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Wednesday, January 22, 2020

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St. Ignatius on the way to his death encourages an Asian community.

St. Ignatius on the way to his death encourages an Asian community.

A few weeks ago, I mentioned that St. Ignatius of Antioch wrote seven letters to various churches while he was in chains on his way to his death in the Roman Coliseum. The following is part of the letter he wrote to the Trallians in Asia. Tralles is a town near Aydin, Turkey.

“Full hearty greetings and every good wish from Ignatius also known at Theophorus to the holy church at Tralles in Asia. You are dear to God, the Father of Jesus Christ, elect and a real credit to him, being completely at peace because of the Passion of Jesus Christ, who is our hope, since we will rise in union with him.

“Well do I realize what a character you have – above reproach and steady under strain. It is not just affected, but it comes naturally to you, as I gathered from Polybius, your bishop. By God’s will and that of Jesus Christ, he came to me in Smyrna, and so heartily congratulated me on being a prisoner for Jesus Christ that in him I saw your whole congregation. I welcomed, then, your godly good will and I gave thanks that I found you to be following God.

“An ancient writer gives us this advice, ‘Let no one be called good who mixes good with evil.’ For they speak of Christ, not that they may preach Christ, but that they may reject Christ. They speak of the law, not that they may establish the law, but that they may proclaim things contrary to it. For they alienate Christ from the Father, and the law from Christ.

“They also defame his being born of the Virgin; they are ashamed of his cross; they deny his passion, and they do not believe his resurrection. They introduce God as a Being unknown. They suppose Christ to be unbegotten; and as to the Spirit, they do not admit that he exists. Some of them say that the Son is a mere man, and that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are but the same person, and that the creation is the work of God, not by Christ, but by another strange power. Be on your guard, therefore, against such persons.

“Cloth yourselves in meekness, be renewed in faith, that is the flesh of the Lord, and in love, that is the blood of Jesus Christ. Let no one cherish any grudge against their neighbor. Do not give any Gentiles the occasion to speak evil of us because of a few foolish people. For, ‘Woe to them by whose vanity my name is blasphemed among the people.’

“Jesus loved us when he gave himself a ransom for us, that he might cleanse us by his blood from our old ungodliness, and bestow life on us when we were almost on the point of perishing through the depravity that was in us. He is our only hope.

“Be careful, therefore, to take part only in the one Eucharist. For there is only one flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ and one cup to unite us with his blood, one altar and one bishop with the presbyters and deacons, who are his fellow servants. Then, whatever you do, you will do according to God.

“My friends, I overflow with love for you and with a joyous heart I make you strong although it is not so much I but Jesus Christ. Although imprisoned for his sake, I fear more because of my imperfection. But your prayers will perfect me in the eyes of God so that I might yet receive the inheritance promised me by the merciful God. I seek refuge in the person of Christ through the Gospels and I appeal to the true ministry of the Church through the apostles.

“Farewell and be patient to very end in the name of Jesus Christ.”