Preface of a Saint (3)
PRAYER (traditional language)
Almighty God, we praise thy name for thy
bishop and martyr Ignatius of Antioch, who offered himself as grain to
be ground by the teeth of wild beasts that he might present unto thee the
pure bread of sacrifice. Accept, we pray thee, the willing tribute of our
lives, and give us a share in the pure and spotless offering of thy Son
Jesus Christ; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one
God, for ever and ever.
PRAYER (contemporary language)
Almighty God, we praise you for your bishop
and martyr Ignatius of Antioch, who offered himself as grain to be ground
by the teeth of wild beasts that he might present to you the pure bread
of sacrifice. Accept the willing tribute of our lives, and give us a share
in the pure and spotless offering of your Son Jesus Christ; who lives and
reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
Lessons reflect revisions made at GC 2009.
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Last updated: 25 August 2007
IGNATIUS OF ANTIOCH
BISHOP AND MARTYR (17 OCT 107)
the Apostles, Ignatius was the second bishop of Antioch in Syria. His
predecessor, of whom little is known, was named Euodius. Whether he knew
any of the Apostles directly is uncertain. Little is known of his life
except for the very end of it. Early in the second century (perhaps around
107 AD, during the reign of the Emperor Trajan), he was arrested by the
Imperial authorities, condemned to death, and transported to Rome to die
in the arena. By thus dealing with a leader, the rulers hoped to terrify
the rank and file. Instead, Ignatius took the opportunity to encourage
them, speaking to groups of Christians at every town along the way. When
the prison escort reached the west coast of Asia Minor, it halted before
taking ship, and delegations from several Asian churches were able to
visit Ignatius, to speak with him at length, to assist him with items
for his journey, and to bid him an affectionate farewell and commend him
to the grace of God. In response he wrote seven letters that have been
preserved: five to congregations that had greeted him, en masse or by
delegates (Ephesians, Magnesians, Trallians, Philadelphians, and Smyrnaeans),
one to the congregation that would greet him at his destination (Romans),
and one to Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna and disciple of the Apostle John.
His letters are available in several modern translations.
Perhaps the most accessible is the Penguin Paperback, Early
Christian Writings, translated by Maxwell Staniforth. The themes
with which he is chiefly concerned are (1) the importance of maintaining
Christian unity in love and sound doctrine (with warnings against factionalism
and against the heresy of Docetism -- the belief that Christ was not fully
human and did not have a material body or really suffer and die), (2)
the role of the clergy as a focus of Christian unity, (3) Christian martyrdom
as a glorious privilege, eagerly to be grasped.
I am God's wheat, ground fine by the lion's teeth to be made
purest bread for Christ.
No early 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.
by James Kiefer
Note: clicking on the link above will take you to
Amazon.com, where you can buy the book if you wish.
Ignatius' writings are also available
online in an older translation.