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Tuesday 21 September |
The Feast of Saint Matthew the Apostle
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Lighthouses, an ancient symbol of Christianity

PHAROS ALEXANDRIA EGYPT

Johann Bornhard Fischer vo Erlach | Public Domain

Philip Kosloski - published on 06/30/17

"You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid."

Solitary towers at the edge of a harbor are not a recent invention. The Egyptians were known for the Pharos of Alexandria, one of the tallest structures in the ancient world. On the top of the tower was a bonfire that helped ships navigate the port at Alexandria. It is believed that this lighthouse became the prototype for all other lighthouses after it.

It should not be surprising that this became a symbol of Jesus, Christianity and the Church. Jesus said in the Gospel of John, “I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12).

This passage can then be connected to the traditional image of the Church as a ship, making Jesus the light on the lighthouse, guiding the Church (and the pilgrim soul) to the Eternal Shores of Heaven.


SHIPS IN THE OCEAN

Read more:
Ships in art: Symbols of the Church and our pilgrimage to heaven

At the same time, while it is true that Jesus is the “light of the world,” Jesus also referred to his disciples using that same term.

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid. 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. (Matthew 5:14).

This particular passage reflects a similar concept to a lighthouse and explains how Christians (and the Church) are meant to be a light for all to see. As Christians we are filled with the light of Christ at baptism and are sent forth with the task of bringing that light into the world, helping other souls reach the destination for which we are all created.

The lighthouse is a beautiful image, one that has always given comfort to the Christian soul trying to navigate the sea of life in order to reach the Eternal Harbor.

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