Lives of Saints - Holy Great Martyr Ignatius the Godbearer Christianity - Books
And if thy hand cause thee to stumble, cut it off: it is good for thee to enter into life maimed, rather than having thy two hands to go into hell, into the unquenchable fire.                where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.                And if thy foot cause thee to stumble, cut it off: it is good for thee to enter into life halt, rather than having thy two feet to be cast into hell, where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.                And if thine eye cause thee to stumble, cast it out: it is good for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell;                where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.               
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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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