The Ladder of Divine Ascent was the most widely used handbook of the ascetic life in the ancient Greek Church. Popular among both laity and monastics, it was translated into Latin, Syriac, Arabic, Armenian, Old Slavonic, and other languages. Written while the author was abbot of the monastery of Catherine on Mount Sinai, it portrays the ascetical life as a ladder which each aspirant must ascend, each step being a virtue to be acquired, or a vice to be surrendered. Its thirty steps reflect the hidden life of Christ himself. Pierre Pourrat in his History of Christian Spirituality calls John Climacus the “most important ascetical theologian of the East.”
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Saint John Climacus (Ἰωάννης τῆς Κλίμακος c. 7th Century CE), also known as John of the Ladder, John Scholasticus and John Sinaites, was a 7th century Christian monk at the monastery on Mount Sinai. He is revered as a saint by the Roman Catholic, Oriental Orthodox, Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic churches. We have almost no information about John’s life. There is in existence an ancient Vita, Life of the Saint by a monk named Daniel of Raithu monastery.