On the Fourth Sunday in Lent, the Eastern Church commemorates Saint John Climacus, also known as John of the Ladder, who was a seventh-century monk at the monastery on Mount Sinai. He is revered as a saint by the Eastern Orthodox, Eastern Catholic, Roman Catholic, and Oriental Orthodox churches.
Saint John’s spiritual instructions known as Ladder of Divine Ascent describes the means by which one acquires the ascetic virtues. He 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 a total of thirty steps. The final four steps or “rungs” of the ladder concern the higher virtues: prayer, spiritual stillness (hesychia), dispassion, and, highest of all, love (agape).
Ladder of Divine Ascent became one of the most widely read books of Byzantine spirituality. In Eastern Christian monasteries, chapters of the book are often read in church or in the refectory as part of the Daily Office on Lenten weekdays.