Tonight is the Eve of the Feast of St. Ignatius of Antioch. He was the Bishop of Antioch in the early 2nd Century and, during an intense persecution of Christians in that city, was condemned to death by wild beasts, to be executed at Rome.
And we do not know much else about him except from a number of letters he wrote to churches as he was being taken to his sentence.
But what letters they are! Ignatius’ heart and pugnaciously joyful personality shine through these letters. Impending martyrdom did not discourage him but emboldened him. He even looked forward with eagerness to “get to God” through his grisly martyrdom in the Coliseum.
And his letters are full of wisdom, particularly in how churches should relate to their leaders. He also took aim at heresies, particularly Docetism.
I wish to conclude by quoting a statement of his about heresies in his Letter to the Trallians.
[Heretics] mingle Jesus Christ with their teachings just to gain your confidence under false pretenses. It is as if they were giving a deadly poison mixed with honey and wine, with the result that the unsuspecting victim gladly accepts it and drinks down death with fatal pleasure.
And so it remains today. The inventors of just about every false religion and heresy, even if mad and blind, still realize that the person of Jesus Christ is important and attractive. Even in their delusions, they are compelled to answer his question, “Who do you say that I am?” So they include in their falsehoods what I call a “token Jesus.” They give lip service to Jesus to add attractiveness and legitimacy to their false religion. But it is not the real Jesus Christ, but a supposed Jesus who is not the Son of God, the King of kings and Lord of lords. And, yes, the Jesus of “mainline” libchurchers is such a token Jesus.
Which St. Ignatius so well warned against some 1900 years ago. God’s Holy Church does well to remember his courage and wisdom and to thank the Lord for his teaching and godly example.