Thought for the Day 17 October – St Ignatius of Antioch (c 35 – 107) Father of the Church, Martyr – “Doctor of Unity”
Note: St John Chrysostom (347-407) , who grew up in Antioch, taught that St Ignatius had been ordained at the hands of St Peter. According to ancient tradition, St Ignatius was the child whom Christ had held, as described in Matthew 18:4, as depicted in the fresco below from the Gračanica.
Excerpt from Pope Benedict’s Catechesis on St Ignatius
Wednesday, 14 March 2007
For Ignatius unity was first and foremost a prerogative of God, who, since he exists as Three Persons, is One in absolute unity. Ignatius often used to repeat that God is unity and that in God alone is unity found in its pure and original state. Unity to be brought about on this earth by Christians is no more than an imitation as close as possible to the divine archetype.
Overall, it is possible to grasp in the Letters of Ignatius a sort of constant and fruitful dialectic between two characteristic aspects of Christian life: on the one hand, the hierarchical structure of the Ecclesial Community and on the other, the fundamental unity that binds all the faithful in Christ.
Consequently, their roles cannot be opposed to one another. On the contrary, the insistence on communion among believers and of believers with their Pastors was constantly reformulated in eloquent images and analogies – the harp, strings, intonation, the concert, the symphony. The special responsibility of Bishops, priests and deacons in building the community is clear.
This applies first of all to their invitation to love and unity. “Be one”, Ignatius wrote to the Magnesians, echoing the prayer of Jesus at the Last Supper: “one supplication, one mind, one hope in love…. Therefore, all run together as into one temple of God, as to one altar, as to one Jesus Christ who came forth from one Father and is with and has gone to one” (7: 1-2).
Imploring from the Lord this “grace of unity” and in the conviction that the whole Church presides in charity (cf. Romans, Prologue), I address to you yourselves the same hope with which Ignatius ended his Letter to the Trallians: “Love one another with an undivided heart. Let my spirit be sanctified by yours, not only now but also when I shall attain to God…. In [Jesus Christ] may you be found unblemished” (13).
And let us pray that the Lord will help us to attain this unity and to be found at last unstained, because it is love that purifies souls.