3. june 2019
We do not know much about Saint John Lestvichnyk. We know neither the place nor the date of his birth. According to the monk Daniel, St John Lestvichnyk entered the monastery of St Catherine on Sinai when he was seventeen, and was cut-off as a twenty-year-old. He lived with his confreres for nineteen years and lived in prayer in solitude for another twenty-one years. He was elected as an igumen of the monastery as a seventy-year-old. St John died around 649.
DESCRIPTION OF THE ICON
The icon shows the vision of St John Lestvichnyk. In the center of the icon is a (lestvica) ladder extending from the earth to the sky, by which the monks ascend. A spiritual fight takes place on the ladder. The various steps of the ladder have their names and symbolize the steps of ascent acccording to the book Ladder to Paradise, written by saint monk. The book covers not only consecrated persons, but all Christians. The number of degrees is 30, according to the number of book chapters. Stepping up the ladder improves in virtues, so the believers become like Christ. Demons and various temptations attack the monks from the left. Angels defend them. Those who ascend up in the spiritual life receive the crown of victory from the angel of the Lord and become saints. These at the end of the ladder are greeted by the Lord Jesus Christ along with His Mother and St John the Forerunner.
At the bottom, the monks come out from the monastery of St Catherine, St John brings them to the ladder and shows them the way of ascend. On the opposite side, under the ground, there is a personified hell to which fiery flames blast from the esophagus. Above hell the fire consumes the city of Sodom. "Unless the Lord Almighty had left us some survivors, we would have become like Sodom, we would have been like Gomorrah" (Issaiah 1:9). They have trumpets in their hands. " Then the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared to sound them" (Revelation 8:6). At the top of the icon we see the entrance to paradise. On its sides there are seven windows with saints from different backgrounds of the earth's inhabitants. "In my Father's house are many mansions" (John 14:2). On the left frame of the icon is the prophet Isaiah.
Jesus' teaching is astounding in its simplicity. Instead of putting loads on us, he tells us to accept only one thing - our cross. Instead of many demanding sacrifices, he only asks us one thing - our life. " For whoever wants to save their life[a] will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it” (Mark 8:35).
Regarding the first three steps - simplicity, humility and distinction - St John writes, "As a signpost and rule, we must follow God in all things, and then our conscience" (26/1, 5; 1013). In this way, the peace of the soul, which prepares us for conversation with God, is reached for prayer. The purpose of the prayer is, according to St John, to keep the world together and achieve reconciliation with God. The top of the ladder consists of three virtues - faith, hope and love. The top of the ladder is Christian perfection.
Novotný, J., Mníšství na Blízkém východě, Refugium Velehrad-Roma, Olomouc, 2012.
Ióannés Klimakos, Žebřík do ráje, Pavel Mervart, Červený Kostelec, 2015.
Danko, J., Rebrík do neba, in Slovo 6 (2015), 10-11.