A sermon on the Sunday of John Climacus

Standing firm on our Ladder of Divine Ascent

standing firm on our ladder of divine ascent

Another Sunday and another liturgy of Saint Basil the Great is coming to an end. We have dedicated to eternity two, or maybe even three hours of our time. As Orthodox, we should fill all things in our lives with the spirit. All we do should be our service to God. We hold everything to one common standard: will it bring us closer to God or not? We use this measure, and we fill our lives with meaning. That way, we begin to make sense of what we do and how we act.

And, as we bring spirit to our lives, we become the warriors of God. All of us here are His warriors. But what if our lives are not spirited enough? What if we are still a long way from there? Maybe. Yet, if we lay down our weapons and surrender, the world will perish. As soon as we decide that our enemy is too powerful and cannot be defeated, we will bring ruin to ourselves, our loved ones and all the people.

In the miracle of the Eucharist, we are not simply witnesses but partakes of a grand event. We take the Body and Blood of Christ into ourselves, and it is not just a blessing but the truth. It keeps us alive in all situations. But to take it to heart, we need to grow strong in the spirit.

To strengthen in the spirit means to look to eternity, not the finite things of this world. We look for the Kingdom of God within us. The world is looking in the opposite direction. We chant, "Lift your hearts to the Lord." We reach out for His kingdom. But the world responds, "lift our hearts? What do you mean? There is nothing up there except an empty space!"

The people of the world are suffering. They are troubled by their heavy bills and rising food prices. They are apprehensive about a crisis and the empty fridges. But they refuse to acknowledge the root cause of our troubles: the world is too preoccupied with material things; it has little need for God and is turning its back on Him in full conscience. Our world is unravelling right before our eyes. In its present condition, its chances of survival look increasingly slim. When people turn away from God, do I need to tell you who will take His place?

Saint John Climacus, whom we commemorated on the fourth week of Lent, showed us the way forward. He left us the image of his famous ladder on which we ascend to our Lord. It numbers only 30 steps, but it is still a steep climb, and many who step on it will fall on their way. Yet, even when we fall, we rise again and start our ascent from the beginning. Our first step in our journey is to overcome our dependence on the material things of this world, to dissociate ourselves from them.

Already, we have fulfilled the main prerequisite to our ascent - we have embraced God. In Him, we find spiritual unity. Now we need to exercise our sound judgement, not in the way of this finite world, but in the way of heaven. To be judicious is to have a sense of measure. Some spend hours in front of their mirrors putting cosmetics on their faces. But God created us beautiful. Man lost his beauty when he sinned. We are beautiful when we have pure hearts and light coming from within.

We know that we can live without going hungry and not become gluttons, either; we can have all we need without living in luxury. We need a sense of measure in everything - prayer, fasting, work and rest. We have different capabilities, and some can accomplish more than others. But we never compare or judge.

So let us pray for our endurance for the rest of our Lenten journey to the Great and Holy Pascha, the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ!

Archpriest Andrey Lemeshonok

April 11, 2022
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