ST. IGNATIUS OF ANTIOCH, EARLY CHRISTIAN MARTYR
Wherever the bishop appears let the congregation be present;
just as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church.
Letter of Ignatius of Antioch to the Smyrneans VIII
Ignatius of Antioch was Bishop of Syria about 75-110 AD, and is one of the Apostolic Fathers of the Catholic Church. The Apostolic Fathers were the next generation of Church leaders who received the Faith directly from the Apostles. Tradition has it St. Peter, on his trip to Antioch to meet St. Paul (Galatians 2:11), designated Ignatius to become Bishop. He followed St. Peter and Evodius as the third Bishop of Antioch. St. Ignatius was the first to use the term "Catholic Church" in his Letter to the Smryneans (8:2).
Antioch was a seaport in Syria on the Mediterranean Sea, just north of the country of Lebanon. Antioch was important to early Christianity, especially after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. Followers of Jesus were first called Christians in Antioch (Acts 11:26). Paul began three missionary journeys from Antioch. It is believed that Matthew wrote his Gospel there. Antioch was one of 5 Patriarchates of early Christianity under Constantine, along with Jerusalem, Constantinople, Alexandria, and Rome. St. John Chrysostom (349-407), the Bishop of Constantinople, was born in Antioch. The Maronite Eastern Catholic Church of Lebanon has its origin from Antioch.
Ignatius of Antioch would not worship the Emperor Trajan, and thus was placed in chains and ordered to Rome to be thrown to the lions in the Roman Coliseum. On the way to Rome, he wrote 7 letters to the local Churches on the way to Rome. He wrote 4 letters from the town of Smyrna, to the Churches in Ephesus, Tralles, Magnesia, and Rome. He wrote to the Church of Philadelphia and Smyrna from the town of Troas, as well as to Polycarp, then the young Bishop of Smyrna.
The occasion of his trip proved to be a unifying event for all of the early Churches on the way to Rome. He established the hierarchy of bishop, priest, and deacon for the early Churches, the pattern which still exists today. His letters are treasures of the Christian faith. He recalled the words of Jesus following the Resurrection to Peter and the Apostles, and is one of the early references, along with Revelation 1:10, to the celebration of the Lord's Day, rather than the Sabbath (Magnesians IX). His Letter to the Romans is perhaps one of most moving letters written by a Christian martyr. It was his exceptional courage and his love of Jesus that has made him an outstanding model and given him a permanent place in the history of early Christianity. Considered the Father of the Syriac Churches, several Eastern Catholic and Orthodox Churches today are named in honor of St. Ignatius of Antioch.
For I know and believe that he was in the flesh even after the Resurrection.
And when he came to those with Peter he said to them:
"Take, handle me and see that I am not a phantom without a body."
And they immediately touched him and believed, being mingled both with his flesh and spirit.
Therefore they despised even death, and were proved to be above death.
And after his Resurrection he ate and drank with them as a being of flesh,
although he was united in spirit to the Father.
Letter of Ignatius of Antioch to the Smyrneans lll
For our God, Jesus the Christ, was conceived by Mary
by the dispensation of God, as well as of the seed of David as of the Holy Spirit:
he was born, and was baptized,
that by himself submitting he might purify the water.
And the virginity of Mary, and her giving birth,
were hidden from the prince of this world,
as was the death of the Lord.
Three mysteries of a cry which were wrought in the stillness of God.
Letter of Ignatius of Antioch to the Ephesians XVIII-XIX
For I heard some men saying,
"if I find it not in the charters in the Gospel I do not believe,"
and when I said to them that it is in the Scripture,
they answered me, "that is exactly the question."
But to me the charters are Jesus Christ,
the inviolable charter is his cross, and death, and resurrection,
and the faith which is through him.
Letter of Ignatius of Antioch to the Philadelphians VIII
I exhort you: Be zealous to do all things in harmony with God,
with the bishop presiding in the place of God
and the presbyters in the place of the Council of the Apostles,
and the deacons, who are most dear to me,
entrusted with the service of Jesus Christ,
who was from eternity with the Father and was made manifest at the end of time.
Letter of Ignatius of Antioch to the Magnesians VI
"I am writing to all the churches and am insisting to everyone that I die for God
of my own free will - unless you hinder me.
I implore you: do not be unseasonably kind to me.
Let me be food for the wild beasts, through whom I can reach God.
I am God's wheat, and I am being ground by the teeth of the wild beasts,
that I might prove to be pure bread."
Letter of Ignatius of Antioch to the Romans IV
Eastern Catholic Churches