Today is the feast of Ignatius of Antioch, a bishop (pastor) who was killed for his confession of the faith in the first century. Even though they’d never heard of him, I told the catechism students his story tonight, and we talked about how his whole life was oriented toward the simple prayer, “Hallowed be Thy name.” That was the whole goal of his life, of what he taught, and ultimately of his death. I also tied Ignatius’ teaching to the 4th Commandment, which some of the students also studied tonight, because if you read his letters his constant refrain is, “Do nothing without the bishop” — i.e., listen to your pastor and do as he says because he’s teaching and leading you in God’s Word. The same faith that he confessed and died for is what you students are learning now, I told them. As I related his story, I was reminded again of the power of a good example. Here is someone who did not back down from confessing Christ, even to the point of death — and he went gladly. His letters bear no trace of panic or regret or sorrow at his impending martyrdom. He simply accepts it, and rejoices, based on the promises of Christ his Lord. That’s what we’re trying to instill in you, I told the students: that you would live your whole lives in service to God and be ready to lay down your life for Him, if it comes to that. The saints who went before us are useful chiefly as good examples. They encourage us to take up our duties and face our challenges with renewed vigor and strength, and if our challenges are not equal to theirs in severity, neither is our strength equal to theirs — but we all have challenges to our faith. Each of us can be faithful in his or her own little way, in whatever corner of God’s kingdom we’re in. (God grant it.)
The collect, or prayer of the day, for his feast isn’t even really about Ignatius of Antioch, as such; it’s more about us and about God, which is fitting. It begins with a fitting reminder of our weakness in confessing & living the faith, and asks for God’s help. Ignatius is given the proper role: he is an example of what God can do in a Christian’s life, and through a Christian. The brevity and clarity of this collect is sheer poetry. Finding & using treasures like these is one of the reasons I like praying the Daily Office. Even if you have no idea who Ignatius of Antioch is, this is still a good prayer:
Have regard for our weakness, Almighty God: and since the weight of our own deeds bears us down, let the faithful example of Blessed Ignatius, Thy Bishop and Martyr, direct us to Thy mercy; through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost: ever one God, world without end. Amen.
— collect for the Feast of Ignatius of Antioch (DDSB p.616)