Saint Ignatius of Antioch, Bishop, Martyr (50-107). Feast Day: 17Oct.
Born in Syria, Ignatius, whose name comes from ‘ignem patiens,’ which means ‘being afire with love of God’ was a disciple of John the Evangelist and eventually became the bishop of Antioch. We read that he wrote a letter to the Blessed Virgin Mary in these terms: “To Mary the Christ-bearer, her Ignatius. You ought to strengthen and console me, a neophyte and disciple of your John, from whom I have learned many things about your Jesus, things wondrous to tell, and I am dumbfounded at hearing them. My heart’s desire is to be assured about these things that I have heard, by you who were always so intimately close to Jesus and shared his secrets. Fare you well. And let the neophytes who are with me be strengthened in the faith, by you, through you, and in you.”
The Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, answered him as follows: “To my beloved fellow disciple Ignatius, this humble handmaid of Christ Jesus. The things you have heard and learned from John are true. Believe them, hold on to them, be steadfast in carrying out your Christian commitment and shape your life and conduct on it. I will come to you with John to visit you and those who are with you. Stand firm and do manfully in the faith. Do not let the hardships of persecution shake you, and may your spirit be strong and joyful in God your salvation. Amen.”
Ignatius believed strongly that his life and death did not belong to himself alone. It was his responsibility as a bishop to strengthen the faith of his flock, and his ultimate concern was that he not give scandal by doubting the teaching of the Resurrection. “We have not only to be called Christians, but to ‘be’ Christians,” he wrote. The intense conviction that death suffered for the sake of Christ would lead to eternal life helped sustain Ignatius. In the end, Ignatius was not impeded from fulfilling his hopes. So respected was blessed Ignatius’s authority that even Dionysius, the apostle Paul’s disciple who was eminent in philosophy and supreme in divine knowledge, adduced Ignatius’s work as authoritative in confirmation of what he himself taught. We read in the “Tripartite History” that Ignatius heard angels standing on a mountain and singing the antiphons. He thereupon made it a rule that the antiphons were to be sung in the Church, and the Psalms to be intoned in accordance with the antiphons.
Ignatius is well known for the seven letters he wrote on a long and arduous journey from Antioch to Rome. Five of these letters are to churches in Asia Minor; they urge the Christians there to remain faithful to God and to obey their superiors. He warns them against heretical doctrines, providing them with the solid truths of the Christian faith. He had for a long time prayed for the peace of the Church, fearing the danger of persecution not for himself but for weak Christians. Therefore when the Emperor Trajan, who came to power in the year of the Lord 100, was returning from a victorious campaign in the East and was threatening all Christians with death, Ignatius went out to meet with him and declared openly that he was a Christian. Trajan responded by having him loaded with chains and turning him over to soldiers with orders to take him to Rome; he also warned Ignatius that in Rome he would be given to the wild beasts and eaten alive.
On the road to Rome with the emperor and his soldiers and stopping periodically along the way, Ignatius was able to meet with representatives from the local churches, some of whom traveled great distances to pray or celebrate the Eucharist with this servant of God. In one of the seven letters he wrote and addressed to Rome, he asked the faithful there not to interfere with his martyrdom. In this letter he says: “From Syria to Rome, by land and by sea, already I fight day and night with the beasts, being linked and chained to ten soldiers as savage as leopards, whose assignment is to guard me and get me to Rome. Kind treatment simply makes them more ferocious, but I learn more and more from their wickedness… O salutary beasts that are being readied for me! When will they come? When will they be turned loose? When will they be allowed to feast on my flesh? I shall invite them to devour me! I shall beg them to begin, lest they be afraid to touch my body as they have been with some others. I shall use force, I shall throw myself upon them! Pardon me, Romans, I beg of you! I know what is best for me—fire, crosses, wild beasts, my bones scattered about, limb being torn from limb and flesh from bone, all the devil’s tortures piled upon me, if only I may gain Christ!”
Upon return to Rome, Ignatius was tortured to near death by the Roman soldiers under Trajan’s orders. The emperor issued orders of torture such as “…Beat him about the shoulders with leaded scourges! Tear at his sides with nails and rub his wounds with sharp stones!” And, “Bring live coals and make him walk barefoot over them!” Furthermore, Trajan ordered “Tear his back open with hooks and pour salt in his wounds!” Ignatius only replied to Trajan’s ranting with “…Neither fiery flames nor boiling water can quench the love of Christ Jesus in me! The sufferings of this time are not worthy to be compared with the glory to come!” Three days later the emperor, the Senate, and the whole city gathered to see the bishop of Antioch in combat with the wild beasts, and Trajan said: “Since Ignatius is so haughty and hardheaded, bind him and loose two lions at him, so that there won’t be any relics left of him!” Ignatius again replied, “…I am the wheat of Christ! May I be ground fine by the teeth of the beasts, that I may be made a clean bread! It is not by my own strength that I endure all this, but by the help of Christ!” Thrown to the lions, Ignatius then began to provoke the lions, egging them on to attack him and eat him. Two savage lions therefore leapt upon him, but they only smothered him, not breaching his flesh in any way. Seeing this, Trajan’s wonder knew no bounds, and he left the scene with orders that anyone who wanted to remove the body should be allowed to do so. Christians then came and took the saint’s body and gave it honorable burial.
“The blood of the martyrs is the seed of Christianity.”—Tertullian
Ellsberg, Robert. “All Saints.” New York: Crossroad Publishing, 2010.
Foley, Leonard, O.F.M., and Pat McCloskey, O.F.M. “Saint of the Day-Updated and Expanded.” Cincinnati: Franciscan Media, 2013.
Voragine, Jacobus de. “The Golden Legend-Readings on the Saints-Volume I.” Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1993.
‘Abdu’l-Bahá explains: Water is the cause of life, and when Christ speaks of water, He is symbolizing that which is the cause of Everlasting Life. Paris Talks, p. 82.
In The Kitáb-i-Íqán, Bahá’u’lláh quotes this verse: Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. John 3:5-6
Bahá’u’lláh then provides this explanation: The purport of these words is that whosoever in every dispensation is born of the Spirit and is quickened by the breath of the Manifestation of Holiness, he verily is of those that have attained unto “life” and “resurrection” and have entered into the “paradise” of the love of God. And whosoever is not of them, is condemned to “death” and “deprivation,” to the “fire” of unbelief, and to the “wrath” of God. In all the scriptures, the books and chronicles, the sentence of death, of fire, of blindness, of want of understanding and hearing, hath been pronounced against those whose lips have tasted not the ethereal cup of true knowledge, and whose hearts have been deprived of the grace of the holy Spirit in their day. Even as it hath been previously recorded: “Hearts have they with which they understand not.”
Obviously “water” in the preceding passage is not literal water, but the water of life, the divine bounties or forces that sustain the spirit.
In the Scriptures, we find various expressions conveying such a meaning, expressions such as living water (Zech. 14:8-9), river of life (Rev. 22:1-3), and water of life (John 4:11-15; Rev. 22:17), all referring to the life-giving powers of spirit.
For more information about the Bahá’í Faith, visit www.bahai.org or call 1-800-228-6483, or for books regarding Bahá’í faith stop by the Show Low library.
It was all right to heal the sick, raise the dead, cast out demons, still storms, preach righteousness, and announce the kingdom; but where was the judgment? Had the corruptions and cruelties of Caesar been abruptly shut down? Had the hypocritical temple leaders been banished? Had the disgusting corruptions of Herod Antipas been confronted? Why was he, John the Baptist, languishing in the stifling heat of the prison at Machaerus fortress for challenging the morals of Herod, while Jesus the alleged Messiah did nothing about this injustice?
As far as John could see, the world was as wicked as it was before Jesus began his ministry. Isn’t that a reasonable objection even now? Jews believe, “when the Messiah comes there will be justice.”
It is worth noting in Matthew 11 Jesus did not condemn John the Baptist for his doubt, any more than God condemned Elijah for his breakdown after the victory on Mount Carmel. The reason, of course, is that doubt is not unbelief. It is something midway between faith and unbelief. Os Guinness called it being “in two minds.” Doubt is a common, natural state for human beings, who never see the whole picture and whose thinking is often clouded by their physical condition or circumstances. Instead of condemning John, Jesus ministered to him from the Bible, reminding him of the messianic passages that had been fulfilled. Then, when John’s disciples were on their way back to the prison, Jesus praised John to the people.
Jesus’ answer to John is a reference to Isaiah 35.5-6 and 61.1-2, with possible allusions to Isaiah 26.19 and 29.18–19. The best known of these four texts is Isaiah 61.1-2, because it is the passage Jesus took as the basis for His first sermon in the synagogue at Nazareth: “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach Good News to the poor. He sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
All these passages describe physical miracles such as giving sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, movement to people who are paralyzed, restoring the dead to life, and helping the poor. They are all explicitly messianic texts. But the interesting thing is that all four of these passages also go on to speak of a work of messianic judgment, the very thing John had been proclaiming, but which Jesus pointedly leaves out. This was most obvious in Nazareth where Jesus stopped his reading of Isaiah 61 just before the words “and the day of vengeance of our God.”
Why did Jesus stop at this point? Obviously, because this was not the object of His ministry at this time. One day He would come in judgment and the second half of the prophecies would be fulfilled. But for now, His goal was to teach the Bible, preach the Gospel, and heal the sick. In other words, the days in which we live are to be days of God’s favor, days of grace.
We had better be glad they are! Because if it is judgment we want, it is judgment we will get, and judgment will destroy us. It is not justice we need, it is salvation. We need grace. We need grace to believe on Jesus as the Savior He is and to cling to Him in spite of the evil we see around us and the things we cannot fully understand. This is the point of Jesus’ last words to John, a blessing that was a warning at the same time: “Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.” These words acknowledge John’s good start; he was one who had faith in Jesus. But he must persist to the end, as must all Christ’s followers. The day of God’s judgment will come. We can wait for that. But while we wait we must get on with the job of proclaiming Jesus Christ as Savior. This is a word for us as well as for John the Baptist.
After John’s disciples had begun to return to their imprisoned teacher, Jesus praised John to the people. He praised him as a prophet, exactly what the people had gone out into the desert to see. But, said Jesus, John was even “more than a prophet.” How so? John not only prophesied about Christ’s coming but was himself a fulfillment of prophecies about the Messiah’s forerunner. Jesus cites Malachi 3.1 with slight changes to make it a direct address of God the Father to himself. “I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.”
What made John so special is that he had the privilege of actually pointing out the Messiah, which none of his predecessors had done. John did no miracles, but he was greater than any of the earlier prophets (or anyone else who had come before him) simply because he had the job of announcing and then actually identifying Jesus as the Christ.
This must have been a startling statement to people who knew of such Old Testament giants as Abraham, Moses, and David, not to mention Elijah, whom John resembled, who did great miracles. However, in the next breath Jesus says something even more startling than this. He said that in spite of John’s greatness, “he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” How can that be? How can the least gifted, least significant, least prominent, least outspoken of today’s believers be greater than this greatest of Old Testament figures, and therefore greater also than all the others? For this reason: because they can point to Jesus and witness to His work more clearly than even John could.
Maranatha! (mar-uh-nath-uh – “Our Lord Comes”)
Pastor Steve can be reached at PastorSteve@MaranathaBibleChurch.org
Math was not my best subject in school, but over the years, I have become more appreciative of the part numbers play in God’s creation.
Think about it: we have two eyes, two ears, two arms...hands...legs and feet. Earth time is divided into two phases, day and night; there are male and female humans, and atomic structure has positive and negative charges.
Then, we have a body, soul and spirit, and God Himself is a Holy Trinity. Sacred geometry shows the triangle as the most divine shape, overlaying a circle, and touching the numbers 3-6- and 9 (1 Thess.5.23; Matt.28.19).
Dicotyledons have flowers of five peddles; We have five fingers on a hand, and five toes on a foot; we have five senses. The number of man is six because we were created on the sixth day. There are seven days in a week; the rainbow has seven true colors.
Most interesting in biblical numerology is the number 9. The mathematical finger print of God is 3 x 3 = 9. A circle has 360 degrees (3+6+0=9). A triangle has 180 degrees (1+8+0=9). A square has 360 degrees (3+6+0=9). A hexagon has 720 degrees (7+2+0=9).
Jesus Christ died at the 9th hour on Calvary’s Cross, and He appears nine times after His resurrection. There are nine spiritual gifts and nine “fruits of the Spirit” listed in the Bible (1 Cor.12.8-10; Gal.5.22,23).
All this is by way of saying that God’s the major mathematician. Evidently that’s what Nikola Tesla understood when he is reputed to have said: “If you knew the magnificence of the three, six and nine, you would have a key to the universe.”
Yet, in the midst of such “intelligent design” there are those who scoff at a Creator God who applies mathematics.
But God, designed a universe of mathematical elegance. “Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand, and marked off the heavens by the span, and calculated the dust of the earth by the measure, and weighed the mountains in a balance, and the hills in a pair of scales” (Isa.40.12). “And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together” (Col.1.17). He is the One who “multiplied the loaves and the fishes” by exponential numbers, and He is the One who “numbers our days” (Matt. 14.13-21; Job 14.5).
Hebrew numerology (Gematria) established a mathematical relationship between the letters in the Hebrew alphabet and numbers. Thus, a code was recognized from which greater meaning is derived.
“Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for the number is that of man; and his number is six hundred and sixty-six” (Rev.13.18).
Tom Brown is the pastor of New Hope Christian Fellowship