Saint John (c. 524 – 605) was probably born in Palestine and is surnamed Climacus because of the well-known book he wrote entitled Climax. He is also nicknamed Scholastic due to the great learning acquired through a lifetime of study.
At the age of sixteen, he renounced the world and went to live on the slopes of Mount Sinai, close to a monastery located at the summit of the mountain. He chose not to live in the monastery because its monks were lax in the practice of their faith. Instead, Saint John placed himself under the direction of Martyrius, a holy ancient anchorite. After four years of study, fasting and prayer, he made his religious vows.
When Martyrius died, in 560, Saint John moved to a plain at the foot of Mount Sinai. At first, he lived alone but after much insistence on the part of a young man called Moyses, Saint John accepted him as a disciple. Their hermitage was five miles from the local church, which was built by order of Emperor Justinian and dedicated to Our Lady. Every Saturday and Sunday they would walk to this church to attend Mass and spend the weekend in prayer with other hermits and monks.
It was during this period that Saint John Climacus, under obedience to a local Abbot, wrote Climax, also known as The Ladder to Spiritual Perfection, a book with instructions on how a soul might attain holiness.
At the age of seventy-five, he was unanimously chosen to be Abbot of the Monastery at Mount Sinai, and superior-general of all the monks and hermits of the area. By this time, his fame for wisdom and holiness had spread worldwide so that Pope Saint Gregory the Great himself sent him a donation and a request for prayers.
Saint John Climacus died in the year 605, after having served as abbot for four years. His spiritual son, George, who had been elected abbot to succeed him, begged God not to be separated from him and was granted his request, dying in peace a few days later.