St. Ignatius of Antioch

Today, October 17, is the Memorial of St. Ignatius of Antioch, bishop and martyr.

St. Ignatius was the successor of St. Peter as bishop of Antioch in Syria. He was condemned as a Christian and sentenced to death in the arena by being thrown to wild animals. For his execution, he was transferred to Rome. On his way to Rome, he wrote seven letters to the churches along his path. These letter are a testimony to the devotion of the early Church to Jesus and the sacraments, especially to the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, and the structure of the early Church around the bishop, priests and deacons. “Wherever the bishop appears, let the people be there; just as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church,” They are also an exhortation of his desire to die in imitation of Christ, not wanting the people to do anything that might postpone or deny him his glory. St. Ignatius wrote the the Christians of Smyrna. St. Ignatius of Antioch was martyred in Rome c. AD 107.

From his Letter to the Romans by St. Ignatius:

I am writing to all the churches to let it be known that I will gladly die for God if only you do not stand in my way. I plead with you: show me no untimely kindness. Let me be food for the wild beasts, for they are my way to God. I am God’s wheat and shall be ground by their teeth so that I may become Christ’s pure bread. Pray to Christ for me that the animals will be the means of making me a sacrificial victim for God.

No earthly pleasures, no kingdoms of this world can benefit me in any way. I prefer death in Christ Jesus to power over the farthest limits of the earth. He who died in place of us is the one object of my quest. He who rose for our sakes is my one desire. The time for my birth is close at hand. Forgive me, my brothers. Do not stand in the way of my birth to real life; do not wish me stillborn. My desire is to belong to God. Do not, then, hand me back to the world. Do not try to tempt me with material things. Let me attain pure light. Only on my arrival there can I be fully a human being. Give me the privilege of imitating the passion of my God. If you have him in your heart, you will understand what I wish. You will sympathize with me because you will know what urges me on.

The prince of this world is determined to pay hold of me and to undermine my will which is intent on God. Let none of you here help him; instead show yourselves on my side, which is also God’s side. Do not talk about Jesus Christ as long as you love this world. Do not harbor envious thoughts. And supposing I should see you, if then I should beg you to intervene on my behalf, do not believe what I say. Believe instead what I am now writing to you. For thought I am alive as I write to you, still my real desire is to die. My love of this life has been crucified, and there is no yearning in me for any earthly thing. Rather within me is the living water which says deep inside me: “Come to the Father.” I no longer take pleasure in perishable food or in the delights of this world. I want only God’s bread, which is the flesh of Jesus Christ, formed of the seed of David, and for drink I crave his blood, which is love that cannot perish.

From The Liturgy of the Hours, Office of Readings, Memorial of Ignatius of Antioch, Bishop and Martyr

Here is a short video on St. Ignatius of Antioch by Matthew Leonard of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology.

Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.

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