Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Ladder to God

And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it.  Genesis 28:11

St. Francis of Sales (1567-1622) is author of Introduction to the Devout Life, which I started reading this year.  Reading old Christian classics is oftentimes so insightful.  In all of our modernity we can slip into a "know-it-all" arrogance that what we hear and know today is all we need.  Yet, many intelligent and grounded people have gone before and they were gracious enough to pass on to us some of the insights and wisdom they had.  Frequently, this wisdom is nothing we hear of today.  Such is the case with Introduction to the Devout Life.

To set the scene: Jacob is on the lamb, after snookering Esau of his birthright, and he has escaped to the wilderness.  Jacob falls asleep with a rock for a pillow.  He dreams of the ladder going to heaven with angels going up and down.  He hears God give him the land and a promise to extend the promise made to Abraham and Isaac to bless him and be his God.  Jacob wakes in the morning and builds a monument to mark the sacred place.

St. Francis of Sales speaks of this story, finding affirmation in it for how near the heavenly realm is to the earthly realm; a simple ladder being all that separates us, and the nearness of angels, heaven, and God.  He then uses the ladder as a devotion tool.  The two upright sides of the ladder representing The Word and the Sacraments, while the rungs are the spiritual disciplines we can use to go up and down the ladder ourselves and meet God.  This is a useful meditation; I thought of it while receiving communion this past Sunday.  Here i had heard scripture read and then partook of the bread and wine, all I then needed to supply was the prayer time, fasting, meditation time to continue ascending and descending the ladder with God simply a breath away.  Try it!  I found it quite amazing.

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