CMP Review 2023-05-18

CMP Review 2023-05-18

May 18, 2023

Today is Ascension Day, when the church in the West remembers the day that Jesus “was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of … sight” (Acts 1:9). It is a day to celebrate the glory of our Lord, but is also for some a bittersweet reminder. Christ ascended to the realm where there is no sin, but we remain in a place where we are reminded of sin every day.

In 1850, the great American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote his “The Ladder of St. Augustine” which opened with these words:

Saint Augustine! well hast thou said,
That of our vices we can frame
A ladder, if we will but tread
Beneath our feet each deed of shame!

In an original footnote, the poet himself wrote, “The words of St. Augustine are, ‘De vitiis nostris scalam nobis facimus, si vitia ipsa calcamus.’ Sermon III. De Ascensione.” A translation of the Latin would be, “We make a ladder for ourselves of our vices, if we trample those same vices underfoot.”

It’s an offer of hope from Augustine on Ascension Day: we can follow after our Lord: we can turn our vices into steps in a ladder, if we trample them underfoot!

But don’t expect to find this sermon in any modern edition. In 1865, J. P. Migne decisively classified it among the inauthentic or “suppositious” sermons: “based on assumption rather than fact.” It is how many of us have approached the Parents’ Union School motto. Listen here to penetrate the assumptions and find the facts behind “I am, I can, I ought, I will.”