Step 3: Exile or pilgrimage

“As soon as the flame is burning within you, run; for you do not know when it will go out and leave you in darkness.”

Step 3

On exile or pilgrimage

Exile means that we leave forever everything in our own country that prevents us from reaching the goal of the religious life. Exile means modest manners, wisdom which remains unknown, prudence not recognized as such by most, a hidden life, an invisible intention, unseen meditation, desire for humiliation, longing for hardship, constant determination to love God, abundance of charity, renunciation of vainglory, depth of silence.

Those who have come to love the Lord are at first unceasingly and greatly disturbed by this thought, as if burning with divine fire.

For exile is separation from everything in order to keep the mind inseparable from God. Exile loves and produces continual weeping. An exile is a fugitive from every attachment to his own people and to strangers.

In hastening to solitude and exile, do not wait for world-loving souls, because the thief comes unexpectedly. In trying to save the careless and indolent along with themselves, many perish with them, because in course of time the fire goes out. As soon as the flame is burning within you, run; for you do not know when it will go out and leave you in darkness. Not all of us are required to save others. The divine Apostle says: “Each one of us shall give an account of himself to God.” And again he says: “Thou therefore who teachest another, teachest thou, not thyself?” This is like saying: I do not know whether we must all teach others, but teach yourselves at all costs.

Detachment is excellent, but her mother is exile. Having become an exile for the Lord’s sake, we should have no ties of affection at all lest we seem to be roving* in order to gratify our passions.

Have you become an exile from the world? Do not touch the world anymore; because the passions desire nothing better than to return.

Run from places of sin as from the plague. For when fruit is not present, we have no frequent desire to eat it.

Attachment either to some particular relative or to strangers is dangerous. Little by little, it can entice us back to the world, and completely quench the fire of our contrition.** It is impossible to look at the sky with one eye and at the earth with the other, and it is equally impossible for anyone not to expose his soul to danger who has not separated himself completely, both in thought and body, from his own relatives and from others.

This is the third step, which is equal in number to the Trinity. He who has reached it, let him not look to the right hand nor to the left.

– St. John Climacus, The Ladder of Divine Ascent

*Roving: verb

1 travel constantly without a fixed destination; wander.

**Contrition: noun

the state of feeling remorseful or penitent.

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Jessica is an employment specialist for marginalized youth in Toronto, Canada. She enjoys teaching, traveling and observing - especially the relationship between mind and heart. Jessica also has a passion for outdoor walks, dancing, and all things offbeat and authentic. You can contact her at

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Genevieve Recent comment authors
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The first 3 days of Lent are always the hardest. Thanks for posting these articles they are really helping me!