Below is an excerpt from St. Gregory of Sinai’s On Commandments and Doctrines, Warnings and Promises; On Thoughts,
Passions and Virtues, and Also on Stillness and Prayer: One Hundred and Thirty-Seven Texts:
120. The short ladder of spiritual progress – which is at the same time both small and great – has five rungs leading to perfection. The first is renunciation, the second submission to a religious way of life, the third obedience to spiritual direction, the fourth humility, and the fifth God-imbued love. Renunciation raises the prisoner from hell and sets him free from enslavement to material things.
Submission is the discovery of Christ and the decision to serve Him. As Christ Himself said, ‘He who serves Me, follows Me; and where I am he who serves Me will also be’ (cf. John 12:26). And where is Christ? In heaven, enthroned at the right hand of the Father. Thus he who serves Christ must be in heaven as well, his foot placed ready to climb up; indeed, before he even begins to ascend by his own efforts he is already raised up and ascending with Christ.
Obedience, put into action through the practice of the commandments, builds a ladder out of various virtues and places them in the soul as rungs by which to ascend (Ps. 84:5). Thence the spiritual aspirant is embraced by humility, the great exalter, and is borne heavenwards and delivered over to love, the queen of the virtues. By love he is led to Christ and brought into His presence. Thus by this short ladder he who is truly obedient swiftly ascends to heaven.
121. The quickest way to ascend to the kingdom of heaven by the short ladder of the virtues is through effacing the five passions hostile to obedience, namely, disobedience, contentiousness, self-gratification, self-justification and pernicious self-conceit. For these are the limbs and organs of the recalcitrant demon that devours those who offer false obedience and consigns them to the dragon of the abyss. Disobedience is the mouth of hell; contentiousness its tongue, whetted like a sword; self-gratification its sharp teeth; self-justification its gullet; and self-conceit, that sends one to hell, is the vent that evacuates its all-devouring belly.
If through obedience you overcome the first of these – disobedience – you cut off all the rest at a stroke, and with a single swift stride attain heaven. This is the truly ineffable and inconceivable miracle wrought by our compassionate Lord: that through a single virtue or, rather, a single commandment, we can ascend straightway to heaven, just as through a single act of disobedience we have descended and continue to descend into hell.
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