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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Saint Ignatius, Bishop and Martyr

Saint Ignatius, Bishop and Martyr, February 1
From the Book on Ecclesiastical Writers by St. Jerome the Priest
Ignatius was the third Bishop of Antioch after the Apostle Peter, and when Trajan stirred up persecution against the Christians, he was condemned to be devoured by wild beasts, and so was sent to Rome in chains. On his journey thither he arrived at Smyrna, where Polycarp, the disciple of John, was Bishop. Since we have thus made mention of a man of so much importance as Ignatius, it is fitting that we should also note briefly the Epistle which he addressed to the Romans. I am on my way, said he, from Syria to Rome, and am already fighting with beasts on sea and land all the way. For I am chained day and night to the ten soldiers in charge of me, who are not better than leopards.
The more courteous I am to them, the worse they are to me. Yet their wickedness is good schooling for me, though I know that my mere sufferings cannot in themselves gain me justification. I earnestly wish for the beasts which are to devour me. At any rate, I pray they may put me out of pain quickly, and fly on me willingly, that I be not like some other Martyrs, whose bodies the animals have refused to touch. If I find that they will not come at me, I shall run at them as quick as I can, to make them devour me. Bear with me, my little children ; I know what is good for me. I feel now that I am beginning to be Christ’s disciple. I desire none of those things which are seen, if so be I may find Christ Jesus. I care not that there come upon me fire, or cross, or wild beasts, or breaking of my bones, or sundering of my members, or destruction of my whole body, yea, or all the torments of the devil, if only I may thereby win Christ.
When he was brought condemned to the theatre, and heard the roaring of the beasts which were to devour him, he felt a strong eagerness to suffer, even as he himself put on record : I am Christ’s wheat ; let the teeth of wild beasts be my mill, that I may be ground up in such wise as to become good bread unto Christ. He suffered in the eleventh year of Trajan. What was left of his body was buried at Antioch, in the cemetery outside the Gate of Daphne.
Almighty God, mercifully look upon our infirmities, that whereas we are afflicted by the burden of our sins, the glorious intercession of thy Martyr and Bishop Saint Ignatius may be our succour and defence, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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