"To all hastening to write their names in the book of life in the heavens, the present book is a surpassing path. Traveling by this path, we shall see that it infallibly guides those who follow its instructions, preserves them invulnerable to every obstacle and presents to us a firmly-based ladder leading us up from the earthly to the holy of holies, at the summit of which is the God of love."
In essence, the Ladder is composed of 30 steps or rungs, each representing different vices and virtues encountered in the course of one's ascent to spiritual perfection. Beginning with the "renunciation of the World" (i.e. , renunciation of passions and earthly attachments), it guides one along the steps of "Obedience," "Repentance, .... Remembrance of Wrongs," "Gluttony," "Vain glory," --to the higher stages which are the acquisition of "Meekness," "Discernment, .... Holy Stillness ," until one attains to perfect love and union with God. Each step contains various short instructions often illustrated by exampls from the lives of saints and desert fathers.
The Ladder is particularly suited to Great Lent. Even today it is traditionally read in monasteries during the lenten services. It is not, of course, within our feeble spiritual abilities to ascend the full scale of this divine ladder, but we should at least persuade ourselves to make a firm beginning, taking courage in the words of St. John:
"God gives His rewards not for abundance of gifts and labors, but for ardor of purpose."