Here is an extract from today’s Old Testament Mass reading, from Genesis: ‘Jacob left Beer-sheba, and went toward Haran. And he came to a certain place, and stayed there that night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place to sleep. And he dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven; and behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it! And behold, the Lord stood above it and said, “I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your descendants; and your descendants shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and by you and your descendants shall all the families of the earth bless themselves’.
The mind turns immediately to the Rule of St Benedict, where a ladder is also mentioned: ‘Wherefore, brethren, if we wish to attain to the summit of humility and desire to arrive speedily at that heavenly exaltation to which we ascend by the humility of the present life, then must we set up a ladder of our ascending actions like unto that which Jacob saw in his vision, whereon angels appeared to him, descending and ascending. By that descent and ascent we must surely understand nothing else than this, that we descend by self-exaltation and ascend by humility. And the ladder erected is our life in this world, which for the humble of heart is raised up by the Lord unto heaven. Now the sides of this ladder we call our body and soul, into which sides our divine vocation has fitted various degrees of humility and discipline which we have to climb’.
In Jacob’s dream, the Lord is standing at the top of the ladder – so we are climbing towards Him, not just aimlessly upwards … He is our true destination, and the reason for all our efforts and labours in the Christian life. May He bless all our efforts, and pour out His grace upon us, and bring us at last to Himself. May God bless you this day.