The man who really loves the Lord, who has made a real effort to find the coming Kingdom, who has really begun to be troubled by his sins, who is really mindful of eternal torment and judgment, who really lives in fear of his own departure, will not love, care or worry about money, or possessions, or parents, or worldly glory, or friends, or brothers, or anything at all on earth. But having shaken off all ties with earthly things and having stripped himself of all his cares, and having come to hate even his own flesh, and having stripped himself of everything, he will follow Christ without anxiety or hesitation, always looking heavenward and expecting help from there, according to the word of the holy man: My soul sticks close behind Thee, and according to the ever-memorable author who said: I have not wearied of following Thee, nor have I desired the day (or rest) of man, O Lord.
After our call, which comes from God and not man, we have left all that is mentioned above, and it is a great disgrace for us to worry about anything that cannot help us in the hour of our need — that is to say, the hour of our death. For as the Lord said, this means looking back and not being fit for the Kingdom of Heaven. Knowing how fickle we novices are and how easily we turn to the world through visiting, or being with, worldly people, when someone said to Him: “Suffer me first to go and bury my father,” our Lord replied, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead.”
The man who has come to hate the world has escaped sorrow. But he who has an attachment to anything visible is not yet delivered from grief. For how is it possible not to be sad at the loss of something we love? We need to have great vigilance in all things. But we must give our whole attention to this above everything else.
Let us pay close attention to ourselves so that we are not deceived into thinking that we are following the strait and narrow way when in actual fact we are keeping to the wide and broad way. The following will show you what the narrow way means: mortification of the stomach, all-night standing, water in moderation, short rations of bread, the purifying draught of dishonor, sneers, derision, insults, the cutting out of one’s own will, patience in annoyances, unmurmuring endurance of scorn, disregard of insults, and the habit, when wronged, of bearing it sturdily; when slandered, of not being indignant; when humiliated, not to be angry; when condemned, to be humble. Blessed are they who follow the way we have just described, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.
After our renunciation, when the demons inflame our hearts by reminding us of our parents and brethren, then let us arm ourselves against them with prayer, and let us inflame ourselves with the remembrance of the eternal fire, so that by reminding ourselves of this, we may quench the untimely fire of our heart.
If anyone thinks he is without attachment to some object, but is grieved at its loss, then he is completely deceiving himself.
If young people who are prone to the desires of physical love and to luxurious ways wish to enter the monastic life, let them exercise themselves in all fasting and prayer, and persuade themselves to abstain from all luxury and vice, lest their last state be worse than the first. This harbor provides safety, but also exposes one to danger. Those who sail the spiritual seas know this. But it is a pitiful sight to behold those who have survived perils at sea suffering shipwreck in harbor.
This is the second step. Let those who run the race imitate not Lot’s wife but Lot himself, and flee.
– St. John Climacus, The Ladder of Divine Ascent
Tomorrow Step 3: Exile or pilgrimage.