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The Early Church Fathers on the Church's Visibility.


  • Early Church Fathers
  • From the Scriptures



    St. Irenæus of Lyons, (A.D. 125-202)
    St. Clement of Alexandria, (A.D. 150-220)
    Origen of Alexandria, (A.D. 184-253)
    St. Hippolytus of Rome, (A.D. 170-236)

St. Irenæus of Lyons, (A.D. 125-202), Asia Minor; bishop, missionary, theologian, defender of orthodoxy. Though by birth a Greek, he was Bishop of Lyons in the second century. He tells us that, in his early youth, he learned the rudiments of religion from St. Polycarp, the disciple of St. John the Apostle. He wrote several works, of which only a few fragments are now known, with the exception of his Treatise against Heretics which we have in five books.

"When they believed not, last of all He sent His Son, He sent our Lord Jesus Christ, whom when the wicked husbandmen had slain, they cast Him out of the vineyard. Wherefore did the Lord deliver it, now no longer fenced round, but opened to the whole world, to other husbandmen, who give in the fruits in their seasons; the tower of election being exalted everywhere, and beautiful to look on. For everywhere is the Church distinctly visible, and everywhere is the winepress dug; for everywhere are those who receive the spirit."

Adv. Hæres. 1. iv. c. 36, n. 2, p. 278.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 189-190

"All these (heretics) are very much later than the bishops, to whom the Apostles delivered the churches, and this we have proved, with the greatest care, in the third book. Wherefore, the aforesaid heretics, because they are blind to the truth, are under the necessity of wandering irregularly, first in one, and then in another path, and on this account the traces of their doctrines are scattered without any uniformity or connection. But the pathway of those who are in the Church, circles the whole universe, for it has a firm tradition from the Apostles, and gives us to see that the faith of all is one and the same. . . . And, indeed, the public teaching of the Church, in which one and the same way of salvation is shown throughout the whole world, is true and firm. For to this was entrusted the light of God, and on this account is the wisdom of God, through which He saves all men, proclaimed in the gates (outlets); In the streets she behaves confidently; on the tops of the walls she is announced; and in the gates of the city she speaketh unceasingly. For everywhere the Church preaches the truth, and this is the lamp with seven branches, bearing the light of Christ.

2. "They, therefore, who abandon the teaching of the Church, condemn the holy presbyters of ignorance; not considering how much preferable is a religious but untutored man, to a blasphemous and impudent sophist. But such are all heretics, and they who think that they find something more beyond the truth . . . not having at all times the same opinions regarding the same matters; like blind men they are led by the blind, justly will they fall into the pit of error which lies hidden beneath; always seeking and never finding the truth. We ought, therefore, to fly from the opinions of these men, and to watch, with redoubled attention, that we be not, in some way, perplexed by them; but (we ought) to fly unto the Church, and in her bosom to be brought up, and to be fed with the Scriptures of the Lord. For the Church has been planted as a Paradise in this world. Of every tree of Paradise ye shall eat the fruits, says the Spirit of God; that is, eat of every dominical Scripture; but upon an arrogant interpretation (sense) feed not, neither touch ye, any part of the whole heretical dissension."

Adv. Hæres. l. v. c. 20, n. 1, 2, p. 317.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 190-191

St. Clement of Alexandria, (A.D. 150-220), Greek; theologian, a scholar of Pantaenus, to whom he succeeded as head of the Catechetical School at Alexandria, Egypt. His writings display great acquaintance with the Gentile philosophy. He wrote with the express design of hiding the mysteries of the Christian religion from the Pagans, and the uninitiated, while at the same time, laboring to show the immense practical superiority of the Christian code of morals over that of every Pagan sect and system of philosophy.

"He says, by Ezechiel, addressing himself to the priests, and laying before them a saving description of a just care: "I will bind up that which was lame; and I will heal that which was sick and I will bring back that which had wandered; and I will feed them, upon my holy mountain." (Ezechiel 34) These are the promises of a good shepherd. Feed us, Thy children, as sheep. Yea, Lord, fill us with Thy pasture of righteousness; yea, Pedagogue, feed us on Thy holy mountain, in the Church, which is on high, above the clouds, touching the heavens."

Paedag. l. i. c. 9, p. 148.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 191

Origen of Alexandria, (A.D. 184-253), Alexandrian; born in Egypt, philosopher, theologian, writer.

"But if we read with Aquila, "In my mountain", the mountain of Christ is to be understood as His Church, which is lofty and raised on high. To this mountain has been given by the Father, according to His good pleasure, an unshaken empire; for the Church rules as a queen over those who are left on earth, and shares the empire with Christ."

T. ii. Select, in Ps. xxix. p. 642.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 191

"We are not to give heed to those who say, "Behold, here is Christ", but show Him not in the Church, which is filled with brightness from the East even unto the West; which is filled with true light; is the pillar and ground of truth; in which, as a whole, is the whole advent of the Son of Man, who saith to all men throughout the universe, "Behold, I am with you all the days of life even unto the consummation of the world"

T. iii. Comm. in Matt. (Tr. 30) n. 46, p. 865.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 191-192

St. Hippolytus of Rome, (A.D. 170-236), Roman; bishop and martyr, probably a scholar of St. Irenæus of Lyons.

"By the woman clothed with the Sun, he very plainly signified the Church clothed with the Paternal word, more brilliant than the sun; and by the moon under her feet, he pointed out the Church adorned with heavenly brightness like as the moon; whilst the words, and on her head a crown of twelve stars, designate the twelve Apostles, by whom the Church was founded. And being with child, she cried, travailing in birth, and was in pain to be delivered, because the Church will not cease giving birth out of her heart to the Word that is persecuted in the world by unbelievers. And she brought forth a male child, who was to rule all nations because the Church, as she always brings forth Christ,— the perfect Son of God, and proclaimed to God and Man,— teaches all nations."

Demon, de Christo et Antich.. Galland. t. ii. n. 61, p. 439.
(Fab. t. 1, n. 61, p. 50.)
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 192



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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