Ignatius of Antioch (50 - 110 AD) was the third bishop of Antioch, after Peter and Euodius, whom Ignatius succeeded around 68 AD. Ignatius, who also called himself Theophorus, was most likely a disciple of both Apostles Peter and John. Several of his letters have survived to this day and he is generally considered to be one of the Apostolic Fathers.
Ignatius was arrested by the Roman authorities and transported to Rome to die in the arena. They hoped to make an example of him and thus discourage Christianity from spreading. Instead, on his way to Rome, in every city where he met Christians he encouraged them to be faithful to Christ, and above all he encouraged them through letters: “I am writing to all the Churches and I enjoin all, that I am dying willingly for God's sake, if only you do not prevent it. I beg you, do not do me an untimely kindness. Allow me to be eaten by the beasts, which are my way of reaching to God. I am God's wheat, and I am to be ground by the teeth of wild beasts, so that I may become the pure bread of Christ” (letter to the Romans).
These letters proved to be influential in the development of Christian theology. They bear signs of being written in great haste and without a proper plan. Ignatius is the first known Christian writer to put great stress on loyalty to a single bishop in each city, who is assisted by both presbyters (priests) and deacons. Ignatius also stresses the value of the Eucharist, calling it "a medicine to immortality". His burning desire for martyrdom in the sand, which he expresses quite graphically in some places, seems quite strange and even shocking for our time.
With fraternal affection,
Fr. Homero C.