Pope Benedict gave a Catechesis on February 11, 2009 at a General Audience in the Paul VI Audience Hall, translated and published in L’Osservatore Romano (subscription required), where he discussed the great spiritual treatise of St. John Climacus, Ladder of Divine Ascent.
“John comments: “A good foundation of three layers and three pillars is: innocence, fasting and temperance. Let all babes in Christ (cf. 1 Cor 3:1) begin with these virtues, taking as their model the natural babes.” (1, 20; 636)
“Voluntary detachment from beloved people and places permits the soul to enter into deeper communion with God. This renunciation leads to obedience which is the way to humility through humiliation—which will never be absent—on the part of the brethren.
“John Comments: “Blessed is he who has mortified his will to the very end and has entrusted the care of himself to his teacher in the Lord: indeed he will be placed on the right hand of the Crucified One!” (4, 37; 704)
“The second stage of the journey consists in spiritual combat against the passions. Every step of the ladder is linked to a principal passion that is defined and diagnosed, with an indication of the treatment and a proposal of the corresponding virtue.
“All together, these steps of the ladder undoubtedly constitute the most important treatise of spiritual strategy that we possess. The struggle against the passions, however, is steeped in the positive—it does not remain as something negative—thanks to the image of the “fire” of the Holy Spirit: that “all those who enter upon the good fight (cf. 1 Tm 6:12), which is hard and narrow,…may realize that they must leap into the fire, if they really expect the celestial fire to dwell in them.” (I, 18; 636)”