The Fourth Sunday of Lent: St. John of the Ladder

Readings of the Day:   Hebrews 6:13-20  &    Mark 9: 17-31

Today's gospel reading  describes the healing of  a boy who had a mute spirit and was suffering seizures at the hand of this spirit.  The reading  includes that infamous line "Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!"  So often have I thought these same lines, cried out this verse in tears.  We all do, don't we?  As much as we believe, we have those moments of weakness - but while we remain uncertain, we maintain our basis of faith.  We believe....we are just unsure of the details-unsure of His will. But we must continue our struggle; we must continue to climb the ladder, so to speak,  in our faith!

St. John of the Ladder

St. John Climacus (570-649 AD), known as St. John of the Ladder, was a monk of Sinai

Ladder of Divine Ascent
Ladder of Divine Ascent

and became the Abbot of Sinai Monastery.  He wrote a book titled The Ladder of Divine Ascent.  Read by many even today, it may be, according to Fr. Thomas Hopko, the most widely read book among Orthodox Christians after the bible itself.  The Ladder of Divine Ascent describes monastic virtues, monastic life, and the nature of being free from passions. The book contains 30 chapters.  Every chapter represents a step leading up to a faithful and pious life as the ultimate goal of a Christian life. The spiritual struggle of the Christian is a real one, daily, and St. John's writings encourages us to continue with that struggle. The feast day of Saint John Climacus is actually on March 30, however, as the Orthodox do not practice Divine Liturgies during the weekdays of Great Lent (other than The Annunciation of the Most Holy Theotokos -the day we commemorate the appearance of the Archangel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary announcing the conception of Christ who's birth we celebrate 9 months from this date ) the Church commemorates this particular Saint on this, the fourth Sunday of Lent.

*This book does tend to be difficult for the laity to read as it was written with monastics mostly in mind.  There is a newer book, Thirty Steps To Heaven, that is written to aid the laity in reading the wisdom offered by St. John.  I have often been tempted to read this book myself  (as I haven't even thought of attempting the original) and would love to hear from anyone that has!  There is an Amazon link below for both books.


 O John our father, saint of God, you who were revealed as a citizen of the desert, an angel in a body and a worker of miracles.  Through fasting, prayer, and vigils you have received heavenly gifts of grace and have healed the sick and the souls of those who turn to you with faith.  Glory be to Him who gave you strength; glory to Him who crowned you; glory be to Him who through you grants to all men healing. 

    ~ Orthros - Hymn to St. John of the Ladder


References and Sources of Information:

A Journey Through Great Lent - Edited by The Very Rev. Stephen Belonick

Daily Lenten Meditations for Orthodox Christians by Presbytera Emily Harakas

Fr. Thomas Hopko - Ancient Faith Radio

The Fourth Sunday of Lent: The Sunday of St. John Climacus