death, saying, "How will it go for us?  What will be the verdict on us?  How will life end for us?  Will we receive pardon?  Will there be forgiveness for those in darkness, for the lowly, for the convicted?  Is our prayer vigorous enough to come before the face of the Lord, or has it been rejected - and rightly so - for being worthless and shameful? . . .  Would our prayer reconcile us completely with the Judge or only in part, only to the extent of half our wounds, which are very great and require much sweat and hard work?" 

            "Let us do what we can.  If He opens the door, well and good; if not, then blessed be the Lord God Who in His justice has shut the door to us.  At least we should continue to knock at the door as long as we live. Maybe He will open to us on account of our persistence."

26-27            John then tells us how they approached the experience of death and again how they were never presumptuous about the judgment of God or the value and effectiveness of their penitence.

            The last hour of one of these was fearful to behold.  When the penitents in the prison learned that one of their number was finishing his course and going ahead of them, they would gather round while his mind was still working.  Thirsty, tearful, and sad, they would look at him compassionately, shaking their heads, racked with tenderness, and they would speak to the dying man: "Brother and fellow penitent, how is it with you?  What will you say?  What are your hopes and expectations?  Have you achieved what you worked for so hard, or have you not?  Has the door been opened to you, or are you still under sentence?  Did you reach your goal, or did you fail?  Has any kind of assurance come to you, or are you still uncertain in your hopes?  Are you free at last, or does darkness and doubt still hang over your thoughts?  Have you sensed any illumination in your heart, or is it still in darkness and dishonor?
            Some of the dying would answer: "Blessed be God who has not turned away my prayer nor His mercy from me" (Ps 65:20).  Others would say, "Blessed be the Lord Who has not given us a prey to their teeth" (Ps 123:6).  But others would be sad and say: "Will our soul pass through the impassable water of the spirits of the air?" (Ps. 123:5)  These would be unsure, and would be worried about the rendering of accounts after death.  And more sadly yet, others would say: "Woe to the soul that has not kept its vow unblemished!  In this hour, and in this one only, it will discover what is prepared for it."

28-32            John invites us to compare our indifference to their zeal in mourning for their sins.  He then examines what would motivate a person to embrace such penitence and mourning. 

            I came close to despair when I had seen and heard all this among them and when I had compared my own indifference with what they went through.  What a dreadful place they lived in! . . . Just the sight of it would teach you penitence and mourning.
            Yet what for some is hard and unbearable is easy and tolerable for those who have fallen away from virtue and spiritual treasures.  A soul that has lost its one-time confidence and abandoned its hope of dispassion, that has broken the seal of chastity, that has squandered the treasury of divine graces, that has become a stranger to divine consolation, that has rejected the Lord's command, that has extinguished the beautiful fire of spiritual tears - and that is wounded and pierced by sorrow as it remembers all this - will not only take on the labor mentioned above with all eagerness, but will even decide devoutly to kill itself with penitential works.  It will do so if there is in it only the tiniest spark of love or of fear of the Lord.  And of such a kind were these blessed men.

            They would think of their former achievements and, weeping for them as though they were children that had died, they would say: "Where is the purity of my prayer?  The confidence that was in it?  Where are the sweet tears, instead of these bitter ones?  Where is that hope of perfect chastity and purification?  Where is that expectation of blessed dispassion? 

33-36            John then speaks of the value of penitence and the humility needed to embrace such a path.

             "It seems to me that those who have fallen and are penitent are more blessed than those who have never fallen and who do not have to mourn over themselves, because through having fallen, they have pulled themselves up by a sure resurrection."

            Now I know well, my friends, that these labors I have described will seem unbelievable to some, unattainable to others, and be a source of despair to others still.  Yet they will actually be an incentive to a brave soul, a fiery blast, so that he will go away with zeal in his heart, whereas the man who feels a great incapacity in himself will understand his own weakness, be humbled easily by the reproach he levels against himself, and will at least try to follow the soul who is brave.  And I am not at all sure but that he may even overtake him.  But the careless man had better stay away from my stories, for otherwise he may fall into despair, throw away the little he has achieved, and prove to be like that man of whom it was said: "From the man who has no eagerness, even that which he seems to have will be taken away" (cf. Matt. 25:29).  It is impossible for those of us who have fallen into the sink of iniquity ever to be drawn out of it unless we also plumb the depths of the humility shown by the penitent.
            The sad humility of penitents is one thing.  The reproach of conscience of those who are still sinners is another.  The blessed treasure of humility that, with God's help, the perfect manage to attain is yet another.  And we should be in no hurry to find words adequate to this third kind of humility, for our effort will be useless.  But a sign of the second kind is the perfect bearing of indignity.

37-51            The causes of moral lapses are considered and the need for courage and perseverance in the face of recurring failures.  John exhorts the penitent to trust in the mercy and grace of God but also warns against presumption.  Once again, humility is key and true repentance will keep one from judging or even recognizing another's faults.

            An old habit often dominates even someone who mourns.  No wonder, for the judgments visited by God and our own lapses make up a list hard to understand, and it is impossible to be sure which of our failings are due to carelessness, which are due to the fact that God permitted them, and which arise from God's having turned away from us.  I have been told, however, that lapses occurring as a result of divine providence cause us to repent swiftly, since He Who delivers us does not permit us to be held captive for long.  But above all we must fight off the demon of dejection whenever we happen to slip, for he comes right beside us when we are  praying and reminds us of our former good standing with God and tries to divert us from our prayer.
            Do not be surprised if you fall every day and do not surrender.  Stand your ground bravely. . . A fresh warm wound is easier to heal than those that are old, neglected, and festering, and that need extensive treatment, surgery, bandaging, and cauterization.  Long neglect can render many of them incurable.  However, all things are possible with God (Matt. 19:26).
            God is merciful before a fall, inexorable after - so the demons say.  And when you have sinned, pay no attention to him who says in regard to minor failings: "If only you had not commit that major fault!  This is nothing by comparison."  The truth is that very often small gifts soften the great anger of the Judge.
            He who really keeps track of what he has done will consider as lost every day during which he did not mourn, regardless of whatever good he may happen to have done.
            Let no one who grieves for his sins expect reassurance at the hour of death.  There can be no assurance about the unknown. 
            He who weeps for himself will not be wrapped up in the grief, lapse, or reproach of someone else.
            We ought to be on our guard, in case our conscience has stopped troubling us, not so much because of its being clear but because of its being immersed in sin.
            A proof of our having been delivered from our failings is the unceasing acknowledgement of our indebtedness.
            Nothing equals the mercy of God or surpasses it.  To despair is therefore to inflict death on oneself.

            All of us - but especially the lapsed - should be especially careful not to be afflicted with the disease of the godless Origen.  This foul disease uses God's love for man as an excuse and is very welcome to those who are lovers of pleasure.

52-53            John concludes by telling his readers to above all let the image of the inmates at the "Prison" be imprinted upon their minds and hearts.  They are to let the example of these holy men be their rule and model for repentance.                  

            Let the holy prisoners, described above, be a rule for you, a pattern, a model, a true picture of repentance, so that for as long as you live you will have no need of a treatise; until at last Christ, the divine Son of God, will enlighten you in the resurrection of true repentance. Amen.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Ladder of Divine Ascent Podcast for May 8, 2013

Steps Three and Four - On Exile and Obedience

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Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Podcast for May 1st Ladder of Divine Ascent Study Group

Detachment and Exile

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