Ignatius of Antioch hailed from Syria. The Apostle John taught Ignatius the basics of the faith. Ignatius’ confidence in God’s presence in his life earned him the nickname, “Theophorus” (i.e. god-bearer). Like John, he wrote seven letters to the churches of Asia revealing both his mind and heart.
In the letter to the Romans, Ignatius asked for their prayers: “Pray, then, do not seek to confer any greater favor upon me than that I will be sacrificed to God while the altar is still prepared. Allow me to become food for the wild beasts, through whose instrumentality it will be granted me to attain to God. I am the wheat of God, and let me be ground by the teeth of the wild beasts, that I may be found the pure bread of Christ. Rather entice the wild beasts, that they may become my tomb, and may leave nothing of my body; so that when I have fallen asleep [in death], I may be no trouble to anyone. Then shall I truly be a disciple of Christ, when the world shall not see so much as my body.”
Ignatius’s parting thoughts:
- Do not speak of Jesus Christ, and yet set your desires on the world.
- Let not envy find a dwelling-place among you; nor even should I, when present with you, exhort you to it, be persuaded to listen to me, but rather give credit to those things which I now write to you.
- I desire the bread of God, the heavenly bread, the bread of life, which is the flesh of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who became afterward of the seed of David and Abraham; and I desire the drink of God, namely His blood, which is incorruptible love and eternal life.
- You are initiated into the mysteries of the Gospel with Paul, the holy, the martyred, the deservedly most happy, at whose feet may I be found, when I shall attain to God
The Martyrdom of Ignatius offers the exchange between Ignatius and Emperor Trajan.
Who are you, you evil demon, who so zealously breaks our commands, and persuades others to do the same, so that they should miserably perish?
No one ought to call Theophorus evil; for all of the demons have departed from the servants of God. But if, because I am an enemy to these [demons], you call me wicked in respect to them, I quite agree with you; for inasmuch as I have Christ the King of heaven [within me], I destroy all the devices of these [demons].
And who is Theophorus?
He who has Christ within his breast.
Do we not then seem to you to have the gods in our mind, whose assistance we enjoy in fighting against our enemies?
You are in error when you call the dæmons of the gods of the nations. For there is but one God, who made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that is in them; and one Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, whose kingdom may I enjoy.
Do you mean Him who was crucified under Pontius Pilate?
I mean Him who crucified my sin, with him who was the inventor of it, and who has condemned [and cast down] all the deceit and malice of the devil under the feet of those who carry Him in their heart.
Do you then carry within you Him that was crucified?
Truly so; for it is written, ‘I will dwell in them, and walk in them.’ 2 Corinthians 6:16
We command that Ignatius, who affirms that he carries about within him Him that was crucified, be bound by soldiers, and carried to the great [city] Rome, there to be devoured by the beasts, for the gratification of the people.”
(When the holy martyr heard this sentence, he cried out with joy)
I thank you, O Lord, that You have vouchsafed to honor me with a perfect love towards You, and have made me be bound with iron chains, like Your Apostle Paul. (Having spoken thus, he then, with delight, clasped the chains about him; and when he had first prayed for the Church and commended it with tears to the Lord, he was hurried away by the savage cruelty of the soldiers, like a distinguished ram the leader of a goodly flock, that he might be carried to Rome, there to furnish food to the bloodthirsty beasts).