Monday, October 5, 2009
Saint Ignatius of Antioch
St. Ignatius of Antioch also known as Theophorus ("God-Bearer”), had been fully instructed in the doctrines of Christianity by the disciple St. John the Apostle. Ignatius was chosen to be Bishop of Antioch and for more than 40 years, he continued in his charge at Antioch, proving himself in every way an exemplary pastor.
Vigilant and Faithful Servant
In 107 AD, Emperor Trajan, puffed up with his late victory over the Scythians and Dacians and feeling he owed his victories to the pagan gods, authorized the death penalty for those Christians who refused to acknowledge these divinities publicly.
Bishop Ignatius was ordered taken to Rome to be devoured by wild beasts in the Colosseum. On the way, a journey which took months and brought him through Asia Minor and Greece, he wrote letters of inspiration and instruction to Christians - exhorting them to keep in harmony with their bishops and other clergy as well as to continue their zeal against heresy. The bishop was dedicated to defending the true teaching handed down by the Apostles in order for the early Christian communities not to be led astray by false teachings. Ignatius encourages them to assemble often in prayer, to be meek and humble and to suffer injuries without protest. Bishop Ignatius was also the first who used the term “catholic” to describe the whole Church.
For a great part of the journey, Ignatius had 2 companions - a deacon, Philo, and a friend, Agathopus - supposedly the authors of an account of his martyrdom.
Total Self-Giving to God
Wherever the ship put in, the faithful gathered to receive benediction and rejoiced in his presence. During this time, Christianity had a number of influential converts that could have intervened or mitigated the punishment but Ignatius prevented the Christians from taking steps to obtain his release.
Below is a letter to the Romans by St Ignatius of Antioch
“I am God's wheat and shall be ground by the teeth of wild animals. 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 sake is my one desire”.
Upon arriving in Rome, Ignatius was hurried off to the Colosseum and died a martyr’s death.
*At the time when he was supposed to be thinking of himself and of his impending death, he was selfless - totally given to God and to men. Just like Jesus, Ignatius is a good shepherd, tending his flock and becoming even more productive in his last days, sending out letters of encouragement and instructions to the early Christian communities.
* His martyrdom was the culmination of a life that is lived conformed to Jesus Christ.
Please feel free to share your reflections or insights on the comment box below. You can also share your idea on what is a saint. Thank you and God bless!
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