16 September 2009

Ignatius' Sense of God

In the first few decades of the second century A.D., Ignatius, bishop of Antioch, was being carted off to be thrown to the lions. On the way he wrote seven letters, six to churches that he passed along the way and one to Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna, who would himself be martyred by being burned at the stake. Ignatius wrote:

Stand firm, like an anvil being struck with a hammer. . . . Understand the times. Wait expectantly for the one who is above time: the Eternal, the Invisible, who for our sake became visible; the Intangible, the Unsuffering, who for our sake suffered, who for our sake endured in every way.

In the letter to the Ephesians, Ignatius wrote these powerful words about how Christians should interact with unbelievers.

Let us show by our forbearance that we are their brothers and sisters, and let us be eager to be imitators of the Lord, to see who can be the more wronged, who the more cheated, who the more rejected, in order that no weed of the devil may be found among you, but that with complete purity and self-control you may abide in Christ Jesus. (10.3)

And to the Romans:

Fire and cross and battles with wild beasts, mutilation, mangling, wrenching of bones, the hacking of limbs, the crushing of my whole body, cruel tortures of the devil--let these come upon me, only let me reach Jesus Christ! (5.3)

[T]hough I am still alive, I am passionately in love with death as I write to you. My passionate love [for the world] has been crucified and there is no fire of material longing within me, but only water living and speaking in me, saying within me, 'Come to the Father.' I take no pleasure in corruptible food or the pleasures of this life. I want the bread of God, which is the flesh of Christ who is of the seed of David; and for drink I want his blood, which is incorruptible love. (7.2-3)

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