Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Ignatius of Antioch on the Cross

St Ignatius of Antioch, who is commemorated today on the new calendar, was martyred in Rome around 115, some eighty years after Christ's crucifixion. On Ignatius' journey across the Mediterranean from Antioch to Rome to face his own martyrdom, he wrote several letters to the Churches that he had visited along the way. In these letters, we see an unparalleled devotion to the passion and death of Christ.

We see a man who though facing death can find glory in the cross. A man, who though a bishop of the church, prays that the example of Christ's passion will give him strength to face his own test in Rome. Ignatius tells the church at Ephesus that they are being made fit stones for the temple of the Father and are being set into place by the cross of Christ as by an engine. He goes on to say:

Why do we suffer ourselves to perish; not considering the gift which the Lord has truly sent to us? Let my life be sacrificed for the doctrine of the cross which is indeed a scandal to the unbelievers, but to us is salvation and life eternal?

To Ignatius, the cross is not only the place where forgiveness was made possible. The cross is a perpetual sign of strength. Ignatius believed that as Christ bore the cross, we too can bear our crosses. The hope of the cross is two-fold: In Christ's death, we are given hope of life. But also, in Christ's obedience to death we glimpse the power that our faith can give us.

Sending a letter ahead of him to the church at Rome, Ignatius wrote,

Wherefore you can not do me a greater kindness than to suffer me to be sacrificed unto God, now that the altar is already prepared. . . Only pray for me that God would give me both inward and outward strength, that I may not only say but will; nor be only called a Christian, but be found one.