Walking with the Saints

Saint Ignatius of Antioch

This coming Wednesday, October 17, at the 11:30 a.m. Healing Eucharist, we celebrate the Feast of Ignatius. Saint Ignatius of Antioch, martyred in 115, had a profound sense of two ends—his own, and the consummation of history in Jesus Christ. In ecstasy, he saw his impending martyrdom as the fitting conclusion to a long episcopate. He was accounted the second Bishop of Antioch in Syria.

Seven authentic letters which Ignatius wrote to Churches while he journeyed across Asia Minor in the custody of ten soldiers (“my leopards,” he called them), give valuable insights into the life of the early Church. Of certain Gnostic teachings that exalted the divinity of Jesus at the expense of his humanity, Ignatius wrote: “Be deaf ... to any talk that ignores Jesus Christ, of David’s lineage, of Mary; who was really born, ate, and drank; was really persecuted under Pontius Pilate; was really crucified and died in the sight of heaven and earth and the underworld. He was really raised from the dead.”

In another, he condemned a form of biblicism espoused by some as the method of historical interpretation and the only rule of Church practice. He wrote: “When I heard some people saying, ‘If I don’t find it in the ancient documents, I don’t believe it in the Gospel,’ I answered them, ‘But it is written there.’ They retorted, ‘That has got to be proved.’ But to my mind it is Jesus Christ who is the ancient documents.”

Ignatius maintained that the Church’s unity would always spring from that liturgy by which all are initiated into Christ through Baptism. He exhorted: “Try to gather more frequently to celebrate God’s Eucharist and to praise him ... At these meetings you should heed the bishop and presbytery attentively and break one loaf, which is the medicine of immortality ... ”

Ignatius regarded the Church as God’s holy order in the world. He was, therefore, concerned for the proper ordering of the Church’s teaching and worship. He wrote: “Flee from schism as the source of mischief. You should all follow the bishop as Jesus Christ did the Father. Follow, too, the presbytery as you would the apostles; and respect the deacons as you would God’s law ... Where the bishop is present, there let the congregation gather, just as where Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church.”


Like St. Ignatius, I also wish for us as Episcopalians, to be concerned for the “proper” ordering of the Church’s teaching and of our weekly worship. Our weekly gathering together is VITAL to our community here at The Church of Our Saviour. When we miss a week, we miss the continuity of the Lectionary, we miss singing possibly our “favorite” hymn, and we miss seeing each other at coffee hour following the morning liturgy.  Liturgy, “work of the people”, is just that, we make our liturgies have meaning to ourselves and to each other, as we worship together.  This time “set aside” each week is a time of refreshment of our souls, a time of fellowship with one another, a time to “find God” once again in our lives, hear the Lessons of the Day, hear the Word of God interpreted from the pulpit, and for me, we get to present to you and to God, our offerings of music, that hopefully always brings us into the “PRESENCE” of God.  This happens when we PREPARE ourselves for this “sacred hour”, first by entering the church with prayer, listening to the “Prelude” (beginning at 9:50 a.m.), and then FULLY participating in the liturgy “the work of the people.”

Participation comes in many ways:  With our ears, our heart and our voice. Too often we say, “we just sat there…doing nothing”….well, the MUST DIFFICULT participatory action is LISTENING. Yes, listening. We “tune out” too easily, what’s for lunch, who is not here, “oh, look at that pretty dress”, what appointments do I have this week…the list goes on and on…, find that place of quiet in yourself, fully participate in the liturgy, and I know, you will be BLESSED! 

Let’s do the work of St. Ignatius each week in the sacred place, our spiritual home, The Church of Our Saviour, here in the city of San Gabriel. Then, you will be prepared for another week of joy and giving our yourself to better the world around you.


Blessing to you,

Phil Smith

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