Lives of Illustrious Men – Saint Ignatius the Bishop, by Saint Jerome

[Saint Ignatius icon]Ignatius, third bishop of the church of Antioch after Peter the apostle, condemned to the wild beasts during the persecution of Trajan, was sent bound to Rome, and when he had come on his voyage as far as Smyrna, where Polycarp the pupil of John was bishop, he wrote one epistle To the Ephesians, another To the Magnesians, a third To the Trallians, a fourth To the Romans, and going thence, he wrote To the Philadelphians and To the Smyrneans, and especially To Polycarp, commending to him the church at Antioch. In this last he bore witness to the Gospel which I have recently translated, in respect of the person of Christ saying, “I indeed saw him in the flesh after the resurrection and I believe that he is,” and when he came to Peter and those who were with Peter, he said to them, “Behold! touch me and see me bow that I am not an incorporeal spirit” and straightway they touched him and believed. Moreover it seems worth while inasmuch as we have made mention of such a man and of the Epistle which he wrote to the Romans, to give a few “quotations” : “From Syria even unto Rome I fight with wild beasts, by land and by sea, by night and by day, being bound amidst ten leopards, that is to say soldiers who guard me and who only become worse when they are well treated. Their wrong doing, however is my schoolmaster, but I am not thereby justified. May I have joy of the beasts that are prepared for me; and I pray that I may find them ready; I will even coax them to devour me quickly that they may not treat me as they have some whom they have refused to touch through fear. And if they are unwilling, I will compel them to devour me. Forgive me my children, I know what is expedient for me. Now do I begin to be a disciple, and desire none of the things visible that I may attain unto Jesus Christ. Let fire and cross and attacks of wild beasts, let wrenching of bones, cutting apart of limbs, crushing of the whole body, tortures of the devil, let all these come upon me if only I may attain unto the joy which is in Christ.”

When he had been condemned to the wild beasts and with zeal for martyrdom heard the lions roaring, he said “I am the grain of Christ. I am ground by the teeth of the wild beasts that I may be found the bread of the world.” He was put to death the eleventh year of Trajan and the remains of his body lie in Antioch outside the Daphnitic gate in the cemetery.