St John Klimakos (John of the Ladder) of Sinai (649)
He is best known as the author of the Ladder of Divine Ascent, a treasury of spiritual wisdom which is read in its entirety in monasteries during every Lenten season. He is also commemorated on the Fourth Sunday of Great Lent.
Nothing is known of his life before he entered the monastery at Mount Sinai (now St Katherine’s Monastery) at the age of sixteen; he remained there until his death at the age of eighty. After he first arrived, he spent nineteen years in strict obedience to his spiritual father, Martyrios. When Martyrios died, John retired to a nearby cave, where he lived in the strictest asceticism for twenty years. (It was during these years that he wrote the Ladder.) He reluctantly returned to the monastery when he was made abbot by the brethren, and spent the rest of his days guiding his spiritual children in the way of salvation.
Once he heard a monk criticize him for speaking too much; rather than reproach the monk, he himself kept silence for a full year, never uttering a word until the brethren begged him to speak again. At another time a large company of pilgrims came to Mt Sinai. At supper they all saw a young man, dressed as a Jew, serving at table and giving orders to the other servants, then suddenly disappearing. When they wondered among themselves what this could mean, John said ‘Do not try to look for him; that was the prophet Moses serving you in his own home.’
When the holy abbot knew that his death was approaching, he appointed his own brother, George, as his successor. George grieved the approaching death of his beloved brother, but St John told him that, if he was found worthy to stand close to God after his death, he would pray that George be taken up to heaven in the same year. So it happened: ten months after St John’s death, George reposed in the Lord.
Commemoration of an Uncondemning Monk
“This monk died joyfully because he had never in his life condemned anyone. He was lazy, careless, disinclined to prayer, but throughout his entire life he had never judged anyone. And when he lay dying, he was full of joy. The brethren asked him how he could die so joyfully with all his sins, and he replied: ‘I have just seen the angels, and they showed me a page with all my many sins. I said to them: “The Lord said: ‘Judge not, that ye be not judged.’ I have never judged anyone and I hope in the mercy of God, that He will not judge me.” And the angels tore up the sheet of paper.’ Hearing this, the monks wondered at it and learned from it.” (From the Prologue)