Friday, March 22, 2013

Ignatius to the Romans - I am ready to die

This is a continuation of my series on Ignatius and the seven letters he wrote while on his way to be martyred in Rome. If you are unfamiliar with Ignatius, you may want to start with the introduction to this series.

Ignatius' trip to Rome had not been easy. There were dangers from the journey and from his captors.
"From Syria even unto Rome I fight with beasts, both by land and sea, both by night and day, being bound to ten leopards, I mean a band of soldiers, who, even when they receive benefits, show themselves all the worse. But I am the more instructed by their injuries [to act as a disciple of Christ]; 'yet am I not thereby justified.' " (Ignatius to the Romans, Chapter 5)
His captors were cruel to him and, even when provided with benefit for their service in the journey, they seemed to be only made worse. However, even in this, Ignatius did not fail to see the hand of God for to him the rough treatment was simply preparation for what he was to experience when he reached Rome.

Ignatius also expressed his hope that his death amongst lions would be swift and complete, that they would not tarry in his death, lest his resolve be further tested in the arena.
"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." (Ignatius to the Romans, Chapter 5)
His greatest fear was that he would some how fail to complete his course; that if death was not swift, that he might ideas other than the completion of his calling in God. In his mind, whatever happened from here out would be worth it so long as he could complete his course and, in the end, come to Christ.
"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." (Ignatius to the Romans, Chapter 5)
When Ignatius write of "attaining to Jesus" I believe that he is speaking of becoming a Christian or even becoming worthy of being a Christian. I believe that he is speaking of attaining Christ in two senses. First in attaining to Christ in His likeness. Ignatius refers to starting to be His disciple in that he is following the same path as his savior. "It is enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher, and the slave like his master." (Matthew 10:25) Secondly, I believe he is speaking of arriving into the presence of his savior, something that only death can bring. "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain." (Philippians 1:21) Ignatius was done with this world and ready to meet his maker whom he loved dearly.

David Robison

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