Lives of Saints - Holy Great Martyr Ignatius the Godbearer Christianity - Books
I tell you, my friends, don't be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do.                But I will warn you whom you should fear. Fear him, who after he has killed, has power to cast into Gehenna. Yes, I tell you, fear him.                Aren't five sparrows sold for two assaria coins? Not one of them is forgotten by God.                But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Therefore don't be afraid. You are of more value than many sparrows.                I tell you, everyone who confesses me before men, him will the Son of Man also confess before the angels of God;                but he who denies me in the presence of men will be denied in the presence of the angels of God.               
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Lives of Saints - Holy Great Martyr Ignatius the Godbearer

Holy Great Martyr Ignatius the Godbearer

The heritage of Saint Ignatius the Godbearer is of special importance to us because he was closely in touch with the apostles, heard them preaching Christianity and was a witness to the expansion and development of the first Christian communities. His seven letters are a depiction of the apostolic era for us.

Saint Ignatius was born in Syria during the last years of the Savior’s life. From the story of his life we know that he was that very child who was picked up by the Lord and placed among the apostles saying: " I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven" (Math.18:3) He was called the Godbearer because he loved the Lord so devotedly that he always carried His name in his heart and on his lips. He was later a disciple of the apostle St. John the Theologian, together with Polycarp, the Bishop of Smyrna. As we can see from the letter of St. Ignatius to the Smirna citizens, he was especially close to apostle Peter and accompanied him on some of the apostle’s missionary trips. In 72 shortly before Jerusalem was destroyed, Evod, one of 70 disciples of Christ, died, and St. Ignatius succeeded him as a bishop at the cathedra of Antioch, the capital of Syria.

Saint Ignatius headed the Antioch church for 40 years (76-107). In a special vision he was granted the honor of witnessing heavenly sermons and hearing the angels sing in a choir. According to what he saw in that vision he introduced the antiphonal singing into the Church, in which two choirs alternate and as if call to one another. That kind of singing spread quickly from Syria to other domains of the early Church.

In 107 when the emperor Trajan launched a military campaign against Armenians and was passing through Antioch on his way there, Ignatius was reported to him as a preacher confessing Christ, teaching to despise wealth, retain purity and not make sacrifices to the Roman gods. The emperor summoned the holy man and ordered him to stop preaching Christianity and urged him to offer sacrifice to idols, so that he could be made a senator. The Emperor’s urgings and threats were in vain, holy Ignatius was ordered to be put in fetters and sent to Rome escorted by ten soldiers. There he was to be thrown to the wild beasts in the Coliseum to entertain the public. The seven letters that he wrote on his way to Rome came down to our days. In those messages to Christians, Saint Ignatius asks them not to make attempts to save him from death, "I entreat you not to render me your love at this inappropriate time. Leave me to be the food of the beasts, so that I could reach God through them. I am God’s wheat. Let the teeth of wild animals grind it for me to become a pure bread of Christ." Having heard of Saint Ignatius’s endurance and courage, the emperor stopped persecuting Christians. His relics were brought to Antioch and later transfered back to Rome to be preserved in the church of Holy Martyr St. Clement, Pope of Rome.

In his letter to Eupheseans Saint Ignatius wrote, "Preserve your faith and love and be Christians in deed. Faith and Love are the alpha and omega of life. Faith is the beginning and love is the end, both being combined into the God's mission." All the other virtues proceed from them. None of those confessing the faith would sin and none of those bestowed with love would have hatred."

The day of thy glorius struggle/ heralds the One to be born by the Virgin/ for, thirsting for His presence,/ thou didst hasten to be devoured by wild beasts./ Therefore thou wast named Godbeater, O glorius Ignatius.



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