Pope_Benedictus_XVIOctober 17th is the feast of St Ignatius of Antioch

No Church Father has expressed the longing for union with Christ and for life in him with the intensity of Ignatius.

We therefore read the Gospel passage on the vine, which according to John’s Gospel is Jesus.

In fact, two spiritual “currents” converge in Ignatius, that of Paul, straining with all his might for union with Christ, and that of John, concentrated on life in him.

In turn, these two currents translate into the imitation of Christ, whom Ignatius several times proclaimed as “my” or “our God”.

Thus, Ignatius implores the Christians of Rome not to prevent his martyrdom since he is impatient “to attain to Jesus Christ”.

And he explains, “It is better for me to die on behalf of Jesus Christ than to reign over all the ends of the earth…. Him I seek, who died for us: him I desire, who rose again for our sake…. Permit me to be an imitator of the Passion of my God!” (Romans, 5-6).

One can perceive in these words on fire with love, the pronounced Christological “realism” typical of the Church of Antioch, more focused than ever on the Incarnation of the Son of God and on his true and concrete humanity:

“Jesus Christ”, St Ignatius wrote to the Smyrnaeans, “was truly of the seed of David”, “he was truly born of a virgin”, “and was truly nailed [to the Cross] for us” (1: 1).

Ignatius’ irresistible longing for union with Christ was the foundation of a real “mysticism of unity”. He describes himself: “I therefore did what befitted me as a man devoted to unity” (Philadelphians, 8: 1).

[…] The insistence on communion among believers and of believers with their Pastors was constantly reformulated in eloquent images and analogies: the harp, strings, intonation, the concert, the symphony.

The special responsibility of Bishops, priests and deacons in building the community is clear. This applies first of all to their invitation to love and unity. “Be one”, Ignatius wrote to the Magnesians, echoing the prayer of Jesus at the Last Supper:

“one supplication, one mind, one hope in love…. Therefore, all run together as into one temple of God, as to one altar, as to one Jesus Christ who came forth from one Father, and is with and has gone to one” (7: 1-2).

Ignatius was the first person in Christian literature to attribute to the Church the adjective “catholic” or “universal”: “Wherever Jesus Christ is”, he said, “there is the Catholic Church” (Smyrnaeans, 8: 2). And precisely in the service of unity to the Catholic Church, the Christian community of Rome exercised a sort of primacy of love

Benedict XVI (b. 1927): St Ignatius of Antioch (General Audience, 14th March 2007.

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