The unique contribution of the latest academic monograph in the English-speaking world on John Climacus lies not so much in its development of scholarship regarding the place or role of John Climacus within the history of ascetic thought in general as in its emphasis on the importance and memory of death in definitive and formative monastic spiritual treatises through the centuries, especially seminal texts such as the Life of Antony, the Apophthegmata Patrum, and the Letters of Barsanuphius and John. In my own early analysis of the place of the influential and renowned Sinaite abbot as well as his Ladder of Divine Ascent, I had already modestly endeavored to situate John Climacus in the tradition and context of his Egyptian predecessors and Palestinian guides, whose teaching he absorbed and appropriated, even while establishing his own unique style.
Throughout this work, particular themes are woven, such as the role of the spiritual father, the memory of death,[xvi] or how experience corresponds to knowledge, but the theme we will focus on today is the role of love for God, because it is present on the first rung and on the last and contributes in various ways to many of the steps along the way. Love for God is the motivating force of the Christian life, the ascetic life, the monastic life (and these are not exclusive).
This dearly referred to the reign of Herod, who was an Idumean, on his father's side, and on his mother's, an Arabian, and the Jewish nation was delivered to him by the Roman senate and Augustus Caesar. And of the rest of the prophets some declared beforehand the birth of Christ, His ineffable conception, the mother remaining a virgin after His birth, His people, and country. (4) Some predicted His divine arid marvelous deeds, while others foretold His sufferings, His resurrection from the dead, His ascension into the heavens, and the event accompanying each. But if any be ignorant of these facts it is not difficult to know them by reading the sacred books. Josephus, the son of Matthias, also who was a priest, and was most distinguished among Jews and Romans, may be regarded as a noteworthy witness to the truth concerning Christ (5); for he hesitates to call Him a man since He wrought marvelous works, and was a teacher of truthful doctrines, but openly calls him Christ; that He was condemned to the death of the cross, and appeared alive again the third day. Nor was Josephus ignorant of numberless other wonderful predictions uttered beforehand by the holy prophets concerning Christ. He further testifies that Christ brought over many to Himself both Greeks and Jews, who continued to love Him, and that the people named after Him had not become extinct. It appears to me that in narrating these things, he all but proclaims that Christ, by comparison of works, is God. As if struck by the miracle, he ran, somehow, a middle course, assailing in no way those who believed in Jesus, but rather agreeing with them.
IT is related, that the emperor, under the impulse of an ardent desire to see harmony re-established among Christians, summoned Acesius, bishop of the church of the Novatians, (2) to the council, placed before him the definition of the faith and of the feast, which had already been confirmed by the signatures of the bishops, and asked whether he could agree thereto. Acesius answered that their exposition defined no new doctrine, and that he accorded in opinion with the Synod, and that he had from the beginning held these sentiments with respect both to the faith and to the feast. "Why, then," said the emperor, "do you keep aloof from communion with others, if you are of one mind with them?" He replied that the dissension first broke out trader Decius, between Novatius and Cornelius, (3) and that he considered such persons unworthy of communion who, after baptism, had fallen into those sins which the Scriptures declare to be unto death; (4) for that the remission of those sins, he thought, depended on the authority of God only, and not on the priests. The emperor replied, by saying, "O Acesius, take a ladder and ascend alone to heaven." By this speech I do not imagine the emperor intended to praise Acesius, but rather to blame him, because, being but a man, he fancied himself exempt from sin. (5)
Christ, the Son of God, by the command of the Father, became conversant with the visible creature, in order that, by overturning the dominion of the tyrants, the demons, that is, He might deliver our souls from their dreadful bondage, by reason of which our whole nature, intoxicated by the draughts of iniquity, had become full of tumult and disorder, and could by no means return to the remembrance of good and useful things. Wherefore, also, it was the more easily carried away to idols, inasmuch as evil had overwhelmed it entirely, and had spread over all generations, on account of the change which had come over our fleshy tabernacles in consequence of disobedience; until Christ, the Lord, by the flesh in which He lived and appeared, weakened the force of Pleasure's onslaughts, by means of which the infernal powers that were in arms against us reduced our minds to slavery, and freed mankind from all their evils. For with this end the Lord Jesus both wore our flesh, and became man, and by the divine dispensation was nailed to the cross; in order that by the flesh in which the demons had proudly and falsely feigned themselves gods, having carried our souls captive unto death by deceitful wiles, even by this they might be overturned, and discovered to be no gods. For he prevented their arrogance from raising itself higher, by becoming man; in order that by the body in which the race possessed of reason had become estranged from the worship of the true God, and had suffered injury, even by the same receiving into itself in an ineffable manner the Word of Wisdom, the enemy might be discovered to be the destroyers and not the benefactors of our souls. For it had not been wonderful if Christ, by the terror of His divinity, and the greatness of His invincible power, had reduced to weakness the adverse nature of the demons. But since this was to cause them greater grief and torment, for they would have preferred to be overcome by one stronger than themselves, therefore it was that by a man He procured the safety of the race; in order that men, after that very Life and Truth had entered into them in bodily form, might be able to return to the form and light of the Word, overcoming the power of the enticements of sin; and that the demons, being conquered by one weaker than they, and thus brought into contempt, might desist from their over-bold confidence, their hellish wrath being repressed. It was for this mainly that the cross was brought in, being erected as a trophy against iniquity, and a deterrent from it, that henceforth man might be no longer subject to wrath, after that he had made up for the defeat which, by his disobedience, he had received, and had lawfully conquered the infernal powers, and by the gift of God had been set free from every debt. Since, therefore, the first-born Word of God thus fortified the manhood in which He tabernacled with the armour of righteousness, He overcame, as has been said, the powers that enslaved us by the figure of the cross, and showed forth man, who had been oppressed by corruption, as by a tyrant power, to be free, with unfettered hands. For the cross, if you wish to define it, is the confirmation of the victory, the way by which God to man descended, the trophy against material spirits, the repulsion of death, the foundation of the ascent to the true day; and the ladder for those who are hastening to enjoy the light that is there, the engine by which those who are fitted for the edifice of the Church are raised up from below, like a stone four square, to be compacted on to the divine Word. Hence it is that our kings, perceiving that the figure of the cross is used for the dissipating of every evil, have made vexillas, as they are called in the Latin language. Hence the sea, yielding to this figure, makes itself navigable to men. For every creature, so to speak, has, for the sake of liberty, been marked with this sign; for the birds which fly aloft, form the figure of the cross by the expansion of their wings; and man himself, also, with his hands outstretched, represents the same. Hence, when the Lord had fashioned him in this form, in which He had from the beginning framed him, He joined on his body to the Deity, in order that it might be henceforth an instrument consecrated to God, freed from all discord and want of harmony. For man cannot, after that he has been formed for the worship of God, and hath sung, as it were, the incorruptible song of truth, and by this hath been made capable of holding the Deity, being fitted to the lyre of life as the chords and strings, he cannot, I say, return to discord and corruption. 781b155fdc