The memory of this Saint is celebrated on Sunday, March 29th, where his biography may be found. He is celebrated today because his book, The Ladder of Divine Ascent, is a sure guide to the ascetic life, written by a great man of prayer experienced in all forms of the monastic polity; it teaches the seeker after salvation how to lay a sound foundation for his struggles, how to detect and war against each of the passions, how to avoid the snares laid by the demons, and how to rise from the rudimental virtues to the heights of Godlike love and humility. It is held in such high esteem that it is universally read in its entirety in monasteries during the Great Fast.
He came to the monastery and became a novice when he was about 16 years old, and when he died in 649 he was the monastery's abbot.
"Nothing equals or excels God's mercies. Therefore, he who despairs is committing suicide. A sign of true repentance is the acknowledgment that we deserve all the afflictions, visible and invisible, that come upon us, and ever greater ones. Moses, after seeing God in the bush, returned again to Egypt, that is, to darkness and to the brick-making of Pharaoh, who was symbolical of the spiritual Pharaoh. But he went back again to the bush, and not only to the bush, but also up the mountain. Whoever has known divine vision will never despair of himself. Job became a beggar, but he became twice as rich again."
"Repentance is the renewal of baptism. Repentance is a contract with God for a second life. A penitent is a buyer of humility. Repentance is constant distrust of bodily comfort. Repentance is self-condemning reflection, and carefree self-care. Repentance is the daughter of hope and the renunciation of despair. A penitent is an undisgraced convict. Repentance is reconciliation with the Lord by the practice of good deeds contrary to the sins. Repentance is purification of conscience. Repentance is the voluntary endurance of all afflictions. A penitent is the inflicter of his own punishments. Repentance is a mighty persecution of the stomach, and a striking of the soul into vigorous awareness."
"Let us charge into the good fight with joy and love without being afraid of our enemies. Though unseen themselves, they can look at the face of our soul, and if they see it altered by fear, they take up arms against us all the more fiercely. For the cunning creatures have observed that we are scared. So let us take up arms against them courageously. No one will fight with a resolute fighter."
"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 honour your patience."
"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."
"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."
"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..."
Obedience is absolute renunciation of our own life, clearly expressed in our bodily actions. Or, conversely, obedience is the mortification of the limbs while the mind remains alive. Obedience is unquestioning movement, voluntary death, a life free of curiosity, carefree danger, unprepared defence before God, fearlessness of death, a safe voyage, a sleeper's progress. Obedience is the tomb of the will and the resurrection of humility. A corpse does not argue or reason as to what is good or what seems to be bad. For he who has devoutly put the soul of the novice to death will answer for everything. Obedience is an abandonment of discernment in a wealth of discernment.
When motives of humility and real longing for salvation incite us to bend our neck and entrust ourselves to another in the Lord, before entering upon this life, if there is any cleverness and prudence in us, we ought first to question and examine, and even, so to speak, test our helmsman, so as not to mistake the sailor for the pilot, a sick man for a doctor, a passionate for a dispassionate man, the sea for a harbour, and so bring about the speedy shipwreck of our soul. But when once we have entered the arena of piety and obedience, we must no longer judge our good manager in any way at all, even though we may perhaps see in him some slight failings, since he is only human. Otherwise, by sitting in judgment we shall get no profit from our subjection.
It is the property of angels,' he continued, 'not to fall, and even, as some say, it is quite impossible for them to fall. It is the property of men to fall, and to rise again as often as this may happen. But it is the property to devils, and devils alone, not to rise once they have fallen.
He whose will and desire in conversation is to establish his own opinion, even though what he says is true, should recognize that he is sick with the devil's disease. And if he behaves like this only in conversation with his equals, then perhaps the rebuke of his superiors may heal him. But if he acts in this way even with those who are greater and wiser than he, then his malady is humanly incurable.
He who is not submissive in speech, clearly will not be so in act either. For he who is unfaithful in little is also unfaithful in much, and is intractable. He labours in vain, and he will get nothing from holy obedience but his own doom.