Tuesday, October 17, 2006

stunning witness

Today's saint is the incredible St. Ignatius of Antioch, a first century bishop, successor of Peter (in the See of Antioch!) and martyr who, as he was being marched to Rome as a prisoner, dictated seven epistles to the various churches along his route, and one to his destination, the Church of Rome. That letter to the Romans has some of the most remarkable testimony in all Church history: the mysticism of Christian martyrdom.
Ignatius tells the faithful in Rome not to try to prevent his being thrown to the beasts, but instead to "pray to Christ for me that the animals will be the means of making me a sacrificial victim for God." "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.... Give me the privilege of imitating the passion of my God."
That last line I quoted is one of the earliest non-Biblical writings we have with the unequivocal identification of Jesus as God. (The term "passion" means "suffering" or "something undergone.")
Anyway, the Romans seem to have respected Ignatius' desire that they not intervene in the Imperial process that had already been set against him. His feast day as a martyr has been celebrated on this day since the 300's.

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