St. John Climacus was born in Palestine around the year 525. He excelled in his studies and was known for his intelligence. When he was 16, John retired to a hermitage near the base of Mount Sinai, where he spent the next four years in prayer, fasting, and meditation while preparing to take solemn vows to religious life. 

After taking those vows, John spent more time studying Scriptures and the early Fathers of the Church. Although he became an expert on these subjects, he hid his talents humbly. Near the end of his life, he wrote “Climax,” also known as “The Ladder of Paradise,” a collection of sayings and examples to illustrate how to live the monastic life. This is how he gained his nickname Climacus, a derivative from the Latin word for “climax” or “ladder.”

As he grew older and wiser, John was often sought out for advice in spiritual matters. He offered this advice freely, and came to be known for his wisdom and holiness. Around the year 600, the abbot of all the religious in the region of Mount Sinai died, and John was chosen to replace him. He ruled until his death in 605.