Today is the fourth Sunday of Great Lent. This day is devoted to memory of Saint John of the Ladder. John of the Ladder was a great hermit, a great monk of Sinai monastery. He lived in the sixth century and by request of his brethren monks, wrote an instruction which is called the Ladder of Paradise. In this work he described the steps of man ascending to God, the degrees of spiritual perfection.

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This book begins with the following words, “God is life and salvation for all whom is given free will as a gift”. We, people, are given free will as a gift. And so at each moment of our life we choose where we are going. Are we ascending to God or going down?

One needn’t do any efforts to go down. But to ascend to God one must do constant efforts. John of the Ladder tells us a lot and in detail about these efforts, what they consist of, and what they must be.

Sometimes we notice in our neighbor qualities which cause great hostility in us. And again we either become sad or get angry with this person. What shall we do with such feelings? First of all I think we must understand that what we are spoken about has nothing really to do with us. People praise us when we don’t deserve it. People also scold us when we don’t deserve it. The point is not what people tell about us. The point is that it is we see in other people features which we want to notice. And this is very important because other people are like a mirror in which we can see ourselves.

There is a spiritual rule that if anything in another person irritates and even anger you, then it is your own weakness. You saw this feature in another individual and hated it most of all. Because it is not your neighbor’s, but your weakness. It is you who must eliminate this weakness, learn to struggle with it.

We are told: love your neighbor and love your enemy. We always think: how can we love our enemy? Really, we can love our enemy only when we understand that the worst feature in our enemy is our own bad feature. And it is this that makes us angry or sad. So, in fact we don’t like to stand in front of a mirror. We agree to stand in front of a mirror only when we are thankful and fine.

Let’s remember that we love our neighbor, must love them not only because they are an image of God but because they are an image of ourselves. On these days we are making our journey through Great Lent, let us travel with Christ, Who willingly endured the Cross for us love, so that we too may approach life with love.