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 27, 2006

Faith Seeking Understanding for August 20, 2006

Due to the wedding, I was out of town; sorry for the delayed posts...

Faith Seeking Understanding for August 20, 2006

This week, we continue to explore the letters of St. Ignatius of Antioch, bishop and martyr. Longing for martyrdom, he writes to the Romans: “For though I am alive while I write to you, yet I am eager to die for the sake of Christ. My love has been crucified, and there is no fire in me that loves anything; but there is living water springing up in me, and which says to me inwardly, Come to the Father” (Romans, ch. 7).

To some, Ignatius’ words may seem extreme, even foolish, in his desires: “May I enjoy the wild beasts that are prepared for me; and I pray that they may be found eager to rush upon me, which also I will entice to devour me speedily, and not deal with me as with some, whom, out of fear, they have not touched. … Pardon me [in this]: I know what is for my benefit. Now I begin to be a disciple, and have no desire after anything visible or invisible, that I may attain to Jesus Christ. Let fire and the cross; let the crowds of wild beasts; let breakings, tearings, and separation of bones; let cutting off of members; let bruising to pieces of the whole body; and let the very torment of the devil come upon me: only let me attain to Jesus Christ” (Romans, ch. 5).

How is it that Ignatius can speak with such disregard for his life? He reminds the Romans, and us: “All the ends of the world, and all the kingdoms of the earth, shall profit me nothing. It is better for me to die for the sake of Jesus Christ, than to reign over all the ends of the earth. … Permit me to be an imitator of the passion of Christ, my God” (Romans, ch. 6). St. Ignatius serves as a bold witness to the eternal value of martyrdom, especially in contrast to societies that only see value in the material world.

Unlike his other letters, Ignatius begins his Letter to the Romans with a lengthy introduction, describing and praising the Roman Church: “Ignatius, who is also called Theophorus, to the Church which has obtained mercy, through the majesty of the Most High God the Father, and of Jesus Christ, His only-begotten Son; the Church which is sanctified and enlightened by the will of God, who formed all things that are according to the faith and love of Jesus Christ, our God and Savior; the Church which presides in the place of the region of the Romans, and which is worthy of God, worthy of honor, worthy of the highest happiness, worthy of praise, worthy of credit, worthy of being deemed holy, and which presides over love” (Romans, intro.). A clear primacy of the Church of Rome existed, even from the end of the first century.

St. Ignatius has a clear love for the Eucharist as well; he defends the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, and teaches the Church in Philadelphia that the Eucharist is not only the sign of unity among Christians, It also is the cause of that unity. He writes: “[I] exhort you to have but one faith, and one preaching, and one Eucharist. For there is one flesh of the Lord Jesus Christ; and His blood which was shed for us is one; one loaf also is broken to all, and one cup is distributed among them all: there is but one altar for the whole Church, and one bishop, with the presbytery and deacons, my fellow-servants” (Philadelphians, ch. 4). Again, he writes: “Let that be deemed a proper Eucharist, which is [administered] either by the bishop, or by one to whom he has entrusted it” (Smyrnæans, ch. 8).

Finally, he writes cautions against heresy in several of his letters. Just as St. Polycarp faced the Docetists, Ignatius, too, was concerned that such Gnostics falsehoods not corrupt and destroy the Faith of the young Church. “Stop your ears,” he writes, “when any one speaks to you at variance with Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who was descended from David, and was also of Mary; who was truly begotten of God and of the Virgin, but not after the same manner” (Trallians, ch. 9). After proclaiming the same truths found in the Apostles’ Creed, Ignatius continues: “If, as some that are without God, that is the unbelieving, say, He became man in appearance [only], that He did not in reality take unto Him a body, that He died in appearance [merely], and did not in very deed suffer, than for what reason am I now in bonds...? In such a case, I die in vain” (Trallians, ch. 10).

His final letter to Polycarp is filled with tender affection for his student, and with the firmness and conviction of passing on the Faith: “I also am the more encouraged, resting without anxiety in God, if indeed by means of suffering I may attain to God, so that through your prayers, I may be found a disciple. … I trust that, through grace, you are prepared for every good work pertaining to God” (Polycarp, ch. 7).

Next week, we will examine the Epistle of Barnabas. God bless you!