A Trinitarian Ascent: How Augustine’s Sermons on the Psalms of Ascent Transform the Ascent Tradition

Mark J. Boone*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review


Augustine’s sermons on the Psalms of Ascent, part of the Enarrationes in Psalmos, are a unique entry in the venerable tradition of those writings that aim to help us ascend to a higher reality. These sermons transform the ascent genre by giving, in the place of the Platonic account of ascent, a Christian ascent narrative with a Trinitarian structure. Not just the individual ascends, but the community that is the church, the body of Christ, also ascends. The ascent is up to God, the Idipsum or the Selfsame, the ultimate reality, confessed by the church as God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Through the grace of the Incarnation, God the Son enables us to ascend, making himself the way of ascent from the humility we must imitate at the beginning of the ascent all the way up to Heaven, where he retains his identity as Idipsum. Meanwhile, the Holy Spirit works in the ascending church to convert our hearts to the love of God and neighbor. I review the Platonic ascent tradition in Plato’s Republic and Plotinus’ Enneads; overview ascent in some of Augustine’s earlier writings; introduce the narrative setting of the sermons on the Psalms of Ascent; and analyze the Trinitarian structure of their ascent narrative. I close with some reflections on the difference between a preached Trinitarianism that encourages ascent and a more academic effort to understand God such as we find in Augustine’s de Trinitate.

Original languageEnglish
Article number586
Number of pages18
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 10 May 2024

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Religious studies

User-Defined Keywords

  • ascent
  • Augustine
  • Enarrationes in Psalmos
  • Expositions on the Psalms
  • Platonism
  • Psalms of Ascent
  • Trinitarianism


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