Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Saint Ignatius, the God-Bearer +Dec 20

 Saint Ignatius, the God-Bearer 

Saint Ignatius unceasingly repeated the name of “Jesus Christ”.
When they asked him why he was doing this, Saint Ignatius answered that this name was written in his heart!

The Holy Great Martyr Ignatius was named the ‘God-Bearer’ because he always carried the name of the living God in his heart and on his lips. Also, traditionally, he was thus named because he was held in the arms of Christ, the incarnate Son of God.
In the Gospel of Matthew (18:2-5), there is a passage that reads:
“And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, and said: ‘Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself as this little child, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me.’”
The child whom Jesus selected to illustrate his parable, and upon whom He endowed a spark of divinity with the touch of his hand, was a child named Ignatius, who thereafter grew up in the sacred company of the Apostles of the Lord and went on to become one of the most venerated of all our saints.

Saint Ignatius was a disciple of the Apostle John, the Theologian, together with St. Polycarp of Smyrna. Later, as bishop in Antioch, he governed the Church of God as a good shepherd. He' s attributed with the practice of antiphonal singing (by two choirs) during church services. He had seen a vision of the angels in heaven alternately singing praises to God, and divided his church choir to follow this example.
In the time of persecutions he was a source of strength to the souls of his flock. He was also eager himself to suffer for Christ.

In the year 106 A.D. the Emperor Trajan (98-117), after his victory over the Scythians, ordered everyone to give thanks to the pagan gods. Any Christians who refused to worship the idols were put to death. 
A year later, Trajan happened to pass through Antioch. Here, they told him that Bishop Ignatius openly confessed Christ, and taught people to scorn riches, lead a virtuous life, and preserve their virginity. 
 Saint Ignatius came voluntarily before the emperor, so that his flock of Christians in Antioch would be spared persecution. He rejected the persistent requests of the Emperor Trajan to sacrifice to the idols. 
The emperor then decided to send him to Rome to be thrown to the wild beasts in the coliseum.
Saint Ignatius rejoiced to be suffering for his Lord, and prayed to God that the wild beasts should be the tomb for his body, and that no one should hinder his death.
His readiness for martyrdom was attested to by eyewitnesses, who accompanied
Saint Ignatius from Antioch to Rome.
On the way to Rome, the ship sailed from Seleucia stopped at Smyrna, where Saint Ignatius met with his friend Bishop Polycarp. Clergy and believers from other cities and towns thronged to see saint Ignatius. He exhorted everyone not to fear death and not to grieve for him. In his Epistle to the Roman Christians, he asked them to assist him with their prayers, and to pray so that God would strengthen him in his impending martyrdom for Christ: 
“I seek Him Who died for us; I desire Him Who rose for our salvation... In me, desire has been nailed to the cross, and no flame of material longing is left. Only the living water speaks within me, saying, ‘Hasten to the Father.’”
From Smyrna, Saint Ignatius went to Troas. Here he heard the happy news of the end of the persecution against Christians in Antioch.
Then, from Troas sailed to Neapolis (in Macedonia) and then to Philippi.
On the way to Rome Saint Ignatius visited several churches, teaching and guiding the Christians there. The Roman Christians met Saint Ignatius with great joy and profound sorrow. Some of them hoped to prevent his execution, but Saint Ignatius implored them not to do this. Kneeling down, he prayed together with the believers for the Church, for love between the brethren, and for an end to the persecution against Christians.
On December 20th, the day of a pagan festival, the soldiers led  Saint Ignatius into the arena, and he turned to the people: 
“Men of Rome, you know that I am sentenced to death, not because of any crime, but because of my love for God, by Whose love, I am embraced. I long to be with Him, and offer myself to Him as a pure loaf, made of fine wheat, ground fine by the teeth of wild beasts.” 
After this, the lions were released and tore him to pieces, leaving only a few of the larger bones ...and his heart.
Tradition says that on the way to his execution, Saint Ignatius unceasingly repeated the name of Jesus Christ. When they asked him why he was doing this, Saint Ignatius answered that this Name was written in his heart, and that he confessed with his lips, Him Whom he always carried within.
When the saint was devoured by the lions, his heart was not touched. When they cut open the heart, the pagans saw an inscription in gold letters: 
 “Jesus Christ.”
After his execution Saint Ignatius appeared to many of the faithful in their sleep to comfort them, and some saw him praying for the city of Rome. Hearing of the saint’s great courage, Trajan thought well of him and stopped the persecution against the Christians.