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Reflection by Very Rev. Michael Ellias
St. Mary’s Antiochian Orthodox Church, Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, New York

He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered and said to Him, “You are the Christ.” —Mark 9:29

This Sunday, the fourth in our pilgrimage toward Christ’s Resurrection, the Church in its wisdom holds up as an example of asceticism a great saint whose life and writings can inspire those who honor him. St. John Climacus, or St. John of the Ladder, was the abbot of St. Catherine’s Monastery on Mt. Sinai in the sixth century.

St. John stands as a witness to the spiritual effort that is necessary both for our Lenten journey and for our entrance into the Kingdom of God. The spiritual struggle of the Christian life is “not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers of the present darkness” (Ephesians 6:12). We must, therefore, take steps to become detached from things of this world and to cling more closely to God alone. Fasting, prayer, and almsgiving are our spiritual resources. During Great Lent the Church reminds us to draw our attention away from daily distractions, desires, and passions and to place it once again on our ultimate goal, union with our merciful and holy God.

St. John encourages the faithful in their efforts and reminds us that “he who endures to the end will be saved” (Matthew 24:13). How can we achieve this? We can draw spiritual strength through the sacraments and by humbly practicing the disciplines handed down to us in the Church. If we are to be one with Christ, we must also serve as He served, seeing those in need around us and around the world.

Most Holy God, give us compassion to see and to serve wherever needed, and cleanse our hearts that we may seek only You.