From a letter by Ignatius of Antioch to the church in Magnesia:
We should then really live as Christians and not merely have the name …
All things have an end, and two things, life and death, are side by side set before us, and each man will go to his own place … unbelievers bear the image of this world, and those who have faith with love bear the image of God the Father through Jesus Christ.
Unless we are ready through his power to die in the likeness of his passion, his life is not in us.
- St. Ignatius of Antioch, marching towards execution
Today it is so easy for us (at least it is for me) to get very caught up in building a company, working through struggles in the family, even thinking about whether it’s too late to “save” the lawn from this year’s summer heat by turning on the sprinklers.
Or maybe fixating on the newest iPhone or Blackberry (mea culpa) … stuff that we know is only going to matter to us for a few months, or perhaps a year at best.
Yet it has always been so – easily preoccupied to the point of distractions by all sorts of things that aren’t worthy of that sort of attention.
For example, St. Peter used the image (1 Peter 1: 23-25) of how quickly grass “withers and fades” to turn our eyes away from what seems so important … to the things that last.
Back to St. Ignatius
So with that in mind, let’s go back to the short selection quoted above. The letter itself was taken from the second reading in this morning’s Office of the Readings (first part of the Liturgy of the Hours), and was probably written about 107 or 108.
Just in case you’re tempted to dismiss his encouragement as abstract ramblings, just so much theoretical knowledge or perhaps simply theological flights of fancy, understand that when he wrote this letter St. Ignatius was on a two year journey to his death.
Traveling in chains with ten or so Roman soldiers, St. Ignatius (the bishop of Antioch) frequently met with groups of Christians to offer encouragement. He also wrote a few letters, of which seven have survived from this remarkable journey.
Though not quite rising to the levels of canonicity, these letters are worthy of study and reflection. St. Ignatius had the impending reality of cruel martyrdom to help him get his priorities straight, to motivate him to break from the drudgery of walking halfway around the world in chains and simply think about what really mattered.
Even in this very short quote, he calls any who dare call ourselves Christian to a very high standard … We should then really live as Christians and not merely have the name … Unless we are ready through his power to die in the likeness of his passion, his life is not in us.
Now that’s intense.
Things that Last
So today, perhaps with the help of St. Ignatius let’s ask God to turn our heart towards Him, towards the things that last.
May our hearts be open to the change needed so that we are not merely Christians in name, but in fact. Not only in words, but in deed …
and begin to savor real joy.