Sunday, October 22, 2006

The Ladder of Graces

The Ladder of Graces
by Theopkanis the Monk from Philokalia

The first step is that of purist prayer.
From this there comes a warmth of heart,
And then a strange, a holy energy
Then tears wrung from the heart, God-given,
Then peace from thoughts of every kind,
From this arises purging of the intellect,
And next the vision of heavenly mysteries.
Unheard-of light is born from this ineffably,
And, thence, beyond all telling, the heart’s illumination.
Last comes- a step that has no limit,
Though compassed in a single line-
Perfection that is endless.

The ladder’s lowest step
Prescribes pure prayer alone.
But prayer has many forms:
My discourse would be long
Were I now to speak of them:
And, friend, know that always
Experience teaches one, not words.

A ladder rising wonderously to heaven’s vault,
Ten steps that strangely vivify the soul
Ten steps that herald the soul’s life,
A saint inspired by God has said:
Do not deceive yourself with idle hopes
That in the world to come you will find life.
If you have not tried to find it in this present world.
Ten steps: a wisdom born of God,
Ten steps: fruit of all the books,
Ten steps that point toward perfection,
Ten steps that lead one up to heaven
Ten steps through which a man knows God.

The ladder may seems short indeed,
But if your heart can inwardly experience it,
You will find a wealth the world cannot contain,
A god-like fountain flowing with unheard-of life.
This tear-graced ladder is the best of masters,
Clearly teaching each to know its stages
If when you behold it
You think you stand securely on it,

Ask yourself which step you stand,
So that we, the indolent, may also profit.
My friend, if you want to learn from all this,
Detach yourself from everything,
From what is senseless, from what seems intelligent
Without detachment, nothing can be learnt.
Experience alone can teach these things, not talk.

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