Today in the traditional Roman calendar is the feast of St. Ignatius of Antioch. I had the opportunity a few days ago to attend his feast in a local Melkite Greek-Catholic Monastery. Growing up, we always heard of the early Christian martyrs in Rome but never discussed them in any great detail as Presbyterians. We knew people were killed for Christ, but that was it. It wasn’t until I was 26 and interested in the Church did I read of St. Ignatius or those like him.
From today’s Matin’s reading (scraped from DivinumOfficium.com)
From the book of St. Jerome, Presbyter (priest), on the Ecclesiastical writers.
Ignatius was the third Bishop of Antioch after the Apostle Peter. When Trajan stirred up his persecution, he was condemned to be devoured by wild beasts, and sent to Rome in chains. When on his journey thither he arrived at Smyrna, where Polycarp, the disciple of John, was Bishop, he wrote an Epistle to the Ephesians, another to the Magnesians, a third to the Trallians, and a fourth to the Romans and after leaving Smyrna, he addressed a further Epistle to the Philadelphians, and another to the Smyrnians, along with a private Epistle to Polycarp, to whose care he commended the Church of Antioch. In this last he quoteth a passage regarding the Person of Christ from the Gospel, which I have recently translated.
“It is fitting that, as we have made mention of a man of so much importance, we should also note briefly the Epistle which he addressed to the Romans. I am on my way, saith he, from Syria to Rome, and am already fighting with beasts on sea and on land all the way. I may say I am chained day and night to ten leopards, for indeed the soldiers, who have charge of me, are no better. The more courteous I am to them, the worse they use me. But still their wickedness is good schooling for me, though I know that my mere sufferings cannot in themselves gain me justification. I earnestly wish for the beasts which are to devour me; at any rate, I pray they may put me out of pain quickly, and ( fly on me willingly, that I be not like some other Martyrs, whose bodies the animals have refused to touch. If I find that they will not come on, I will run at them as quick as I can, to make them devour me. Let me be, my little children I know what is good for me.
I feel now that I am beginning to be Christ's disciple; I desire none of those things which are seen, if so be I may find Christ Jesus. I care not that there come upon me fire, or cross, or wild beasts, or breaking of my bones, or sundering of my members, or destruction of my whole body, yea, or all the torments of the devil, if only so be I may win Christ. “
When he was brought condemned to the theatre, and heard the roaring of the beasts which were to devour him, he felt so strong an eagerness to suffer, that he cried out I am Christ's wheat, and so let the beasts' teeth be my mill, that I may be ground, and be found to make good bread. He suffered in the eleventh year of Trajan. What was left of his body lieth at Antioch, in the graveyard outside the gate which leadeth toward Daphne.