A City on a Hill

Jesus and His Disiciples on the Sea of Galilee by Carl Oesterley

In His Sermon on the Mount, Christ juxtaposed two intriguing statements: “Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid” (Matt 5:14). Hear how several Catholic exegetes relate the two:

“Mark how great His promise to them, men who were scarce known in their own country that the fame of them should reach to the ends of the earth. The persecutions which He had foretold, were not able to dim their light, yea they made it but more conspicuous.” -St. John Chrysostom

“This city is the Church of which it is said, ‘Glorious things are spoken of thee, thou city of God’ (Ps 87:3). Its citizens are all the faithful, of whom the Apostle speaks, ‘Ye are fellow-citizens of the saints’ (Eph 2:19). It is built upon Christ the hill, of whom Daniel [says], ‘A stone hewed without hands became a great mountain’ (Dn 2:34).” -Pseudo-Chrysostom

“The mountain is the great righteousness, which is signified by the mountain from which the Lord is now teaching.” -St. Augustine

“The Apostles and Priests who are founded on Christ cannot be hidden even though they would, because Christ makes them manifest.” -Pseudo-Chrysostom

“They ought to be careful of their own walk and conversation, seeing they were set in the eyes of all, like a city on a hill, or a lamp on a stand.” -St. John Chrysostom

“The city signifies the flesh which He had taken on Him; . . . and we by partaking in His flesh become inhabitants of that city. He cannot therefore be hid, because being set in the height of God’s power, He is offered to be contemplated of all men in admiration of his works.” -St. Hilary of Poitiers

“In the illustration of the city, He signified His own power, by the lamp He exhorts the Apostles to preach with boldness; as though He said, ‘I indeed have lighted the lamp, but that it continue to burn will be your care, not for your own sakes only, but both for others who shall receive its light and for God’s glory.'” -St. John Chrysostom

Quotations from St. Thomas Aquinas, Catena Aurea: Commentary on the Four Gospels Collected Out of the Works of the Fathers, Vol. I, Part I (Oxford: John Henry Parker, 1841).

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