Saint Ignatius Theophorus (“God-bearer”) was the third bishop of Antioch. The name Theophorus was given to him because he carried God in his heart and on his lips. He reposed in the Lord in 107, during the persecution of the Christians by the Romans, being devoured by lions. He wrote seven epistles, for which he is considered one of the most important Apostolic Fathers.
He wrote some of the loftiest words ever uttered by a human being. One of the highest expressions of the love for God. We render them here for their beauty and because this month, on the 20th, we celebrated his “birth” into the kingdom of God, as he himself said. They are the words through which he was trying to convince the Christians from Rome not to appeal to the authorities for his amnesty.
Epistle to the Romans
May I enjoy the wild beasts that are prepared for me; and I pray 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. But if they be unwilling to assail me, I will compel them to do so. Pardon me [in this]: I know what is for my benefit. Now I begin to be a disciple. And let no one, of things visible or invisible, envy me that I should attain to Jesus Christ. Let fire and the cross; let the crowds of wild beasts; let tearings, breakings, and dislocations of bones; let cutting off of members; let shatterings of the whole body; and let all the dreadful torments of the devil come upon me: only let me attain to Jesus Christ.
All the pleasures of the world, and all the kingdoms of this earth, shall profit me nothing. It is better for me to die in behalf of Jesus Christ, than to reign over all the ends of the earth. Him I seek, who died for us: Him I desire, who rose again for our sake. This is the gain which is laid up for me. Pardon me, brethren: do not hinder me in attaining to life; for Jesus is the life of believers. Do not wish to keep me in a state of death, for life without Christ is death. While I desire to belong to God, do not ye give me over to the world. Suffer me to obtain pure light: when I have gone thither, I shall indeed be a man of God. Permit me to be an imitator of the passion of my God. If anyone has Him within himself, let him consider what I desire, and let him have sympathy with me, as knowing how I am straitened.