John of the Ladder


John Climacus,
Dionysius, Athos, 17th c.

JOHN CLIMACUS  (c.570–c.649), ascetic and writer on the spiritual life, so called after his famous ‘Ladder’ (Κλῖμαξ). He was also known as σχολαστικός, but is not to be confused with John Scholasticus, Patriarch of Constantinople. He arrived at Mt Sinai as a novice when he was 16; after his profession he spent some years as an anchorite and was later Abbot of Sinai. His celebrated ‘Ladder of Paradise’ or ‘Ladder of Divine Ascent’ treats of the monastic virtues and vices, the anchoritic and coenobitic life, and the nature of complete dispassionateness (ἀπάθεια), which is upheld as the ideal of Christian perfection. There are 30 ‘steps of the ladder’ (i.e. 30 chapters) to correspond with the age of Christ at His Baptism. Feast day, in West, 30 March.; in East, 4th Sunday in Lent (also 30 Mar.).

There is no critical text. Ed. M. Rader, SJ (Paris, 1633); repr., with additional material, in J. P. Migne, PG 88, 585–1248; another edn. from MS on Mt Athos by the hermit Sophronios (Constantinople, 1883); text based on Migne, with Ital. tr., by P. Trevisan (Corona Patrum Salesiana, Series Graeca, 8–9; Turin, 1941); further edn., based mainly on a 14th–cent. MS from Stavronikita (Cod. 895.30), with modern Gk. tr., by Archimandrite Ignatios (Oropos, 1978). Medieval Lat. trs. by Ambrogio Traversari and others; a Sp. tr. of one of these Lat. texts of John Climacus was destined to be the first book to be pr. in the New World (Mexico, 1532). Eng. trs. by L. Moore (London, 1959) and by C. Luibheid and N. Russell (Classics of Western Spirituality, 1982), with important introd. by K. [T. R.] Ware, pp. 1–70. W. Völker, Scala Paradisi: Eine Studie zu Johannes Climacus und zugleich eine Vorstudie zu Symeon dem neuen Theologen (Wiesbaden, 1968), with refs. J. R. Martin, The Illustration of the Heavenly Ladder of John Climacus (Studies in Manuscript Illumination, 5; Princeton, NJ, 1954). J. Chryssavgis, John Climacus: From the Egyptian Desert to the Sinaite Mountain (Aldershot [2004]). G. Couilleau in Dict. Sp. 8 (1974), cols. 369–89, s.v. ‘Jean 60. Jean Climaque (saint)’.



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