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The Early Church Fathers on the Church's Visibility.


  • Early Church Fathers
  • From the Scriptures



    St. Cyprian of Carthage, (A.D. 200-258)
    Eusebius of Cæsarea, (A.D. c.263-338)
    St. Hilary of Poitiers, (A.D. 315-367)
    St. Athanasius of Alexandria, (A.D. 296-372)
    St. Optatus of Milevis, (unknown - A.D. 384)
    St. Basil the Great, (A.D. 328-379)
    St. John Chrysostom, (A.D. 344 - 407)
    St. Chromatius of Aquileia, (unknown- A.D. c.407)
St. Cyprian of Carthage, (A.D. 200-258), North African; bishop; biblical scholar, martyr.

Thus the Church, flooded with the light of the Lord, puts forth her rays through the whole world; yet the light is one, which is spread over every place, while its unity of body is preserved. In the luxuriance of her plenty, she stretches her branches over the universal earth, and spreads out far and wide her bountiful and onward streams. Yet is there one head and one source, and one mother abundant in the results of her fruitfulness. It is of her that we are born; with her milk are we nourished; her breath is our life. The spouse of Christ cannot become adulterate, she is undefiled and chaste. She owns but one home; with spotless purity she guards the sanctity of one chamber. She keeps us for God; she appoints unto a kingdom the sons that she has borne.

De Unitate. p. 142, et seqq.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 142

Eusebius of Cæsarea, (A.D. c.263-338), appointed Bishop of Cæsarea in A.D. 314, Roman historian, exegete and Christian polemicist, scholar of the Biblical canon who was deeply embroiled in the Arian controversy.

Explaining Zacharias 14:4, he says:

"Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mountain that is called Olivet, which is over against Jerusalem." (Acts 1:12) The mount of Olives spoken of is, indeed, according to the words read, over against Jerusalem, and to the east of it (Zechariah 14:4); but, besides this, according to the sense, it is the holy Church of Christ and the mountain upon which it has been based, of which the Saviour teaches, saying, "A city seated on a mountain cannot be hid." (Matthew 5)— being instead of that Jerusalem which has fallen and never risen— raised up, and found worthy of the feet of Christ: and this is not only over against Jerusalem, but is also to the east of it, having received the rays of that light by which we worship God, and being much before Jerusalem, and nearer to the sun of justice, of whom it has been said: "Unto those that fear me the Sun of justice shall arise." (Malachi 4:2)

Dem. Evang. l. vi. c. 18, p. 289, Colon. 1688.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 193

"The Lord shall rejoice over thee, even as the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride. (Isaiah 62:5) For the only-begotten Word of God came down from Heaven that He might show forth, as bearing fruit, that Church which He united to Himself, a chaste virgin, not having spot or wrinkle, but rather holy and without blemish. Having therefore from Him received the seeds of the evangelical institution, He has exhibited the spouse resplendent with spiritual sacrifices, and with holy works."

Comment, in Hesai. c. lxii. t. ii. Nov. Collect. Patr. Graec. (Montfaucon).
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 193

St. Hilary of Poitiers, (A.D. 315-367), French; husband, theologian, bishop of Poiters around A.D. 355, and Doctor of the Church. Referred to as the "Hammer of the Arians" and the "Athanasius of the West.". He was obviously a firm supporter of St. Athanasius.

Explaining St. Matthew 5:15:

"A city built upon a mountain cannot be hid." The light, or lamp of Christ, is not now to be hidden under a bushel, nor to be concealed by any covering of the synagogue, but, hung on the wood of the Passion, it will give an everlasting light to those that dwell in the Church. He also admonishes the Apostles to shine with a like splendor, that by the admiration of their deeds, praise may be given to God."

Comment, in Matthew c. v. n. 13, t. i. p. 683.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 193-194

St. Athanasius of Alexandria, (A.D. 296-372), Egyptian; bishop, theologian, and Doctor of the Church. He was present, as an assistant to St. Alexander of Alexandria, at the council of Nicea who he succeeded in A.D. 326. During more than forty years he was the champion of orthodoxy, and suffered much severe persecution from the Arian party.

Explaining Psalm 88:38:

"And His throne as the sun before me." Understand, by the throne of Christ, the Church; for in it He rests. The Church of Christ, then, he says, shall be refulgent and enlighten all under Heaven, and be abiding as the sun and the moon. For this passage says so: "His throne as the sun before me, and as the moon perfect forever, and a faithful witness in Heaven."

Expos, in Ps. t. i. p. 922.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 194

St. Optatus of Milevis, (unknown - A.D. 384), bishop of Milevis, Numidia, in Africa; from Augustine's writings we can assume Optatus was a convert; he is best known for his opposition to the heresy of Donatism.

"It is written in Isaiah the prophet, "The law shall come forth from Sion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. (Isaiah 2:3) Not therefore on that Mount Sion does Isaiah look down upon the valley, but on that holy mountain which is the Church, that mountain which lifts its head over the whole Roman world under Heaven. In which mountain the Son of God rejoices that He has been by God appointed king, saying in the first Psalm, "For He has appointed me king over Sion, His holy mountain", to wit, the Church, of which He is king and bridegroom and head. . . . The spiritual Sion is therefore the Church in which Christ has been appointed king by God the Father, a Church which is throughout the world, wherein there is one Catholic Church."

De Schis. Donat. l. iii. n. 2.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 194

St. Basil the Great, (A.D. 328-379), Cappadocian; bishop of Cæsarea in A.D. 369, theologian, monk. Studied in Palestine, Constantinople, and Athens. Many of the subsequent years of his life were spent in the deserts of Egypt and Libya. His character and works have gained for him the surname of "the great".

"And in the last days the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be prepared on the top of mountains." (Isaiah 2:2) The house of the Lord, prepared on the top of mountains, is the Church, according to that declaration of the Apostle, "Know", he says, "how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the Church of the living God." (1 Timothy 3:15) Whose foundations are on the holy mountains, for it is built upon the foundation of the Apostles and prophets. One also of these mountains was Peter, upon which rock the Lord promised to build His Church."

T. i. Par. 2, Comm. in Esai. c. 2, n. 66, p. 604.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 194

St. John Chrysostom, (A.D. 344 - 407), Syrian; archbishop, Doctor of the Church. Born at Antioch in 344; he was ordained priest in A.D. 383, and raised to the see of Constantinople in the year A.D. 398. His eloquence gained him the title of Chrysostom, or the mouth of gold. His expositions of Scripture, especially the Epistles of St. Paul, are very valuable. This illustrious prelate died on his road to exile, in A.D. 407.

"It is an easier thing for the sun to be quenched, than for the Church to be made invisible."

T. vi. Hom, iv. In illud, vidi Dom. n. 2, p. 141.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 195

St. Chromatius of Aquileia, (unknown- A.D. c.407), Italian; bishop (and scholar) of Aquileia, in which see he succeeded Valerian in the year 387; he was the friend of St. Ambrose and of St. Jerome.

"A city seated on a hill cannot be hid." (Matthew 5:14) By this city is here meant the Church, concerning which the divine Scriptures in many places give testimony, and of which David especially speaks, saying, "Glorious things are said of thee, city of God." (Psalm 86): and again, "The stream of the river maketh the city of God joyful." (Ps. 45); and again, "As we have heard, so have we seen, in the city of the Lord of Hosts, in the city of our God. God hath founded it forever." (Psalm 47) ... As "a city, therefore, placed upon a hill", he points out the Church, upon the faith of our Lord and Saviour placed in heavenly glory,— a Church which . . . visible to the whole world, has been made glorious;. . . and he subjoins, "Neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel, but upon a candlestick, that it may shine to all that are in the house." (St. Matthew 5) . . . Wherefore this light of the law and of faith is not to be hidden from us, but is to be always placed in the Church, as it were in a candlestick, for the salvation of many, that both we may enjoy the light of its truth, and all believers may be enlightened. The Holy Ghost exhorts, by Isaiah also, unto the contemplation of this light, saying, "Come ye, let us walk in the light of the Lord." (Isaiah 2:5) Of which light blessed Peter also testifies in his epistle, saying, "Who hath snatched us out of darkness, and called us unto marvelous light." (1 Peter 2) Whence also the prophet Zechariah, that he might make known the mysteries of this spiritual light, and of the heavenly candlestick which was pointed out as a figure of the Church, amongst other things which were shown, witnesses that he saw a golden candlestick with its lamps. For even in the tabernacle of the testimony, after the fashion of the truth to come, a candlestick with its lamps gave light to the people with a flame that never wearied. The reason of this has been, even as all the sacraments of the law, a thing hidden from the Jews, but is to us now manifest. For we know that there was exhibited, in that candlestick, a type of the true and eternal light, that is, of the Holy Spirit, who, by means of His multiform grace, always gives light to the whole body of the Church."

Tract, iv. in Matthew p. 339, t. viii. Galland.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 197-199



The Visibility of the Church follows so evidently from:

      • the promises of Christ
      • from the commission of the Apostles "to teach all nations,"
      • from the nature of church-government, and of the sacraments, and
      • from the essential character of the divine institution, which all are bound to embrace, that there can be no need of any lengthened testimony on this issue.

An invisible Church are words devoid of meaning.



The Church's Scriptures that support the Visibility of the Church:

Isaiah prophesies that the House of the Lord will be prepared on the top of the mountain and all nations shall flow unto it.

2 "And in the last days. the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be prepared on the top of mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills, and all nations shall flow unto it."


Isaiah 2:2

Daniel prophesies that God will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, shall be faithful to His people, and stand for ever.

35 "The stone that struck the statue became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth. 44 But in the days of those kingdoms the God of Heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, and His kingdom shall not be delivered up to another people: and it shall break in pieces, and shall consume all these kingdoms, and itself shall stand for ever."


Daniel 2:35, 44

Micah prophesies that the House of the Lord will be prepared on the top of the mountain and many people will join His House, learn his ways, and walk accordingly.

1 "And it shall come to pass in the last days that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be prepared on the top of mountains, and high above the hills, and people shall flow to it. 2 And many nations shall come in haste, and say: Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the house of the God of Jacob: and He will teach us of His ways, and we will walk in His paths: for the law shall go forth out of Sion, and the Word of the Lord out of Jerusalem."


Micah 4:1, 2

Jesus, Himself tells his Apostles that they are the light of the world and encourages them to let the light of the Catholic Gospel shine before men to give glory to God, their Father.

"14 You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid. 15 Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a bushel, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in Heaven."


Matthew 5:14-16

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