Today's Saint (February 1): Ignatius of Antioch
Ignatius (c. 35 - c. 107) was the Bishop of Antioch. He was martyred in Rome, during the persucution of Trajan, being thrown to the wild beasts at the public "games" of the time.
While being taken to Rome - which took several months - he wrote a series encouraging letters to the churches under his care. Many of the letters have survived to our day, including a farewell letter of advice to Polycarp.
Pious legend has it that he was the infant that Jesus took into his arms in Mark 9.
Another letter was written to the Christians in Rome, in anticipation of his impending arrival, in which he implored them not to intercede on his behalf.
Here is more of that letter...
"I am writing to all the churches to let it be known that I will gladly die for God if only you do not stand in my way. I plead with you: show me no untimely kindness.
"Let me be food for the wild beasts, for they are my way to God. I am God’s wheat and bread. Pray to Christ for me that the animals will be the means of making me a sacrificial victim for God.
"No earthly pleasures, no kingdoms of this world can benefit me in any way. I prefer death in Christ Jesus to power over the farthest limits of the earth. He who died in place of us is the one object of my quest. He who rose for our sakes is my one desire.
"The prince of this world is determined to lay hold of me and to undermine my will which is intent on God. Let none of you here help him; instead show yourselves on my side, which is also God’s side. Believe instead what I am now writing to you. For though I am alive as I write to you, still my real desire is to die.
"My love of this life has been crucified, and there is no yearning in me for any earthly thing. Rather within me is the living water which says deep inside me: 'Come to the Father.'
"I no longer take pleasure in perishable food or in the delights of this world. I want only God’s bread, which is the flesh of Jesus Christ, formed from the seed of David, and for drink I crave his blood, which is love that cannot perish. Pray for me that I may obtain my desire.
"I have not written to you as a mere man would, but as one who knows the mind of God."
As Ignatius did, so may we also come to embrace the truth that "nothing shall separate us from the love of Christ." (The day's epistle from Romans 8, page E 22, People's Anglican Missal)
Books Worth Considering
The Treasury of Saints and Martyrs
Fox's Book of Martyrs
Their Blood Cries Out
Reason Is Beguiled: On the Mystery of Martyrdom and of Total Self Gift
By Their Blood: Christian Martyrs of the Twentieth Century
Ignatius of Antioch & Polycarp of Smyrna (Early Christian Fathers)
Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church
The Concise Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church