I’m truly grateful for the friends that steady my vision and encourage me to see beyond the pale. Unlike opinions to politics, the spiritual life offers a simple choice as if stepping onto a ladder. The love of God or our repulsion to His irrational invitation awaits our response regardless of our state in life. Gratitude abounds in the knowledge of a patient God whether this deeply personal choice is made hastily or through long contemplation. Despite our incredible human capacity to make this gift of divine love complicated, exclusive, and unreachable, a remnant of hopeful hearts within the friends we can’t live without remain to offer enough light for the next step up that ladder. Today I was blessed to be given the chance to contemplate the inspiration in the following illustration of a 12th century icon called the “Ladder of Divine Ascent” :
Note: In this icon we have Christ in the upper right hand corner receiving pilgrims into heaven. On the bottom, left of center, we have the mouth of hell open to those who abandon the ladder and chose the easy open-air path to destruction. One of the many reasons that this icon is so effective is that it makes very clear that there are only two trajectories. Each pilgrim is either moving up, or headed down.
If this depiction showing life offering two fearful trajectories, in which neither look “fun”, then that’s a shallow interpretation of this illustration and certainly the vision Our Creator has for each and every one of us. I believe the deeper inspiration is our numbness or respect towards fear and more importantly, either our indifference or reverence in returning the effort of love freely offered to us in sublime forgiveness. What do you see?
The Divine Ascent
Rung by Rung, hand over hand,
Focused eyes stare heaven bound,
The ladder of one’s divine ascent,
Seeks to only to cast its crown,
While teetering above Hell’s hounds.
Unreasonable and humble,
Uncomfortable and quiet,
Unsatisfied with progress,
For Love is an action that cannot sit –
For an inconsumable fire has been lit…
The heart must remain restless,
To pull upon that final rung,
This work is hard and unpopular,
Yet at peace from a victory won,
From whence their sins quietly hung…
Pray pierced hands pull us past that final rung,
Knowing just the good and faithful hear “well done.”
By Chris Clody 2/6/2014