Sunday of St. John of the Ladder

    

In the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Lent is a time of repentance, a time when our heart of stone must be made by the power of God into a heart of flesh, from insensitive to perceptive, from cold and hard to warm and open to others—and indeed, to God Himself.

Lent is a time of renewal when like spring, everything become new again; when our life that had gone into a twilight becomes alive with all the intensity that God can communicate to us, humans, by making us partakers of His Holy Spirit, by making us partakers, through the Holy Sacraments and the direct gift of God, of the Divine nature.

It is a time of reconciliation, and reconciliation is a joy: it is God's joy, and it is our joy; it is a new beginning.

Today is the day of Saint John of the Ladder, and I want to read to you a few phrases of his that are relevant to the particular time of the year in which we live:

Repentance, that is, our return to God, is renewal of our baptism; it is our effort to renew our covenant with God, our promise to change our life. It is a time when we can acquire humility, which is peace—peace with God, peace with ourselves, peace with the whole created world. Repentance is born of hope and rejection of despair. One who repents is one who deserves condemnation—and yet goes away from the tribunal without shame, because repentance is our peace with God. And this is achieved through a worthy life, alien to the sins we committed in the past. Repentance is cleansing of our conscience. Repentance implies carrying off all sadness and pain.”[1]

And if we ask ourselves how we can achieve it, how we can come to this, how we can respond to God Who receives us as the father received the prodigal son, a God Who has waited for us longingly, Who though rejected never turned away from us. How can we respond to Him? Here is a short word about prayer:

“Don't use in prayer falsely wise words; because it is often the simple and uncomplicated whispering of children that rejoices our heavenly Father. Don't try to say much when you speak to God, because otherwise your mind in search of words will be lost in them. One word spoken by the publican brought Divine mercy upon him; one word filled with faith saved the thief on the cross. The use of the multiplicity of words when we pray disperses our mind and fills it with imaginations. One word spoken to God collects the mind in His presence. And if a word, in your prayer, reaches you deeply, if you perceive it profoundly dwell in it, because at such moments our Angel guardian prays with us because we are true to ourselves and to God.”

Let us remember what Saint John of the Ladder says, even if you forget the short comments (which I introduced) to make his text more readily understandable. Let us remember his words because he was a man who knew what it means to turn to God, to stay with God, to be God’s joy and to rejoice in Him. He is offered to us in this time when we are ascending towards the days of the Passion; he is offered us as an example of what Divine grace can do to transform an ordinary, simple human being into a light to the world.

Let us learn from him, let us follow his example, let us rejoice in what God can do by His power in a human being, and let us confidently, with faith, with an exulting and yet serene joy follow his advice, listen to God begging us to find a way of life and telling us that with Him, in Him we will be alive—because He is the Truth but also the Way, and Life eternal. Amen.

[1] This is apparently a translation of the Russian version of The Ladder of Divine Ascent.—O.C.
See also
Fourth Sunday of Great Lent. Saint John Climacus Fourth Sunday of Great Lent. Saint John Climacus
Fr. Seraphim Holland
Fourth Sunday of Great Lent. Saint John Climacus Fourth Sunday of Great Lent. Saint John Climacus
Christianity is simple. Lent is about changing. Exegesis of the Beatitudes.
Fr. Seraphim Holland
Christianity is very simple. We complicate it because we want to complicate it. Because then we sort of have a smoke screen around us. It’s hard to be brutally honest with ourselves. Christianity is brutal honesty with ourselves and with others.
Homily on the Fourth Sunday of Great Lent. The Significance of Fasting in the Struggle against Fallen Spirits Homily on the Fourth Sunday of Great Lent. The Significance of Fasting in the Struggle against Fallen Spirits
St. Ignatius (Brianchaninov)
Homily on the Fourth Sunday of Great Lent. The Significance of Fasting in the Struggle against Fallen Spirits Homily on the Fourth Sunday of Great Lent. The Significance of Fasting in the Struggle against Fallen Spirits
St. Ignatius (Brianchaninov)
The Lord said to His Apostles about the evil spirits, This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting (Mk. 9:29). Here is a new aspect of fasting! Fasting is acceptable to God when it is preceded by the great virtue of mercy; fasting prepares a reward in heaven when it is foreign to hypocrisy and vainglory; fasting works when it is joined with another great virtue—prayer. How does it work? It not only tames the passions in the human body, but it enters into battle with the spirits of evil, and conquers them.
The Fourth Sunday in Great Lent The Fourth Sunday in Great Lent
Metropolitan Philaret (Voznesensky)
The Fourth Sunday in Great Lent The Fourth Sunday in Great Lent
Metropolitan Philaret (Voznesensky)
So it is also in the spiritual life. As a Christian gradually ascends, the force of spiritual and ascetical labours lifts him on high. Our Lord Jesus Christ said: "Strive to enter in through the narrow gate." That is, the Christian ought to be an ascetic. Not only the monastic, but every Christian. He must take pains for his soul and his life.
Homily on the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee. On Prayer and Repentance Homily on the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee. On Prayer and Repentance
St. Ignatius (Brianchaninov)
Homily on the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee. On Prayer and Repentance Homily on the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee. On Prayer and Repentance
St. Ignatius (Brianchaninov)
Why didn't the publican choose some majestic and moving psalm by which to pour out his heart before God, but instead had recourse to such a brief prayer? Why did he repeat only it during the entire service?
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