Feast of Saint Ignatius of Antioch
Today the Universal (Catholic) Church celebrates the life and heroic virtue of Saint Ignatius. He was born around 50 AD and was martyred for the faith in Rome between 98 and 117 AD. His writings are instrumental in understanding some of the early beliefs of the early Christians just one generation after the apostles. Because he was a disciple of Saint John, the one whom Jesus loved, his writings, though not canonical, take on a deep and special significance for those who desire to understand the heart and mind of the Church so early in its beginnings. From his writings we know:
- The early Church was hierarchical and called "Catholic":
"Take care to do all things in harmony with God, with the bishop presiding in the place of God, and with the presbyters in the place of the council of the apostles, and with the deacons, who are most dear to me, entrusted with the business of Jesus Christ, who was with the Father from the beginning and is at last made manifest" (Letter to the Magnesians 2, 6:1)
"Wherever the bishop appears, there let the people be; as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church. It is not lawful to baptize or give communion without the consent of the bishop. On the other hand, whatever has his approval is pleasing to God. Thus, whatever is done will be safe and valid." (Letter to the Smyrnaeans )
- The church believed and taught that Jesus was God:
"There is one Physician who is possessed both of flesh and spirit; both made and not made; God existing in flesh; true life in death; both of Mary and of God; first passible and then impassible, even Jesus Christ our Lord." (Letter to the Ephesians, ch. 7)
- The early Christians believed as the apostle John must have taught Ignatius that the Eucharist was indeed the body and blood of Christ and not a symbol representation of the events of the Last Supper.
"Take note of those who hold heterodox opinions on the grace of Jesus Christ which has come to us, and see how contrary their opinions are to the mind of God ... They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, flesh which suffered for our sins and which that Father, in his goodness, raised up again. They who deny the gift of God are perishing in their disputes." (Letter to the Smyrnaeans)
To learn more about Saint Ignatius and the Eucharist see this story here.