John Climacus

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Saint John Climacus
Sw Jan Klimak, Jerzy i Blazej.jpg
Thirteenth century icon of St. John Climacus; to either side are Saint George and Saint Blaise (Novgorod School).
John of the Ladder, John Scholasticus, John Sinaites
Bornc. 579
Syria
DiedMarch 649 (aged 6970)
Mount Sinai
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church
Eastern Catholic Churches
Eastern Orthodox Church
Feast 30 March, Fourth Sunday of Great Lent
Attributes Clothed as a monk, sometimes with an Abbot's paterissa (crozier), sometimes holding a copy of his Ladder

Saint John Climacus (Greek : Ἰωάννης τῆς Κλίμακος; Latin : Ioannes Climacus), also known as John of the Ladder, John Scholasticus and John Sinaites, was a 6th-7th-century Christian monk at the monastery on Mount Sinai. [1] He is revered as a saint by the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic churches.

Greek language Language spoken in Greece, Cyprus and Southern Albania

Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages, native to Greece, Cyprus and other parts of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea. It has the longest documented history of any living Indo-European language, spanning more than 3000 years of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the major part of its history; other systems, such as Linear B and the Cypriot syllabary, were used previously. The alphabet arose from the Phoenician script and was in turn the basis of the Latin, Cyrillic, Armenian, Coptic, Gothic, and many other writing systems.

Christianity is an Abrahamic monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. Its adherents, known as Christians, believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and the savior of all people, whose coming as the Messiah was prophesied in the Hebrew Bible, called the Old Testament in Christianity, and chronicled in the New Testament. It is the world's largest religion with about 2.4 billion followers.

Monasticism religious way of life

Monasticism or monkhood is a religious way of life in which one renounces worldly pursuits to devote oneself fully to spiritual work. Monastic life plays an important role in many Christian churches, especially in the Catholic and Orthodox traditions. Similar forms of religious life also exist in other faiths, most notably in Buddhism, but also in Hinduism and Jainism, although the expressions differ considerably. By contrast, in other religions monasticism is criticized and not practiced, as in Islam and Zoroastrianism, or plays a marginal role, as in Judaism.

History

There is almost no information about John's life. There is in existence an ancient Vita (life) of the saint by a monk named Daniel of Raithu monastery. Daniel, though claiming to be a contemporary, admits to no knowledge of John's origins—any speculation on John's birth is the result of much later speculation, and is confined to references in the Menologion. The Vita is generally unhelpful for establishing dates of any kind. Formerly scholarship, on the basis of John's entry in the Menologion, had placed him in the latter 6th Century. That view was challenged by J.C. Guy and others, and consensus (such as there is) has shifted to a 7th Century provenance. If Daniel's Vita is trustworthy (there is nothing against which to judge its accuracy), then John came to the Vatos Monastery at Mount Sinai, now Saint Catherine's Monastery, and became a novice when he was about 16 years old. He was taught about the spiritual life by the elder monk Martyrius. After the death of Martyrius, John, wishing to practice greater asceticism, withdrew to a hermitage at the foot of the mountain. In this isolation he lived for some twenty years, constantly studying the lives of the saints and thus becoming one of the most learned Church Fathers. [2] When he was about sixty-five years of age, the monks of Sinai persuaded him to become their Igumen. He acquitted himself of his functions as abbot with the greatest wisdom, and his reputation spread so far that, according to the Vita, Pope Gregory the Great wrote to recommend himself to his prayers, and sent him a sum of money for the hospital of Sinai, in which the pilgrims were wont to lodge.

Hagiography Biography of a Christian saint

A hagiography is a biography of a saint or an ecclesiastical leader. The term hagiography may be used to refer to the biography of a saint or highly developed spiritual being in any of the world's spiritual traditions.

El Tor, Egypt city in South Sinai, Egypt

El Tor, also romanized as Al-Tur and At-Tur and known as Tur Sinai, formerly Raithu, is a small city and the capital of the South Sinai Governorate of Egypt. The name of the city comes from the Arabic term for the mountain where the prophet Moses received the Tables of the Law from God; this mountain is designated Jabal Al Tor.

Mount Sinai Mountain in the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt

Mount Sinai, also known as Mount Moses, is a mountain in the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt that is a possible location of the biblical Mount Sinai, which is considered a holy site by the Abrahamic religions. Mount Sinai is mentioned many times in the Book of Exodus and other books of the Bible, and the Quran. According to Jewish, Christian, and Islamic tradition, the biblical Mount Sinai was the place where Moses received the Ten Commandments.

Of John's literary output we know only the Κλῖμαξ (Latin : Scala Paradisi) or Ladder of Divine Ascent , composed in the early seventh century at the request of John, [3] Abbot of Raithu, a monastery situated on the shores of the Red Sea, and a shorter work To the Pastor (Latin: Liber ad Pastorem), most likely a sort of appendix to the Ladder. It is in the Ladder' that we hear of the ascetic practice of carrying a small notebook to record the thoughts of the monk during contemplation. [4]

<i>The Ladder of Divine Ascent</i> book by Johannes Climacus

The Ladder of Divine Ascent, or Ladder of Paradise, is an important ascetical treatise for monasticism in Eastern Christianity written by John Climacus in ca. AD 600 at the request of John, Abbot of Raithu, a monastery located on the shores of the Red Sea.

John Climacus is shown at the top of theThe Ladder of Divine Ascent, with other monks following him, 12th century icon (Saint Catherine's Monastery, Mount Sinai, Egypt). The Ladder of Divine Ascent Monastery of St Catherine Sinai 12th century.jpg
John Climacus is shown at the top of the The Ladder of Divine Ascent , with other monks following him, 12th century icon (Saint Catherine's Monastery, Mount Sinai, Egypt).

The Ladder describes how to raise one's soul and body to God through the acquisition of ascetic virtues. Climacus uses the analogy of Jacob's Ladder as the framework for his spiritual teaching. Each chapter is referred to as a "step", and deals with a separate spiritual subject. There are thirty Steps of the ladder, which correspond to the age of Jesus at his baptism and the beginning of his earthly ministry. Within the general framework of a 'ladder', Climacus' book falls into three sections. The first seven Steps concern general virtues necessary for the ascetic life, while the next nineteen (Steps 8–26) give instruction on overcoming vices and building their corresponding virtues. The final four Steps concern the higher virtues toward which the ascetic life aims. The final rung of the ladder—beyond prayer (προσευχή), stillness (ἡσυχία), and even dispassion (ἀπάθεια)—is love (ἀγάπη).

In monotheistic thought, God is conceived of as the supreme being, creator deity, and principal object of faith. God is usually conceived as being omniscient (all-knowing), omnipotent (all-powerful), omnipresent (all-present) and as having an eternal and necessary existence. These attributes are used either in way of analogy or are taken literally. God is most often held to be incorporeal (immaterial). Incorporeality and corporeality of God are related to conceptions of transcendence and immanence of God, with positions of synthesis such as the "immanent transcendence".

Jacobs Ladder Ladder leading to heaven, dreamed by Jacob

Jacob's Ladder is a ladder leading to heaven that was featured in a dream the biblical Patriarch Jacob had during his flight from his brother Esau in the Book of Genesis.

Jesus The central figure of Christianity

Jesus, also referred to as Jesus of Nazareth and Jesus Christ, was a first-century Jewish preacher and religious leader. He is the central figure of Christianity. Most Christians believe he is the incarnation of God the Son and the awaited Messiah (Christ) prophesied in the Old Testament.

Originally written simply for the monks of a neighboring monastery, the Ladder swiftly became one of the most widely read and much-beloved books of Byzantine spirituality. This book is one of the most widely read among Orthodox Christians, especially during the season of Great Lent which immediately precedes Pascha (Easter). It is often read in the trapeza (refectory) in Orthodox monasteries, and in some places it is read in church as part of the Daily Office on Lenten weekdays, being prescribed in the Triodion.

Eastern Orthodox Church Christian Church

The Eastern Orthodox Church, officially the Orthodox Catholic Church, is the second-largest Christian church, with approximately 260 million baptised members. It operates as a communion of autocephalous churches, each governed by its bishops in local synods. Roughly half of Eastern Orthodox Christians live in Russia. The church has no central doctrinal or governmental authority analogous to the Bishop of Rome, but the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople is recognised by all as primus inter pares of the bishops. As one of the oldest surviving religious institutions in the world, the Eastern Orthodox Church has played a prominent role in the history and culture of Eastern and Southeastern Europe, the Caucasus, and the Near East.

Great Lent observance in Eastern Christianity

Great Lent, or the Great Fast, is the most important fasting season in the church year in the Eastern Orthodox Church, Byzantine Rite Lutheran Churches and the Eastern Catholic Churches, which prepares Christians for the greatest feast of the church year, Pascha (Easter).

The Triodion, also called the Lenten Triodion, is the liturgical book used by the Eastern Orthodox Church. The book contains the propers for the fasting period preceding Easter and for the weeks leading up to the fast.

An icon known by the same title, Ladder of Divine Ascent, depicts a ladder extending from earth to heaven (cf. Genesis 28:12) Several monks are depicted climbing a ladder; at the top is Jesus, prepared to receive them into Heaven. Also shown are angels helping the climbers, and demons attempting to shoot with arrows or drag down the climbers, no matter how high up the ladder they may be. Most versions of the icon show at least one person falling. Often, in the lower right corner St. John Climacus himself is shown, gesturing towards the ladder, with rows of monastics behind him.

Icon religious work of art, generally a panel painting, in Eastern Christianity

An icon is a religious work of art, most commonly a painting, in the cultures of the Eastern Orthodox Church, Oriental Orthodoxy, the Roman Catholic, and certain Eastern Catholic churches. The most common subjects include Christ, Mary, saints and angels. Although especially associated with "portrait" style images concentrating on one or two main figures, the term also covers most religious images in a variety of artistic media produced by Eastern Christianity, including narrative scenes. Icons can represent various scenes in the Bible.

Monk member of a monastic religious order

A monk is a person who practices religious asceticism by monastic living, either alone or with any number of other monks. A monk may be a person who decides to dedicate his life to serving all other living beings, or to be an ascetic who voluntarily chooses to leave mainstream society and live his or her life in prayer and contemplation. The concept is ancient and can be seen in many religions and in philosophy.

Heaven Place where beings such as gods, angels, spirits, saints, or venerated ancestors are said to originate, be enthroned, or live.

Heaven, or the heavens, is a common religious, cosmological, or transcendent place where beings such as gods, angels, spirits, saints, or venerated ancestors are said to originate, be enthroned, or live. According to the beliefs of some religions, heavenly beings can descend to earth or incarnate, and earthly beings can ascend to heaven in the afterlife, or in exceptional cases enter heaven alive.

St. John's feast day is March 30 in both the East and West. The Eastern Orthodox Church and the Byzantine Catholic Churches additionally commemorate him on the Fourth Sunday of Great Lent. Many churches are dedicated to him in Russia, including a church and belltower in the Moscow Kremlin. John Climacus was also known as "Scholasticus," but he is not to be confused with St. John Scholasticus, Patriarch of Constantinople.

Several translations into English have been made, including one by Holy Transfiguration Monastery (Boston, 1978). This volume contains the Life of St. John by Daniel, The Ladder of Divine Ascent, and To the Pastor, and provides footnotes explaining many of the concepts and terminology used from an Orthodox perspective, as well as a General Index. [5]

See also

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References

  1. Zecher, Jonathan L. (2013), "The Angelic Life in Desert and Ladder: John Climacus's Re-Formulation of Ascetic Spirituality", Journal of Early Christian Studies, 21 (1): 111–136, doi:10.1353/earl.2013.0006, ISSN   1086-3184
  2. Clugnet, Léon. "St. John Climacus." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 8. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. 26 March 2015
  3. Duffy, John (2010), "Reading John Climacus: Rhetorical Argumentation, Literary Convention and the Tradition of Monastic Formation (review)", Journal of Early Christian Studies, 18 (1): 145–146, doi:10.1353/earl.0.0303, ISSN   1086-3184
  4. Stroumsa, Guy (2008), "The Scriptural Movement of Late Antiquity and Christian Monasticism", Journal of Early Christian Studies, Johns Hopkins University Press, 16 (1): 61–77, doi:10.1353/earl.2008.0011, ISSN   1086-3184
  5. Climacus, John (1 October 1991), The Ladder of Divine Ascent, Holy Transfiguration Monastery, ISBN   978-0-943405-03-2 , retrieved 13 March 2013