St. John Climacus is named after the famous book that he wrote in the 7th century that deeply describes thirty steps of ascent from earth to Heaven for both the monastics and the Faithful where Christ awaits to receive us with joy. St. John is seen in this Russian icon teaching the monks about this Ladder of Divine Ascent. There are monks attempting to move up this ladder by his instructions, yearning to be with Christ Who is above, and we see Angels helping those who are struggling to live a divine life on earth.
Some monks are still climbing, and some monks are falling down into the mouth of Hades below. The monks ascending represent all monks and laity who make efforts to climb above a selfish and merely worldly life on earth. The souls of the Righteous are rejoicing above in a Heavenly banquet where they wait for us to join them. We must humbly struggle in self-denial to live by the two Great Commandments: to ardently love God with all of our heart, mind, and soul, and then love our neighbor as ourselves. The book that St. John wrote is one of the greatest classics of spiritual life and is still read each year in Orthodox monasteries.