The ‘Stepstool” of Divine Ascent

“…Seek stillness…”

Father John Konkle is a wonderful priest.  

Humble, gentle, kind, and more than aware of his own sinfulness, and the goodness and mercy of God of which he (without doubt) feels ‘unworthy‘ of.

He is a deeply spiritual man who has journeyed, like many of us through myriads of ‘denominations’ before finding our home in The Holy Orthodox Church.   He is a priest I am getting to know.  A  priest who knows God, more than he knows things about God.   Equally as  important, he is funny; he is gifted with a warm, folksy, down-home demeanor that puts anyone who meets him immediately at ease.  Fr. John is no dummy either.  An Engineering and Math major, along with a PhD. in Philosophy, this former professor at Ivy League Dartmouth  is no slouch when it comes to gray matter and IQ, but in my interactions with him over the past several years at the monastery, it is his child-like humility, and his endearing quality of humor, combined with an authentic honesty that has appealed to me the most.   He serves, along with his wife, as resident priest at the Holy Dormition Monastery in Rives Junction Michigan.

He recently wrote what I consider a ‘masterpiece’  in the Winter 2010 Edition of “The Burning Bush”: A Monastic Journal Volume 23 Number 3.  Over the next few posts I’d like to share some of his thinking with you.

In Orthodox Monasticism  and spirituality there is a monumental work titled “The Ladder of Divine Ascent” written by St. John Climacus (who is also known, not surprisingly, as ‘John of the Ladder’)   For centuries, ‘the Ladder’ has been the ‘source’, the premier guide, and the most profound instruction manual on seeking and living a spirit filled holiness in life, the 30 rungs of the ‘ladder’ have shaped and formed countless numbers of monastics, saints, martyrs and those who want to be.  Wonderful work – but tough to slog through.  Very deep water to tread for new swimmers like me, and so…

Fr. John has given us a gift.

“A kinder and gentler” introduction to the path of theosis.  A scaled down, ‘cliff notes’ primer if you will, a work that gives us a ‘doable’ few steps before we jump, too quickly, ‘up on the ladder’.  He calls it:  ‘The Stepstool of Divine Ascent“…    Love it.    The ‘stepstool’ of ascent… perfect for pilgrims like me!

Enjoy the beauty of his simple child-like (and thus impactful) writing:

The Stepstool is not a ladder – nor a replacement for “The Ladder”.  It is an invitation and a regimen to the soul afraid of heights:  Come, ascend a few steps, and perceive your inner world from gentle elevations; a regimen for the one with feeble knees; come exercise on these steps, and be strengthened to climb yet higher…

Listen, O my soul…

….to be continued…


2 thoughts on “The ‘Stepstool” of Divine Ascent

    • The article that I am referring to by Father John Konkle is found in the print edition of the Monastic Journal published by Holy Dormition Monastery in Rives Junction MI. You can subscribe to the journal in two ways: print version mailed to you, or go online and sign up for the electronic version.

      You can contact the sisters and mothers of Holy Dormition and request this journal at this link:

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