St Ignatius of Antioch: Are You Singing Aloud to the Father with One Voice?

Feast of the Seven Holy Youths of Ephesus

Ignatius_Square.jpgNOW, SINCE Jesus Christ has given such glory to you, it is only right that you should give glory to Him; and this, if sanctification is to be yours in full measure, means uniting in a common act of submission and acknowledging the authority of your bishop and clergy.

Not that this is an order I am issuing, as though I were someone of importance. It is true that I am a prisoner for the Name’s sake, but I am by no means perfect in Jesus Christ as yet; I am only a beginner in discipleship, and I am speaking to you as fellow-scholars with myself. In fact, it is you who ought really to have given me lessons—lessons in faith and admonishment and patience and toleration. All the same, where you are concerned love will not suffer me to hold my peace; and that is why I venture to recommend an action that reflects the mind of God. For we can have no life apart from Jesus Christ; and as He represents the mind of the Father, so our bishops, even those who are stationed in the remotest parts of the world, represent the mind of Jesus Christ.

That is why it is proper for your conduct and your practices to correspond closely with the mind of the bishop. And this, indeed, they are doing; your justly respected clergy, who are a credit to God, are attuned to their bishop like the strings of a harp, and the result is a hymn of praise to Jesus Christ from minds that are in unison, and affections that are in harmony. Pray, then, come and join this choir, every one of you; let there be a whole symphony of minds in concert; take the tone all together from God, and sing aloud to the Father with one voice through Jesus Christ, so that He may hear you and know by your good works that you are indeed members of His Son’s Body. A completely united front will help to keep you in constant communion with God.

If I myself reached such intimacy with your bishop in a brief space of time—an intimacy that was less of this world than of the Spirit—how much more fortunate must I count you, who are as inseparably one with him as the Church is with Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ with the Father; so constituting one single harmonious unity throughout. Let no one be under any illusion; a man who excludes himself from the sanctuary is depriving himself of the bread of God, for if the prayer of one or two individuals has such efficacy, how much more powerful is that of the bishop together with his whole church. Anyone who absents himself from the congregation convicts himself at once of arrogance and becomes self-excommunicate. And since it is written that “God opposes the proud” (1 Pet. 5.5), let us take care to show no disloyalty to the bishop, so as to be more loyal servants of God.

—St Ignatius of Antioch, Epistle to the Ephesians

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