John’s classic of ascetic monasticism advocates a withdrawal from the world, a willing rejection of all that is materially prized, in order to live the Christian life and achieve the fullness of God’s love. That life is essentially the monastic life, which takes one of three forms: There is the road of withdrawal and solitude, the life of stillness shared with one or two brothers, and the practice of living patiently in community. Fear is the starting point of love, and purity is the foundation of theology. The beginning of prayer is to rid oneself of distractions, the middle stage is concentration on what is being thought, and its conclusion is rapture in the Lord. He who loves the Lord has first loved his brother.
John’s conclusion, “A Brief Summary and Exhortation,” in many ways sums up the Christian message and purpose of The Ladder of Divine Ascent:Ascend, my brothers, ascend eagerly. Let your hearts resolve to the climb. . . . Run, I beg you, run with him. . . . Baptized in the thirtieth year of his earthly age, Christ attained the thirtieth step on the spiritual ladder, for God indeed is love, and to him be praise, dominion, power. In him is the cause, past, present, and future, of all that is good forever and ever. Amen.