“I do not love the sword because it has a blade, nor the arrow because it flies, nor the warrior because he has won the glory. I just love what they defend.”
“Yo no amo la espada porque tiene filo, ni la flecha porque vuela, ni al guerrero porque ha ganado la gloria. Sólo amo lo que ellos defienden.”
“I prefer death in Christ Jesus to power over the farthest limits of the earth. He who died in place of us is the one object of my quest. He who rose for our sakes is my one desire.”
– St. Ignatius of Antioch
The Church has always been Catholic
Let us discuss, “Ignatius of Antioch. And who was Ignacio?”
Ignacio was a disciple of the apostles St. Paul and St. John. And he was appointed Bishop of Antioch by Saint Peter himself. By Saul of Tarsus.
“Where the bishop appears, there must be the people;
and where is Jesus Christ is the Catholic Church.”
(Ignacio de Antioquía, Ad Smyrn, 8.2).
This sentence was left to us by Ignacio of Antioch in a letter written to the church of Smyrna while he was on his way to martyrdom in Rome… the year: Late 106 AD or early 107 AD… this makes this phrase, and the letter to which it belongs contemporary with the fourth gospel…
He is thought to be born near the year 25 AD, although an ancient tradition suggests that Ignacio could be the child that Jesus sat on his knees when he said “let the children come to me”… what we do know is that he was a disciple of the apostles John and Paul… and who succeeded Evodio as the third bishop of Antioch (Simon Peter was the first succeeded by Evodio)… He was also known by the name of Theóforo (The Bearer of God), as follows from his letters.
The City of Antioch was famous in Asia Minor (Syria) and was the third in importance in the Roman Empire, after Rome and Alexandria… there was in Antioch an important and influential Christian community, formed by Christians of Jewish origin who fled from the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD… and were in Antioch where Paul preached his first Christian sermon in a synagogue and where the followers of Jesus were called “Christian” for the first time.
(Acts 11, 26).
Ignacio, who is considered one of the parents apostolic by his closeness to the apostles, was arrested and sentenced to die in the Roman Circus, as he himself describes in another of his letters: “to be wheat of God, ground by the teeth of the beasts and to become the pure bread of Christ.”
(Ad Rom, 4.1).
In the course of a few weeks, Ignacio wrote seven letters while he was driven from Syria to Rome to be eaten by the beasts, these letters, of a very high ecclesiological and doctrinal content, are divided into two groups, four in Smyrna and three in Alexandria of Troas: the letter to the Ephesians (Ad Eph), the letter to the Magnesios (Ad Magn), the letter to the Tralianos (Ad Tral), the letter to the Romans (Ad Rom), the letter to the Philadeliaia (Ad Phil), the letter to the Esmirniotas (Ad Smyrn) and, finally, a personal letter to Policarpo, Bishop of Smyrna (Ad Pol).
In his letters, Ignacio talks about the privilege of martyrdom because of his faith in Jesus Christ. He is the first writer out of the New Testament to refer to Mary’s virginity, defends the two natures of Jesus Christ, human and divine (against the heresies of the Judaizes and the Docetists), he talks about Sunday as the day of the Lord, and he is the first to use the word “Eucharist”, to which he calls “The Flesh of Christ”, “Don De Dios” and “The Medicine of Immortality”, in addition to calling Jesus “Bread of God” to be eaten at the altar, within a single church.
But above all, he talks about the church as a divine institution whose end is the salvation of souls, which must remain in unity, which is holy, which is infallible, which has a hierarchy, which has sacraments, and which is Catholic!!!“Where the bishop appears, there must be the town’s people;
as well as where is Jesus Christ is the Catholic Church.”
What this text says is obvious, but let’s see some of the things that tell us: Ignacio writes to the local churches to teach the same and only one doctrine because the church is Catholic – Universal, and Greek καθολικός (Katholikos). He writes to them with the authority that gives him his position as Bishop (Hierarchy) and his mission to exhort and educate (Magisterium), tells them of the importance of Baptism and Eucharist (Sacraments), which are not valid without the presence of the Bishop (The imposition of hands and apostolic succession) or whoever has been entrusted the (Sacrament of Order), speaks to them of unity, obedience, to stay together and preserve the doctrine of the apostles, and that they received these teachings directly from Jesus Christ.
Ignatius of Antioch is describing to us the early church, before the Bible was formally there, there was already a physical, structured and United Church, a church that believed and celebrated the Eucharist and the Sacraments, a church that is upon the apostles and the tradition that these had inherited from Jesus Christ, a universal church: The Catholic Church.