One of the great spiritual books that it is surely advisable to be read during the Lenten journey is The Ladder of Divine Ascent, written by St John Climacus (c 525-606), the sixth-seventh century monk at the monastery of Mount Sinai.
In this book, St John, who is revered as a saint both by the Western Catholic as well as the Eastern Catholic and Orthodox Churches, speaks about how one raises one’s soul and body to God via the attainment of virtues. Drawing experience from his monastic life, John knew very well that the acquisition of virtue does not happen overnight. Rather, it is a long and slow process wherein the soul undergoes the necessary repentance, cleansing and strengthening in order to advance in the spiritual life. The image of the Ladder comes from the Biblical account of Jacob’s Ladder, and each “step”, although treated on its own, is beautifully interconnected with the entire ladder. This ladder consists of thirty steps. If the number 30 represents the physical and the mental maturity of a person called by God, so that he would be able to handle the major responsibilities entrusted to him. Those who, by divine grace, manage to climb the ladder will reach that maturity of which St Paul rightly speaks of in his Letter to the Ephesians when he says:
Therefore it is said, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives,