Saturday, December 19, 2009

Commemoration of our Father among the saints, the Hieromartyr Ignatius the God-bearer of Antioch

Though the calendar prescribes that St. Ignatius Theophorus (God-bearer) is to be commemorated on December 20, becuase the 20th falls on a Sunday and thus is the Sunday of the Forefathers, his feast day is moved to today, the 19th.

According to Church tradition, Ignatius was a disciple of St. John the Theologian and was even the young boy whom Christ held in his arms (Mark 9. 35). He was consecrated a bishop and several epistles to various congregations bear his name which provide earliest testimonies to the ecclesiological structure of the church being rooted in the bishop. "Where the bishop is, there is the church" is one of his most famous dicta. He died a martyr on the orders of the Emperor Trajan in 107.

From the prologue of Ohrid: This holy man is called ``the God-bearer'' because he constantly bore the name of the Living God in his heart and on his lips. According to tradition, he was thus named because he was held in the arms of God Incarnate, Jesus Christ. On a day when the Lord was teaching His disciples humility, He took a child and placed him among them, saying: Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 18:4). This child was Ignatius. Later, Ignatius was a disciple of St. John the Theologian, together with Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna. As Bishop of Antioch, Ignatius governed the Church of God as a good shepherd and was the first to introduce antiphonal chanting in the Church, in which two choirs alternate the chanting. This manner of chanting was revealed to St. Ignatius by the angels in heaven. When Emperor Trajan was passing through Antioch on his way to do battle with the Persians, he heard of Ignatius, summoned him and counseled him to offer sacrifice to the idols. If Ignatius would do so, Trajan would bestow upon him the rank of senator. As the counsels and threats of the emperor were in vain, St. Ignatius was shackled in irons and sent to Rome in the company of ten merciless soldiers, to be thrown to the wild beasts. Ignatius rejoiced in suffering for his Lord, only praying to God that the wild beasts would become the tomb for his body and that no one would prevent him from this death. After a long and difficult journey from Asia through Thrace, Macedonia and Epirus, Ignatius arrived in Rome, where he was thrown to the lions in the circus. The lions tore him to pieces and devoured him, leaving only several of the larger bones and his heart. This glorious lover of the Lord Christ suffered in the year 106 in Rome at the time of the Christ-hating Emperor Trajan. Ignatius has appeared many times from the other world and worked miracles, even to this day helping all who call upon him for help.

Through his intercessions, may Christ our true God, have mercy upon us and save us.

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