.- After 20 catecheses devoted to St. Paul, Pope Benedict XVI returned to his teachings on the great Christian writers of both East and West, reflecting on St. John Climacus. The Holy Father held up St. John Climacus, whose name means "ladder," and whose greatest work is titled âLadder of Paradise,â as a reminder of the need for âcontinual conversion and purification with the help of the Holy Spirit.â
Speaking to 8,000 people in Paul VI Hall today, the Pope explained that in the first part of âLadder of Paradise,â St. John Climacus describes a âbreak with the world in order to go back to a true evangelical infancy, the time of childhood, in accordance with Jesusâ words.â John Climacus teaches that innocence, fasting and chastity are the âpillarsâ of this journey, the Pope said.
Every ânewborn in Christ,â Pope Benedict continued, âlearns from these things, which allow the soul to enter in communion with God.â âBlessed be those who mortify their will till the end,â John Climacus said, for they âshall be placed on the right of Christ.â
The rung of St. Johnâs ladder is the âspiritual struggle against passions.â John Climacus saw passions not as âbad in and of themselves,â but taught that they âbecome so when they are put to bad use by manâs freedom.â In fact, the Pope said summarizing the saintâs teaching, âIf the passions are purified they open onto the path that leads to God.â
âThe struggle against passions becomes positive thanks to the image of the fire of the Holy Spirit, whose strength ensures victory over passions, transforming them by the Creatorâs positive nature,â John Climacus adds. âThe fire of the Holy Spirit is the fire of love and truth.â
The third step on the ascent to Paradise that John Climacus describes, deals with âChristian perfection,â the higher levels of which âcan be experienced by those who have reached peace of mind and inner peace.â
John Climacus emphasizes the importance of discernment: Christians must examine every aspect of their behavior in order to ascertain their deepest motivations and reawaken a "sense of the heart." This leads to tranquility of soul, âesichÃa,â which prepares Christians to probe the depths of the divine mysteries, the Pontiff explained.
The final part of the saintâs âladderâ is dedicated to faith, hope and charity. John Climacus speaks of charity as Eros, âthe figure of the soulâs matrimonial love for God.â An intense experience of this Eros, the Holy Father related, makes the soul progress more than any hard-fought struggle with its passions. This positive character counts more than the struggle itself.
St. John Climacus writes, âHope is charityâs strength.â In its absence charity is obliterated. Hope surrounds one with âGodâs mercy.â
âHow topical is the opus of a hermit monk from 1,500 years ago?â the Pope asked. âAt first glance, we would say no, but if we look closely at monastic life we see that it is a great sign of Christian life. It shows in capital letters what we write daily in small letters; it shows how a baptized person can live in communion with Christ, his death and resurrection.â
Pope Benedict mentioned how this is demonstrated in relation to oneâs ego. âI give up my arrogance, for which I too must judge for I cannot rely on others.â It is a question âof overcoming the arrogance of saying âI know best.ââ In this manner, the soul grows.
âOnly hope can make us capable of charity. With hope we can transcend everyday reality,â the Pontiff stated. âWe donât have to wait for success every day but for God himself in the endâ¦ We can be good with others without expecting a reward.â
âThe mystery of prayer, the personal knowledge of God, hides in charity,â Benedict XVI shared as he concluded with the prayer: Let us use the ladder of faith, hope and charity to reach true life.â