Time Period: 2nd Century (A.D. 107)
Position: Third Patriarch/Bishop of Antioch
Important works: Letter to the Ephesians, Letter to the Magnesians, Letter to the Trallians, Letter to the Romans, Letter to the Philadelphians, Letter to the Smyrnaeans, Letter to Polycarp
St. Ignatius lived during the reign of Trajan. He is considered an Apostolic Father because he was a hearer of St. John the Apostle. On his way from Antioch to martyrdom in Rome (the beasts in the arena...fun), he wrote seven letters which are his only extant writings.
My professor pointed out to us that Ignatius was a grown man before Peter left Antioch--he was middle-aged when Peter was still alive! Striking!
It is in Antioch where the followers of Christ were first called Christians.
An Episcopal note: (Episcopal meaning "Bishop"--not having anything to do with the Episcopalian Church as such)Rome was not involved in the selection of bishops outside of the Roman diocese until after the Protestant movement. They were usually elected by priests at the Cathedral.
Here are some selections from each of the 7 Letters:
1. To the Ephesians...
For Jesus Christ, our inseparable life, is the will of the Father, just as the bishops, who have been appointed throughout the world, are at the will of Jesus Christ. It is fitting, therefore, that you should live in harmony with the will of the bishop--as, indeed, you do. Let us be careful, then, if we would be submissive to God, not to oppose the bishop.
It is clear, then, that we must look upon the bishop as the Lord Himself.
Here's another one, this I particularly enjoy...
There is one Physician, who is both flesh and spirit, born and not born, who is God in man, true life in death, both from Mary and from God, first able to suffer and then unable to suffer, Jesus Christ our Lord.
Give ear to the bishop and to the presbytery with an undivided mind, break one Bread, which is the medicine of immortality, the antidote against death, enabling us to live forever in Jesus Christ.
Note: This recalls John 6. The Eucharist and the Resurrection are bound together. Eating His flesh results in being raised up.
2. To the Magnesians...
Take care, therefore, to be confirmed in the decrees of the Lord and the Apostles, that in all things whatsoever you may prosper, in body and in soul, in faith and in love, in the Son and the Father and the Spirit, in the beginning and the end, together with your most reverend bishop and with your presbytery--that fittingly woven spiritual crown! --and with your deacons, men of God. Submit to the bishop and to each other's rights, just as did Jesus Christ in the flesh to the Father, and as the Apostles did to Christ and the Father and the Spirit, so that there may be unity both of flesh and of spirit.
3. To the Trallians...
It is necessary, therefore,--and such is your practice,-that you do nothing without the bishop, and that you be subject also to the presbytery, as to the Apostles of Jesus Christ our hope, in whom we shall be found, if we live with Him.
In like manner let everyone respect the deacons as they would respect Jesus Christ, and just as they respect the bishop as a type of the Father, and the presbyters as the council of God and the college of the Apostles. Without these, it cannot be called a Church.
Nota bene: I believe my friend James' conversion to the Church from Anglicanism was sped up after reading Ignatius if I remember correctly. I can see why. It's pretty clear. Also, this is why Catholics do not consider schismatics Churches but rather, ecclesial communities.
4. To the Romans... (considered his most important Letter)
I love this...
Only pray for me that I may have strength both inward and outward, that I may not merely speak, but have also the will; that I may not only be called a Christian but may also be found to be one. For if I be found to be one, I may also be called one, and be then deemed faithful, even when I am no longer visible. Nothing visible is eternal.
The Letter to the Romans is a treasure. If you had to pick one, this is it.
5. To the Philadelphians...
Those, indeed, who belong to God and to Jesus Christ--they are with the bishop.
And as many as shall, in the exercise of repentance, return into the unity of the Church, these, too, shall belong to God, that they may live according to Jesus Christ. Do not err, my brethren. If any man follows him that makes a schism in the Church, he shall not inherit the kingdom of God. If any one walks according to a strange opinion, he agrees not with the passion.
Take heed, then, to have but one Eucharist. For there is one flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ, and one cup to show forth the unity of His blood; one altar; as there is one bishop, along with the presbytery and deacons, my fellow-servants: that so, whatsoever you do, you may do it according to the will of God.
6. To the Smyrneans...
Let that be considered a valid Eucharist which is celebrated by the bishop, or by one whom he appoints. Wherever the bishop appears, let the people be there; just as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church.
Nota bene: This is the first time the word Catholic is used in print!
7. Letter to Polycarp
This is helpful for me:
Become more diligent than you are. Observe well the times. Look for Him that is above seasons, timeless; invisible, yet, for our sakes, becoming visible; who cannot be touched; who cannot suffer, yet, for our sakes, accepted suffering, and who on our account endured everything.
I end with this from his last letter...
Be long-suffering with one another and gentle, just as God is with you.
May I rejoice in you always.
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