17 OCTOBER 2009. Today the Church celebrates the memorial of Saint Ignatius of Antioch, one of the early Apostolic Fathers and the third bishop and Patriarch of Antioch (following Saint Peter and Saint Evodius). Saint Ingnatius was condemned to death by being eaten by lions and was martyred in the Flavian Ampitheatre in 108 A.D.
Saint Ignatius was a disciple of Saint John the Apostle. And, tradition tells that Saint Ignatius was one of the children that Jesus took into his arms and blessed. as described in Mark 9:36.
After his arrest by the Roman authorities, Saint Ignatius was transported to Rome for his martyrdom. The journey to Rome was a long and difficult one and along the way Saint Ignatius wrote seven letters (six to the churches in the region and one to Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna). The Letters of Saint Ignatius have been preserved and are one of the earliest examples of Christian theology, touching on subjects such as ecclesiology, the sacraments, and the role of bishops. Online translations of Saint Ignatius' letters can be found here.
In his letter to the Romans, Saint Ignatius writes:
I am writing to all the Churches and I enjoin all, that I am dying willingly for God's sake, if only you do not prevent it. I beg you, do not do me an untimely kindness. Allow me to be eaten by the beasts, which are my way of reaching to God. I am God's wheat, and I am to be ground by the teeth of wild beasts, so that I may become the pure bread of Christ.After his death, Saint Ignatius' friends received permission to recover his remains and took them back to Antioch. Today, the remains of Saint Ignatius are entombed beneath St. Peter's Basilica.
Saint Ignatius, pray for us!
IMAGE: Icon of Saint Ignatius of Antioch, central Russia, 17th century.