Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

John Climacus, fully Saint John Climacus, aka John of the Ladder, John Scholasticus and John Sinaites

Christian Monk at the Monestary on Mount Sinai, Author of famous book, "The Climax" or "The Ladder of Perfection"

"As long as anger lives, she continues to be the fruitful mother of many unhappy children."

"As the prudent vintager eats only ripe grapes, and gathers not those which are green, so the eyes of a wise man rests only upon the virtue of others; whereas the eyes of the fool seeks only to discover in his neighbor vices and defects."

"You offered us your teachings as fruits of everlasting freshness, To sweeten the hearts of those who receive them with attention. O blessed and wise John, they are the rungs of a ladder, Leading the souls of those who honor you from earth to Eternal glory in Heaven!"

"By a flood of tears you made the desert fertile And by your longing for God you brought forth fruits in abundance. By the radiance of miracles you illuminated the whole universe."

"A chaste man is someone who has driven out bodily love by means of divine love, who has used heavenly fire to quench the fires of the flesh."

"A 'good' conscience is one that stands ready to convict oneself immediately with shame. There IS a difference between a 'good' conscience and a 'clear' conscience. The clear one can be dead or deceived."

"A person is at the beginning of a prayer when he succeeds in removing distractions which at the beginning beset him. He is at the middle of the prayer when the mind concentrates only on what he is meditating and contemplating. He reaches the end when, with the Lord, the prayer enraptures him."

"A man who has embraced poverty offers up prayer that is pure, while a man who loves possessions prays to material images."

"A man who takes pride in natural abilities — I mean cleverness, the ability to learn, skill in reading, good diction, quick grasp, and all such skills as we possess without having to work for them — this man, I say, will never receive the blessings of heaven, since the man who is unfaithful in little is unfaithful and vainglorious in much. And there are men who wear their bodies to no purpose in the pursuit of total dispassion, heavenly treasures, miracle working, and prophetic ability, and the poor fools do not realize that humility, not hard work, is the mother of such things. The man who seeks a quid pro quo from God builds on uncertainty, whereas the man who considers himself a debtor will receive sudden and unexpected riches."

"A proud monk needs no demon. He has turned into one, an enemy to himself."

"After a long spell of prayer, do not say that nothing has been gained, for you have already achieved something. After all, what higher good is there than to cling to the Lord and to persevere in unceasing union with Him?"

"After God, let us have our conscience as our mentor and rule in all things, so that we may know which way the wind is blowing and set our sails accordingly."

"A servant of the Lord is he who in body stands before men, but in mind knocks at Heaven with prayer."

"And there are men who wear out their bodies to no purpose in the pursuit of total dispassion, heavenly treasures, miracle working, and prophetic ability, and the poor fools do not realize that humility, not hard work, is the mother of such things."

"All creatures have received from the Creator their order of being and their beginning, and some their consummation too. But the end of virtue is endless. For the Psalmist says: Of all perfection I have seen the end, but Thy commandment is exceeding spacious and endless. If some good ascetics go from the strength of action to the strength of divine vision, and if love never faileth, and if the Lord will guard the coming in of your fear and the going out of your love, then the end of love will be truly endless. We shall never cease to advance in it, either in the present or in the future life, continually adding light to light. And however strange what I have said may seem to many, nevertheless it shall be said. According to the testimonies we have given, I would say, blessed father, even the spiritual beings [i.e. the angels] do not lack progress; on the contrary, they ever add glory to glory, and knowledge to knowledge."

"A victim of sensuality who had overcome his weakness told me once that within people of this kind there flourishes a yearning for bodies, a shameless, and terrible spirit that asserts itself at the very heart’s core. Sheer physical pain burns so fiercely in the heart that it is like being scorched by an open fire. The sufferer finds that because of this he has no fear of God, he spurns the thought of punishment, turns away from prayer, and the sight of a corpse moves him no more than if it were a stone. He is like someone out of his mind, in a daze and he is perpetually drunk with desire for man or beast. And if a limit were not placed on the activities of this demon, no one would be saved, no one who is made of clay mingled with blood and foul moisture."

"As bodily food fattens the body, so fasting strengthens the soul. Imparting it an easy flight, it makes it able to ascend on high, to contemplate lofty things, and to put the heavenly higher than the pleasant and pleasurable things of life."

"An angel fell from Heaven without any other passion except pride, and so we may ask whether it is possible to ascend to Heaven by humility alone, without any other of the virtues."

"Before all else, let us list sincere thanksgiving first on the scroll of our prayer. On the second line, we should put confession and heartfelt contrition of soul. Then let us present our petition to the King of all. This is the best way of prayer, as it was shown to one of the monks...One word of the tax collector appeased God, and one cry of faith saved the thief."

"As with the appearance of light, darkness retreats; so, at the fragrance of humility, all anger and bitterness vanishes."

"Before gazing at the sun of humility we must let the light of meekness flow over us."

"But heartfelt thanksgiving should have first place in our book of prayer. Next should be confession and genuine contrition of soul. And after that should come our request to the universal King. This method of prayer is best, as one of the brothers was told by an angel of the Lord."

"But Adam did not wish to say, I sinned, but said rather the contrary of this and placed the blame for the transgression upon God Who created everything very good, saying to Him, The woman whom Thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree and I ate. And after him she also placed the blame upon the serpent, and they did not wish at all to repent and, falling down before the Lord God, beg forgiveness of Him. For this, God banished them from Paradise, as from a royal palace, to live in this world as exiles. At that time also He decreed that a flaming sword should be turned and should guard the entrance into Paradise. And God did not curse Paradise, since it was the image of the future unending life of the eternal Kingdom of Heaven. If it were not for this reason, it would have been fitting to curse it most of all, since within it was performed the transgression of Adam. But God did not do this, but cursed only the whole rest of the earth, which also was corrupt and brought forth everything by itself; and this was in order that Adam might not have any longer a life free from exhausting labors and sweat."

"Do not be over-complicated in the words you use when praying, because the simple and unadorned lisping of the children has often won the heart of their Heavenly Father."

"Do not be surprised that you fall every day; do not give up, but stand your ground courageously. And assuredly the angel who guards you will honor your patience, While a wound is still fresh and warm it is easy to heal, but old, neglected and festering ones are hard to cure, and require for their care much treatment, cutting, plastering and cauterization. Many from long neglect become incurable. But with God all things are possible."

"Do not become conceited when you have prayed for others and have been heard, for it is their faith which has been active and efficacious... Every virtuous act that we do, and this is particularly true of prayer, should be done with great sensitivity."

"Chastity is the name which is common to all virtues."

"Do not try to be verbose when you pray, lest your mind be distracted in searching for words. One word of the publican propitiated God, and one cry of faith saved the thief. Loquacity in prayer often distracts the mind and leads to fantasy, whereas brevity makes for concentration."

"Do you fast? Prove it by doing good works. If you see someone in need, take pity on them. If you see a friend being honored, don’t get jealous of him. For a true fast, you cannot fast only with your mouth. You must fast with your eye, your ear, your feet, your hands, and all parts of your body."

"Do not say that you are collecting money for the poor; with two mites the Kingdom was purchased."

"Even a small thing can be not small to the great; but to the small, even great things are not altogether perfect."

"Fight to escape from your own cleverness. If you do, then you will find salvation and uprightness."

"Exile means that we leave forever everything in our own country that prevents us from reaching the goal of piety. Exile means modest manners, wisdom which remains unknown, prudence not recognized as such by most, a hidden life, an invisible intention, unseen meditation, desire for humiliation, longing for hardship, constant determination to love God, abundance of love, renunciation of vainglory, depth of silence."

"Faith is the wing of prayer, and without it my prayer will return to my bosom. Faith is the unshaken stance of the soul and is unmoved by any adversity."

"Fire and water do not mix, neither can you mix judgment of others with the desire to repent. If a man commits a sin before you at the very moment of his death, pass no judgment, because the judgment of God is hidden from men. It has happened that men have sinned greatly in the open but have done greater deeds in secret, so that those who would disparage them have been fooled, with smoke instead of sunlight in their eyes."

"He who has put a stop to anger has also destroyed remembrance of wrongs; because childbirth continues only while the father is alive."

"Fire and water do not mix, neither can you mix judgment of others with the desire to repent. If a man commits a sin before you at the very moment of his death, pass no judgment, because the judgment of God is hidden from men. It has happened that men have sinned greatly in the open but have done greater deeds in secret, so that those who would disparage them have been fooled, with smoke instead of sunlight in their eyes"

"He who really keeps account of his actions considers as lost every day in which he does not mourn, whatever good he may have done in it."

"Hold on to the staff of prayer and you will not fall. And even a fall will not be fatal ... Always be brave, and God will teach you your prayer."

"Humility has it signs: ...poverty, withdrawal from the world, the concealment of one's wisdom, simplicity of speech, the seeking of alms, the disguising of one's nobility, the exclusion of free and easy relationships, the banishment of idle talk."

"Humility is the only thing that no devil can imitate. If pride made demons out of angels, there is no doubt that humility could make angels out of demons."

"I consider those fallen mourners more blessed than those who have not fallen and are not mourning over themselves; because as a result of their fall, they have risen by a sure resurrection."

"If there is a time for everything under heaven, as Ecclesiastes says, and by the word ‘everything’ must be understood what concerns our holy life, then if you please, let us look into it and let us seek to do at each time what is proper for that occasion. For it is certain that, for those who enter the lists, there is a time for dispassion and a time for passion (I say this for the combatants who are serving their apprenticeship); there is a time for tears, and a time for hardness of heart; there is a time for obedience, and there is a time to command; there is a time to fast, and a time to partake; there is a time for battle with our enemy the body, and a time when the fire is dead; a time of storm in the soul, and a time of calm in the mind; a time for heartfelt sorrow, and a time for spiritual joy; a time for teaching, and a time for listening; a time of pollutions, perhaps on account of conceit, and a time for cleansing by humility; a time for struggle, and a time for safe relaxation; a time for stillness, and a time for undistracted distraction; a time for unceasing prayer, and a time for sincere service. So let us not be deceived by proud zeal, and seek prematurely what will come in its own good time; that is, we should not seek in winter what comes in summer, or at seed time what comes at harvest; because there is a time to sow labors, and a time to reap the unspeakable gifts of grace. Otherwise, we shall not receive even in season what is proper to that season."

"In all your undertakings and in every way of life, whether you are living in obedience, or are not submitting your work to anyone, whether in outward or in spiritual matters, let it be your rule and practice to ask yourself: Am I really doing this in accordance with God's will?"

"It happens. I do not know how, that most of the proud never really discover their true selves. They think they have conquered their passions and they find out how poor they really are only after they die."

"If pride turned some of the angels into demons, then humility can doubtless make angels out of demons. So take heart, all you sinners."

"It is not the self -critical who reveals his humility ( for does not everyone have somehow to put up with himself? ). Rather, it is the man who continues to love the person who has criticized him."

"It is sheer lunacy to imagine that one has deserved the gifts of God. You may be proud only of the achievements you had before the time of your birth. But anything after that, indeed the birth itself, is a gift from God. You may claim only those virtues in you that are there independently of your mind, for your mind was bestowed on you by God. And you may claim only those victories you achieved independently of the body, for the body too is not yours but a work of God."

"Just as darkness retreats before light, so all anger and bitterness disappear for the fragrance of humility."

"It is necessary most of all for one who is fasting to curb anger, to accustom himself to meekness and condescension, to have a contrite heart, to repulse impure thoughts and desires, to examine his conscience, to put his mind to the test and to verify what good has been done by us in this or any other week, and which deficiency we have corrected in ourselves in the present week. This is true fasting."