St. Ignatius of Antioch was a Church Father and 1st century martyr. The Roman authorities sought him out, forcing him to take a long over-land and water journey from present-day Turkey to Rome for a death meant to be remembered. In the midst of that journey he wrote several letters, which are defining proclamations of our faith.
Jesus as Fully Human (as well as Fully Divine)
St. Ignatius of Antioch silenced the Docetist heresy, which claimed that Jesus’ body was a mere phantasm, which masked his complete divinity. Ignatius persuaded others of Jesus’ fully human life on earth, the presence of his living flesh amidst humanity, which suffered incomprehensibly on the Cross for our sins. That follows the fullness of the doctrine of the Incarnation. Christ incarnate meant Christ fully present in human form, while simultaneously divine.
Jesus as Fully Present in the Eucharist
Logically following the fullness of the incarnation is the Doctrine of the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. According to St. Ignatius of Antioch, the Docetists, “hold aloof from the Eucharist and from services of prayer, because they refuse to admit that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Saviour Jesus Christ, which suffered for our sins and which, in his goodness, the Father raised. Consequently those who wrangle and dispute God’s gift face death.” St. Ignatius called the Eucharist “the medicine of immortality.” Those who deny the Real Presence, and who abstain from receiving Our Lord, not only miss the point, but they miss the mark of Heaven.
The Catholic Church as Universal & St. Peter is its Rock
St. Ignatius of Antioch lived at the pivot-point for Christian missionary work in Turkey (Asia Minor). St. Paul took the Gospel to the Gentiles in this dry land. St. Peter worked vigorously to preach the faith there as well.
From this outpost, St. Ignatius called the Catholic Church universal in scope. He called Peter its leader. And he proclaimed the Roman Church “first in love.” Unfortunately, the East-West Schism (1054), which separated the Catholic Church of Rome from the Eastern Churches, also has origin and ongoing legacy in Antioch. Let’s pray to St. Ignatius of Antioch to intercede for the full communion between the western and eastern churches.
St. Ignatius of Antioch as Martyr
This journey that St. Ignatius of Antioch, from Turkey to Rome, took long enough for him to leave us seven vital letters, which earned him the title of Church Father. His letters shored up essentials of the faith, against heretics who denied Christ’s dual nature as fully human and fully divine and who denied the saving power of Our Lord’s True Presence in the Eucharist. He affirmed the universality of the Catholic Church, and Peter’s primacy, with the Roman Church “first in love.”
As he reached the gates of Rome, St. Ignatius of Antioch was thrown to the lions, with full spectacle. Emperor Trajan wanted to show the Roman world that he would “wipe out” Christianity from all corners of the Empire.
St. Ignatius of Antioch had the last word:
I am the wheat of God. Let me be ground by the teeth of the wild beasts, that I may be found the pure bread of Christ.
St. Ignatius of Antioch, pray for us, that we grasp the fullness of the Faith and rely on Christ to sustain us in His Eucharistic Presence. And we pray that “we all may be one.”