The Blue Ladder
A story by Nikolai Leskov
the holy Apostle Peter’s earthly life had terminated, and he was
called up to Heaven, the Lord gave him the heavenly keys to the gates of
earnest priestly devotion, the holy apostle went about his exalted
business, unlocking the gates of Paradise to the souls of those who had
earned heavenly blessedness in their earthly life, by the decision of
the Most High and Righteous Judge. And so he
continued for many years, in a steady and habitual manner. But
one day, the apostle Peter came before the Lord God in a very troubled
state, kissed the sleeve of His luminous robe, and said: "O Lord,
may Thy wrath not come upon me! I must bring my troubles before you. Lo,
for many days now I have been seeing people whom I have not allowed in
through the gates of paradise, in this Thy most illustrious garden. I
cannot explain how they come to be here. Their faces do not in any way
resemble the faces of the righteous. I fear that this may be a trick of
the evil one. He and his servants are capable of every kind of
craftiness. Knowing that the keys are always in my possession and that
there is no other entrance, I am much perplexed, even saddened."
Lord responded: "It is your duty and responsibility. Watch closely
those who enter paradise, and there shall be no unwanted guests."
few more days passed, and the apostle appeared again before the Lord
Sabbaoth: "O great and merciful God, every day more and more
strangers steal up to paradise, I know not how over the heavenly fence.
I address Thy wisdom and power. I myself have no power, and my wisdom is
insignificant. Thou alone art All-knowing.
God said: "Come with Me, Saint Peter. Let us visit together all the
regions of paradise and let us see for ourselves what is the cause of
these occurrences, that have provoked such justified and praiseworthy
unrest in thee. Let us go!"
off they went. The Lord in front, the apostle following. They walked for
a long time, and even got tired. At last they reached an orchard of
oranges and through the branches glimpsed a blue robe. Quietly they
approached, and what did they see? At the foot of the hill, on a green,
daisy-strewn clearing, stood the Most Holy Virgin looking down from the
edge of the deep abyss, from where the earth and all the people on it
could be seen. And in the hands of the Most-Pure One, barely visible,
the most delicate ladder - woven from the finest blue silk.
Passionate cries arose from the abyss. Fiery supplications from
sufferers could be heard. And lo, suddenly the All-Pure One let down the
feathery ladder. It unrolled, and one by one the wretched, tortured,
tired, forgotten people, men and women, climbed it, poured into the
clearing, and timidly disappeared into the flowered paths and forests of
the gardens of paradise.
as each saved one passed, the Most Holy Theotokos raised up her divinely
beautiful hands and said with tenderness: "My Lord and God, Thou
seest, hearest and knowest all. By Thy unfathomable mercy, forgive me
for disturbing the order Thou hast established in Thy holy paradise. But
I too have lived on the earth, and I as well, am a mother. Can I refuse
a mother who prays for her son? Am I not the Mother of the entire weak
and suffering mankind? Forgive my sin."
the Lord lay His mighty hand on the Apostle Peter's shoulder and said:
"Let us depart quietly from here. We have no business here…"