Thoughts from a young theologian

Letter from one about to die


Also, today being the feast of St. Ignatius of Antioch, I thought I’d write a little blurb about him… He was a Father of the Church, meaning that he lived just a little bit after the apostles were around… In fact, he is thought to be one of the students of the Apostle John… He was a bishop in Antioch, which was one of the larger Christian cities in what is today, Turkey… While he was a bishop, he was captured for his faith (this was the time that lots of Christians were being persecuted and even martyred for their faith and it was on the boat between Antioch and Rome that he wrote a small bunch of his most famous letters that have survived until today. The reason I’m mentioning him today, apart from the fact that it’s his feast day, is because when we did the office of readings yesterday, we ran into an excerpt from his letter to the Romans… It’s one of the most touching and endearing letters I’ve ever read and so I thought it’s worth quoting here in its entirety… Remember as you read the letter that this is a man who’s being transported to Rome to die at the hands of lions in the coliseum… Have a great day and God bless!!!

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This picture, I got from Wikipedia 🙂

Letter to the Romans: From the Office of Readings, October 17, Feast of St. Ignatius of Antioch

I am writing to all the churches to let it be known that I will gladly die for God if only you do not stand in my way. I plead with you: show me no untimely kindness. Let me be food for the wild beasts, for they are my way to God. I am God’s wheat and shall be ground by their teeth so that I may become Christ’s pure bread. Pray to Christ for me that the animals will be the means of making me a sacrificial victim for God.

No earthly pleasures, no kingdoms of this world can benefit me in any way. I prefer death in Christ Jesus to power over the farthest limits of the earth. He who died in place of us is the one object of my quest. He who rose for our sakes is my one desire.

The time for my birth is close at hand. Forgive me, my brothers. Do not stand in the way of my birth to real life; do not wish me stillborn. My desire is to belong to God. Do not, then, hand me back to the world. Do not try to tempt me with material things. Let me attain pure light. Only on my arrival there can I be fully a human being. Give me the privilege of imitating the passion of my God. If you have him in your heart, you will understand what I wish. You will sympathize with me because you will know what urges me on.

The prince of this world is determined to lay hold of me and to undermine my will which is intent on God. Let none of you here help him; instead show yourselves on my side, which is also God’s side. Do not talk about Jesus Christ as long as you love this world. Do not harbor envious thoughts. And supposing I should see you, if then I should beg you to intervene on my behalf, do not believe what I say. Believe instead what I am now writing to you. For though I am alive as I write to you, still my real desire is to die. My love of this life has been crucified, and there is no yearning in me for any earthly thing. Rather within me is the living water which says deep inside me: “Come to the Father.” I no longer take pleasure in perishable food or in the delights of this world. I want only God’s bread, which is the flesh of Jesus Christ, formed of the seed of David, and for drink I crave his blood, which is love that cannot perish.

I am no longer willing to live a merely human life, and you can bring about my wish if you will. Please, then, do me this favor, so that you in turn may meet with equal kindness. Put briefly, this is my request: believe what I am saying to you. Jesus Christ himself will make it clear to you that I am saying the truth. Only truth can come from that mouth by which the Father has truly spoken. Pray for me that I may obtain my desire. I have not written to you as a mere man would, but as one who knows the mind of God. If I am condemned to suffer, I will take it that you wish me well. If my case is postponed, I can only think that you wish me harm.

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