Life is just a speck in time, it passes us by so quickly. There is a beginning and there is an end, but it is what we do with the time in-between that really matters. It is this time that the Lord has given us to learn what is most important: love. And it is through the giving of love that we come to know and experience the true peace of Jesus Christ. There is a book written by St. John Climacus called The Ladder of Divine Ascent. St. John Climacus was an Eastern Orthodox Byzantine monk and is recognized as a saint by the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Roman Catholic Church, and the Eastern Catholic Churches. There is an icon based on the book and when I first saw this image I knew I had to have it. Several years back, I went through a very difficult period in my life and this image reminds me of how hard I had to work to get through it.
The image is of several monks ascending a ladder toward heaven. Jesus is waiting for them in the top right corner of the icon with his arms open. As they climb the ladder, there are demons with arrows or ropes pulling certain monks off the ladder and into hell. There are also angels interceding for them and people watching them climb. My personal perception is that the people represent their families, or those who walk with us during this life. I did not know the history behind the icon when I saw it, but it resonated with me immediately because of the difficulties I have experienced.
Movement, Light, and Air
When I look at the icon, I see myself climbing the ladder and I know that each step is a victory. The presence of the demons is a reminder that I am in a battle every single day of my life, and if I don’t stay alert and keep my eyes on Jesus the victory could be lost. I also picture the people I love climbing the ladder. Because of our familial relationships, I am privy to their weaknesses and they are privy to mine. I see when their victory is in jeopardy, when they have become stagnant like a pond that has been choked of all life. What lies beneath the surface is a thick gloominess that can only be eliminated by movement, light, and air. The movement is the will, Jesus is the light, and the Spirit is the air. When the will is faint, darkness persists, and until something moves them, they will continue on in their misery. Without the light, without Jesus, there can be no joy, no peace. The pleasure experienced from worldly things is fleeting; it is an imposter of the true peace that is Jesus Christ. The Spirit is the air, the wind that moves the will. But what if the will doesn’t want to move? Then I place my faith and trust in the Lord and the promises He has made to me. I know that if I ask Him anything in prayer, He will answer me. It may not be today, and it may not be tomorrow, but I know that He will answer one day. If I don’t believe that, then my faith is small and my prayer is without power.
Inviting the Holy Spirit
Understanding this does not stop me from falling into sorrow over the spiritual state of the people I hold dear. Whether it be a spouse, child, parent, sibling, a distant relative, or a good friend, when you love someone, there is a bond and you want only the best for them. I remember when I realized that God was more important than me, and if I was going to be true to Him, I had to change the way I lived my life. Although I didn’t know it at the time, it was at that moment that I invited the Holy Spirit to move my heart. And that was the beginning of a brand-new journey between me and God. From that moment on I thought and acted differently. And the more I experienced the love of Christ in me, the easier it was to continue that change. Because I have tasted the goodness of the Lord, I want them to taste it too. I want them to experience the true peace of Jesus Christ.
No matter where we are in life, Jesus looks at us with love and compassion because He is mercy itself. It is impossible for Him to see us in any other way. He never deserts us no matter what our state may be. He wants us to be with Him for all of eternity, and He will wait for us to want Him. I believe God uses people who know Him, to bring to Him those who do not. This is one way we participate in the Mystical Body of Christ. Prayer is a way to take the love we have for those we care about, and bring them to God. The Holy Spirit can then begin to move the person toward Jesus so that His light can enter in and begin to change them. My hope is that through my pleadings, Jesus will give the people He has placed in my life the courage to see the error of their ways, and the desire to want to receive His love and forgiveness. This is the only way Jesus can disperse the darkness and fill them with His light. This is how we achieve true peace.