Fr. Bloomfield's Blog

I am a Roman Catholic Priest of the Archdiocese of Detroit, currently assigned to Divine Child Parish in Dearborn, Michigan. When I manage to keep the page updated, hopefully something interesting can be found here!

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Faith Seeking Understanding for August 13, 2006

Although St. Ignatius of Antioch is older than St. Polycarp, we examined Polycarp’s letter and martyrdom last week to set the stage for examining the life, writings, and martyrdom of Ignatius today. Legend says that Ignatius was the little child our Lord placed in front of the Apostles in Mark 9:36 The legend cannot be proven, but it is certain that he was a direct disciple of St. John the Apostle and therefore another ancient witness to the teaching of the Apostles and the Early Church. Ignatius was the third bishop of Antioch (in southwestern Turkey), after St. Peter and Evodius. He was martyred in Rome between 98 and 117 A.D. during Trajan’s persecution; his feast day is October 17th.

Seven of the fifteen letters that bear Ignatius’ name are clearly authentic; these he wrote to the Churches in Philippi (Macedonia), Ephesus (Turkey), Magnesia (Central Greece), Tralles (modern Aydin, Turkey), Rome (Italy), Philadelphia (modern Alasehir, Turkey), and Smyrna (modern Izmir, Turkey). He also wrote a letter to Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna. Throughout his letters, he urges unity among the Christian faithful and their bishop, as a successor of the apostles.

Ignatius’ letters, above all, testify to the very early understanding of hierarchy in the Church. He mentions the orders of bishop, presbyter (priest), and deacon as a universal practice of the Church: “Beloved, be careful to be subject to the bishop, and the presbyters, and the deacons. For he that is subject to these is obedient to Christ, who has appointed them; but he that is disobedient to these is disobedient to Christ Jesus” (Ephesians, ch. 5).

The bishop is not just the representative of Christ, but also the representative of the Church: “Since, then, I have had the privilege of seeing you through Damas your most worthy bishop, and through your worthy presbyters Bassus and Apollonius, and through my fellow-servant the deacon Sotio, whose friendship may I ever enjoy, inasmuch as he, by the grace of God, is subject to the bishop and presbytery, in the law of Jesus Christ” (Magnesians, ch. 2).

Obedience to and unity with the bishop is a hallmark of the Faith: “As therefore the Lord foes nothing without the Father, for says He, ‘I can of my own self do nothing,’ so do you neither presbyter, nor deacon, nor layman, do anything without the bishop” (Magnesians, ch. 7). To the Trallians, he writes: “It is therefore necessary, whatsoever things you do, to do nothing without the bishop. And be subject also to the presbytery, as to the apostles of Jesus Christ, who is our hope, in whom, if we live, we shall be found in Him. It behooves you also, in every way, to please the deacons, who are ministers of the mysteries of Christ Jesus” (Trallians, ch. 2).

Sunday (the Lord’s Day) is to be celebrated as a weekly reminder of the Paschal Mystery: “Let every friend of Christ keep the Lord’s Day as a festival, the resurrection-day, the queen and chief of all the days” (Magnesians, ch. 9).

During his letters, Ignatius reveals his status as a prisoner for the Faith several times, but always with great joy: “For [Christ Jesus] is my hope; He is my boast; He is my never-failing riches, on whose account I bear about with me these bonds from Syria to Rome, these spiritual jewels in which may I be perfected through your prayers, and become a partaker of the sufferings of Christ, and have fellowship with Him in His death, His resurrection from the dead, and His everlasting life” (Ephesians, ch. 11).

His desire for martyrdom is evident: “Suffer 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 am ground by the teeth of the wild beasts, that I may be found the pure bread of God. … Then shall I be a true disciple of Jesus Christ, when the world shall not see so much as my body. … When I suffer, I shall be the freedman of Jesus Christ, and shall rise again emancipated in him” (Romans, ch. 4).

Since his writings are so important, we will continue to explore St. Ignatius of Antioch in next week’s article as well.

On Tuesday, August 15, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which is a Holy Day of Obligation. We will celebrate Mass at St. John Neumann at 9:00 am and 7:00 pm for the Feast. God bless you all!