Lent with St Edith Stein Day 27: The Secret Ladder

Lent with St Edith Stein Day 27: The Secret Ladder

“As one ascends a ladder to pillage the fortresses containing goods and treasures, so too, by this secret contemplation, the soul ascends in order to plunder, know, and possess the goods and treasures of Heaven.”

- St John of the Cross, The Night


St John of the Cross refers to dark contemplation as a ladder that allows us to ascend to divine knowledge. Just as ladders go up and down, the soul may rise and fall along the climb. This is to be expected. The soul must learn both love of God and contempt of self. For it to grow stronger, it must endure both peace and turmoil.

The 10 rungs of the Secret Ladder are as follows:

  • The First Rung: The soul feels sickness. This is the beginning of the soul’s journey into death of self.
  • The Second Rung: The soul begins to seek God ceaselessly in all things.
  • The Third Rung: A fervor is awakened in the soul as it begins to recognize how insignificant it is. The crosses the soul bears seem small and unremarkable in light of God’s greatness and the soul’s lowliness.
  • The Fourth Rung: The soul begins to see how light its crosses become when they are carried with love. Energy increases as the flesh begins to come under control. The soul no longer seeks satisfaction from God but wants to offer itself to God, to give Him delight. The soul’s love of God is elevated above a give-and-take.
  • The Fifth Rung: The soul yearns for union with God and begins to grow impatient for this union to be complete.
  • The Sixth Rung: The soul begins moving more quickly toward God and no longer grows fatigued. The end is in sight.
  • The Seventh Rung: The soul becomes emboldened as it grows nearer to God. It can no longer be restrained and goes to God with confidence. These souls are granted the desire of their hearts.
  • The Eight Rung: The soul achieves union with God. This satisfaction of the soul’s desire may be interrupted as it has not yet achieved full glory.
  • The Ninth Rung: This rung requires perfection. The graces imparted to the soul at this point cannot be described in words.
  • The Tenth Rung: The soul has achieved full union with God and no longer belongs in this life. Souls who reach this height are spared purgatory. They are the pure of heart who shall see the Kingdom of Heaven.


“Nothing is any longer hidden from the soul because of her likeness to God. But until that day, however high the soul may ascend, there will still be much hidden in proportion to her lack of total assimilation to God. Thus, by means of this mystical theology and secret love, the soul departs from herself and all things and ascends to God. For love is like a fire that always rises upward in the longing to be immersed in the center of its sphere.”

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