Ignatius – Man for all Seasons

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Father, Shepherd, Soldier

“The character of St. Ignatius, as deduced from his own and the extant writings of his contemporaries, is that of a true athlete of Christ. The triple honor of apostle, bishop, and martyr was well merited by this energetic soldier of the Faith. An enthusiastic devotion to duty, a passionate love of sacrifice, and an utter fearlessness in the defense of Christian truth, were his chief characteristics. Zeal for the spiritual well-being of those under his charge breathes from every line of his writings.

“Ever vigilant lest they be infected by the rampant heresies of those early days; praying for them, that their faith and courage may not be wanting in the hour of persecution; constantly exhorting them to unfailing obedience to their bishops; teaching them all Catholic truth; eagerly sighing for the crown of martyrdom, that his own blood may fructify in added graces in the souls of his flock, he proves himself in every sense a true, pastor of souls, the good shepherd that lays down his life for his sheep.” (Source: http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0123.htm)

A Heart Enflamed with Love for Jesus Christ

Ignatius of Antioch’s vehement and enthusiastic desires for martyrdom flowed from his passionate assent to the truth of the Lord Jesus Christ and from his love for Him that sought what every lover seeks: union with the beloved.  To the objection that a Christian may not desire to put an end to his life, it must be noticed that although Ignatius desired martyrdom he did nothing to bring to birth its cause. He had been forcibly brought before the magistrates and merely acquiesced under duress to the death sentence. He simply acknowledged the inevitable. But the difference that causes shock to so many of those who read his letters is that he desired that doom, not however, for itself, but because behind it he saw the face of the one he loved more than life itself. Moreover his heroic heart determined to shed his lifeblood for the Mystical Body.  He lived out the words of St. Paul, “I make up in my flesh what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ for the sake of His Body which is the Church” (Col. 1:24)

A Man of Spiritual Combat

“For everyone must work together in unison at this training of ours; comrades in its wrestling and racing, comrades in its aches and pains, comrades in its resting and its rising, like God’s good stewards and coadjutors and assistants. Make every effort to satisfy the Commander under whom you serve, and from whom you will draw your pay; and be sure that no deserter is found in your ranks. For a shield take your baptism, for a helmet your faith, for a spear your love, and for body-armor your patient endurance; and lay up a store of good works as a soldier deposits his savings, so that one day you may draw the credits that will be due to you” (Ignatius’s Epistle to Polycarp, 6)

A Man Straightforward and Unassuming

“I do not command you as if I were someone great, for even though I be bound in the Name, I am not yet perfect in Jesus Christ. For now I do but begin to be a disciple and I speak to you as to my fellow learners.”

A Sensitive and Warmhearted Man

A man sensitive to others as can be seen from the gratitude he felt toward all those who showed him hospitality along the way to Rome. Deeply sensitive above all to everything and anything affecting his own beloved sons and daughters at Antioch as is evidenced by the constant pleas to all those around him to somehow get word to the Christians of his city of his spiritual union with them.  Indeed it was precisely this sensitivity for the eternal well being of Christians in Antioch, and everywhere else, that led him to change from lamb to lion in the face of heresy and schism and immorality.

 A Lover of Music

A man who may well have been a lover of music to judge by his literary references: “For your noble presbytery, worthy of God, is attuned to the bishop, even as the strings to a lyre. And thus by means of your accord and harmonious love Jesus Christ is sung. Form yourselves one and all into a choir, that blending in concord and taking the keynote of God, you may sing in unison with one voice through Jesus Christ to the Father, that he may hear you and recognize you through your good deeds to be members of His Son.”  According to the writer, Socrates, (P. G., vol. LXVII, col. 692) Ignatius, while bishop, introduced to the Church at Antioch the custom of alternating chanting of the psalms, a custom that spread to other churches. This is plausible since Pliny’s letter to Trajan, in 112 A.D., mentions such chant among the Christians of Bithynia (Epist., X, 97)