St. Ignatius of Antioch

 

St. Ignatius (A.D. 110) was the third bishop of Antioch, succeeding St. Evodius, who was the immediate successor of St. Peter. St. Ignatius is given the title of Apostolic Father of the Church since he was a disciple of the Apostle John.

 

Ignatius was bishop of Antioch during the reign of the Roman emperor Trajen (98-117), an unyielding persecutor of the Christian Church. Behind the Apostles, St. Ignatius is perhaps the most famous name associated with the early Church. However, little is known about his life or his career as bishop. What we do know of him stems from his writings, in particular the seven epistles Ignatius wrote on his way to his death. At around the year 110 A.D., Trajen sentenced Ignatius to death by exposure to the wild beasts in the arena.

 

During his journey from Antioch to Rome for his martyrdom, Ignatius wrote seven letters addressed to the Christians in the communities of Ephesus, Magnesia, Tralles, Rome, Philadelphia, and Smyrna, all of which were along the journey's path. These seven letters tell little of his life, but do reveal his love of the Church, his desire for Church unity, his hatred of schism and heresy, and his desire for martyrdom for the sake of Christ.

 

In his letter to the Romans, 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 beast, so that I may become the pure bread of Christ." (Ch. 4)

 

St. Ignatius was the first to use the term "Catholic Church". For Ignatius, a Church without the episcopacy was impossible. His letters present a clear view of the hierarchical and monarchical structure of the Church: "Where the bishop is, there let the people be, as were Jesus is, there is the Catholic Church. The letters of Ignatius are filled with warnings against false doctrines and false teachers. In particular, he wrote out against the Docetists, who denied the humanity of Christ and ascribed to Him a phantom body.

 

Ignatius passionately affirmed both the humanity and divinity of Christ and proclaimed that if Christ died only in appearance, then his suffering and his willingness to give up his own life for the glory of Christ would have no meaning. Flowing from this passion for unity and Truth in proclaiming the humanity and divinity of Christ, Ignatius commented extensively on the True Presence of Christ in the Eucharist offered to all through His suffering, death and resurrection.

 

In his Eucharistic teachings, Ignatius emphasizes the need for unity in the belief in the True Presence of Christ, reveals that the early church believed the Eucharistic celebration was a true sacrifice, and that a valid Eucharist if conferred by a priest under the authority of the bishop. Through these important writings, St. Ignatius left a powerful proclamation and extensive history of early Church dogma and history