History of Christian Spirituality

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Part of "The History of Christian Spirituality" class

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A beautiful, very, very early Christian father. Remember last time, you all remember, we started the course and we talked some about history, what is history, and possible different dimensions of history, outer history, inner history, secular history, and maybe a history of the deepest levels of the human person. Now here it gets very, very tricky. And then we started with Clement of Rome. You all remember Clement of Rome and the various themes in his beautiful letter to the Corinthians, humility, and he refers to Christ's humility in his call to them to be united, that very problematic Corinthian community. And he's characterizing the Roman church and the church of Corinth as just kind of pilgrim churches, just on the edge of things, et cetera. So today, on to Ignatius. Ignatius of Antioch, second bishop of Antioch.


Remember the church of Antioch. It's always good to try to know when we are, when we're talking about a certain place, and where we are to kind of concretize it. Antioch, that second great church of Christendom after Jerusalem. There was the Jewish community in Jerusalem. And then Christianity broke the bonds and went beyond. And Antioch is the first great church of the Gentiles. So in a certain sense, our mother church. And remember, it's a church where St. Paul worked so long with Barnabas. It's a church, the Acts of the Apostles says, where the disciples were first called Christians. So it's a beautiful church. And Ignatius is the second bishop there. We don't have any of his writings except these seven letters. We know very little about him, except this last period, he was condemned to die under the Emperor Trajan. And we know that Emperor Trajan's rule


was from 98 to 117. So sometime in that period, he's being led by Roman soldiers to Rome for his martyrdom. He'll be fed to the lions in the Colosseum or in one of the amphitheaters. So we know pretty much his route and we know the specific communities to which he wrote these seven letters. As he was journeying, the representatives of the local Christian communities met him, encouraged him, and he was very moved by this. And he sat down and jotted off letters to their churches to take back with him. And of these, we have seven to six local churches and then to Polycarp, a personal letter to the great Bishop Polycarp. We know the Apostle John, says Irenaeus. So we have all these. And Irenaeus is a disciple of Polycarp. So we have all these beautiful... Polycarp is a friend of Ignatius.


We have all these beautiful tie-ins to end that phrase, which I think is one of the beautiful parts of early church, this continuity. So he composed these letters. Four basic themes of these letters that are very profoundly interrelated. I hope we'll see this. One is everything centered on Christ, what has been called the profound Christ mysticism of Ignatius. Here, it seems to me he's very, very relevant for us. Second is a theme very related to this of martyrdom, the tremendous importance of martyrdom. Martyrdom for Ignatius. Some have said he's sort of a wacko. He's so fixed on martyrdom and he wants to die. He wants to be completely chewed up by the lions. And he goes on and on like this. And it seems a little weird. We'll have to deal with that. Then the strong urgings to unity to the Christians, a theme taken up from Clement again. And to guarantee this unity,


community, especially with the Bishop, also with priests and deacons. He's very strong on unity. And this against two heresies with which he's particularly worried. One is the Judaizers, he refers to them. People who say it's the law, it's the Old Testament. They don't say Old Testament, it's the scriptures. We're still before the canon of the New Testament. It's the scriptures, it's the law. It's these things that save us. And he's battling with them. And then the Docetism. This is the other great heresy. How many know what Docetism is? There is a... I know what it includes, but I don't know some of what it includes. What does it include? I know, for example, that they don't believe that Christ assumed a flesh. And therefore they were very much, they held the Eucharist to be not much account. That's right. It all is linked up.


They were scandalized by the idea of the transcendent, immutable, eternal God suffering. So if Christ is God and Christ is on the cross, how do you deal with this? It's a religious heresy, as is the Judaizing approach. This is important. We're doing history of Christian spirituality. So many of the heresies were lived spiritualities. And these were people who took very, very seriously that God is not one who suffers and Christ is God. Therefore, the syllogism seems to go very neatly. So the flesh of Jesus is just an appearance of flesh. That's where the Greek dokein, to seem. He just seems flesh. He just seems to suffer on the cross. He just seems human in that sense. And this, Ignatius battles against this fiercely, and he battles against the Judaizers for the full doctrine of Christ.


So it's all tied in. And thus he insists on the bishops and the priests and the unity. We've got to hold our unity. And there weren't the scriptures even. And there weren't creeds written. And there weren't all these other. So the way to fortify the Christian community against all these Christological errors was to insist on the continuity with the pastors, precisely to guarantee our continuity with the Christ mystery. You see, it's not a juridical external thing, blind obedience just for blind obedience, but it's to safeguard our full experience of Christ who saves us. Against the Judaizers who said it's not so much Christ, but it's the law. And against the Docetism that says it's not so much Christ as we understand it, fully incarnate, but it's the secret wisdom of God that's communicated to our elite group. So these are four themes.


Now let's try to get a little deeper into them. Didn't we get four? Let's go down. One, Christ-centered. Two, martyrdom. Three, unity of Christians. And fourth, beware of heresies that diminish the full salvific mystery of Christ. There were, for many years, much polemic about the authenticity of the letters. We have the letters in various forms, in longer forms, in shorter forms, in Greek, in Syriac, all sorts of things, and scholars have debated which is the authentic form, et cetera. Now the Protestant brethren had particular problems with these letters because the bishop is such a strong figure, the priest and the deacon. And some Protestants said, this must be later writings. The earliest church couldn't have been so into bishops. This is a later kind of Catholic development.


You see, the Protestants insist on the classic early word of God, which is pure grace, which is pure. And then, as things degenerate, you get bishops and dioceses and all these kind of things, institutionalization. So they said, this is a clear mark of an advanced institutionalization. Therefore, it's later. Now, there were longer forms of the letters, which indeed are later. So they were right in being suspicious of much of it. Much later institutionalism was read back into Ignatius, tapped on. So we're living in a very kind of graced period of the church when we're able, through scientific research, to get to the real documents as Ignatius wrote them. It was the same problem with Clement. We have the one letter of Clement, then there's all the pseudo-Clement. Well, Clement was so buried under all the pseudo stuff, it was hard to have a real picture of the real Clement.


Now, through rigorous scholarship, we've gotten to the first Corinthians letter. So with Ignatius, we've gotten back to the real thing. It was a great Anglican scholar, Lightfoot, who established the authenticity of the Greek brief text in 1885. One of the real giants, Lightfoot. So let's rush right into the Christ mysticism. Here, he synthesizes a Pauline current of Christ mysticism with themes like being in Christ, dying with Christ, the indwelling of Christ in us, and Johannine themes about Christ as our life, Christ as our light. So this is beautiful. What we have in Ignatius is a meditating over the word of God and putting things together in very lived, profound ways.


So that's one of the beauties of the fathers. If our spirituality is all based on scripture, then the fathers aren't getting away from that. They're meditating upon this and putting things together in very fecund ways. One of the basic themes in Ignatius is that of the imitation of Christ, which will come up again and again throughout the centuries. Imitate Christ. Obquast, the great Catholic patristic scholar, says this is the central theme in Ignatius. He says in Philippians, his letter Philippians 7-2, to be imitators of Jesus Christ as he was of his father. This is a beginning Trinitarian thing, though the spirit doesn't come in that much with him, but always Christ and the father. Christ is the imitation of the father. But we are the imitation of Christ. So this already gives us the sense that it's not a kind of external imitation, a kind of aping of gestures and things


and wearing a long white toga and things. It's the deepest sort of being in the image of, or conforming to the archetype, as it were, to use Greek language. And he relates immediately this imitation to the most difficult level, and that is sort of sharing in hardships, sufferings, persecutions. In a letter to the Ephesians, paragraph 10, he says, let us try to imitate the Lord by seeing which of us can put up best with ill usage, privation, or contempt, so that in this way none of the devil's weeds may take root among us, but we may rest in Jesus Christ in all sanctity and discipline of body and soul. It's beautiful, these two elements. All sanctity, so we won't be rooted in Christ. That's what he means by imitation. And the kind of proof of the pudding is to imitate Christ also


in preparing to undergo sufferings. And then he very quickly relates that to the whole theme of martyrdom. Christ died on the cross. He didn't die an easy old age death in bed or something like that. So imitation of Christ should make us open to this level. And he's being led in chains by these very tough, sort of brutish Roman soldiers to his martyrdom. So obviously he's all focused on this. And so that's why the theme comes up again and again. Some have objected again that he's too fixed on the theme of martyrdom. But again, the letter, these are letters, the letter milieu tends to be very concrete, very personal, and very of that moment. So obviously if he's led, he's being led to the final moment. He's meditating on this. He's trying to reflect how he fits into this mystery of being led to be food to the lions. And he's coming up with some very Christian arguments.


And of course it comes up again and again. But so imitation as imitation of Christ's passion of death. He says in the letter to the Romans where he's trying to plead with them to not intervene with the high authorities to get him off the hook, but to let him go all the way to martyrdom. He says, leave me to imitate, theme of imitation, leave me to imitate the passion of my God. Then he goes into a very interesting thing. He says, how can we understand this? You people who have the deep Christian knowledge, gnosis in you will understand this. It's something that can't come from book reading or syllogistic arguments. If you're in Christ, you'll understand. Leave me to imitate the passion of my God. If any of you has God within himself, let that man understand my longings and feel for me because he will know the forces by which I am constrained. So I think this is very explicitly mystical.


This will come up again and again, not in the sense of Teresa of Avila or outlines of mystical prayer or methods to get into mystical prayer, but just a whole experience coming out of what we would call mystical, deeply profound experience. So the whole theme of martyrdom then flowing right out of the theme of the centrality of Christ. And he sees this paschally. Christ has died, thus passing from death to life, and thus he has called. Here and now as I write in the fullness of life, I am yearning for death with all the passion of a lover. Beautiful. He's not morbid and this is such an ugly life, et cetera. No, it's the lover going to the bridegroom. Then he gets very mystical here. Earthly longings have been crucified. In me there is left no spark of desire for mundane things, but only a murmur of living water


that whispers within me, come to the Father. There is no pleasure for me in any meats that perish or in the delights of this life. I am fain for the bread of God, even the flesh of Jesus Christ, who is the seed of David. For my drink I crave that blood of his, which is love imperishable. So here's all sorts of themes. The centrality of Christ. He's all focused on Christ. And that's what explains it all. He's the lover going to the bridegroom. And he wants to be the flesh of Christ. Here against the dacitic thing. Because this becomes a shadow of some kind of divine revelation. No, he wants this flesh of Christ and this drink of Christ, which is love, very Eucharistic. This gets very explicit in other places. But that's a very, very profound of the living waters that whisper within me. Here's an implicit pneumatology. So the waters whisper within me


through the passion and death of Christ to go to the Father in the risen Christ. So it's very Trinitarian. Very, very profound. And he can do this, again, because of his belief in the fullness of the Christ mystery. Christ was died and also rose again in the flesh. And that's why he neither despises his flesh nor fears for it. But lives in the freedom of the Christian. So this anti-dacitic is strictly related to his dedication of the fullness of the Christ mystery. He's sort of grumbling against the dacitics here. For my part, I know and believe that he was in actual human flesh, even after his resurrection. This is a very spiritual stuff, but very fleshy, down to earth. When he appeared to Peter and his companions, he said to them, take hold of me, touch me, and see that I am no bodiless phantom.


And they touched him, and he was in flesh. And they took him then and there and believed, for they had had contact with the flesh and blood reality of him. That was how they came by their contempt for death and proved themselves superior to it. Very paradoxical here. Precisely this flesh and blood reality frees them to be more spiritual than these very spiritualized, angelistic, dacitic peoples. Moreover, he ate and drank with them after he was risen like any natural man, even though he was spiritual. Thus it is only in the name of Jesus Christ, and for the sake of sharing in his sufferings, that I could face all this. It's very, I think, very profound, the link up between the fleshy, incarnational dimension of Christianity and the full freedom of the children of God to face death and anything, because Christ rose in the flesh, and our flesh has an eternal destiny.


I don't have to deny its reality and pretend it's not there. I don't have to worship it in some sort of hedonistic way. I know it'll be transformed in Christ. For he, the perfect man, gives me strength to do so. So it's a very rich Christology, and therefore a very rich spirituality. And he attacks these dacitic, who wanted to be very, very spiritual people, precisely for having such a thin kind of ghostly spirituality at the end. We'll see this again and again as he attacks the Judaizers in their legalism as not living the joy of the incarnate Christ. So it's totally Christocentric and paschal. As he says, that's the only way you're gonna understand where he's at. It is only in the name of Jesus Christ, and for the sake of his sharing his sufferings, that I could face all this. Cardinal Leger of Canada once said that we should so live our life that it makes sense to ourselves and also to others,


only in the light of Christ. That's the only interpretive principle that makes sense of it. And I think that's Ignatius. If an agnostic or atheist picks this up, you'll be amazed by the courage and the focus, but I think you'll be a little troubled by this kind of death wish if you have to look at the Freudian categories or something. So the journeying paschal image comes up again and again. How does he understand then what he's journeying? And he's journeying to his death, but he's journeying to the Father. He plugs into this very profound central scriptural theme of Exodus, journey, pilgrimage, Passover, which is first in Exodus, then it's taken up all through the Old Testament. I think we saw this, then taken up in the New Testament in all sorts of ways applied to Christ. Christ is always on his journey to the Father. So these are phrases that come up again and again and again


in one way or another, this journey. I must implore you to do no such untimely kindness. Again, he's asking the Romans not to intercede for him. Pray, leave me to be a meal for the beasts, for it is they who can provide my way to God. He sees this martyrdom then as passage. Paragraph four of Romans, and then paragraph five, he goes on. Let every horrid and diabolical torment come upon me, provided only that I can win my way to Jesus Christ. This basic, basic, very profound. This comes up again and again and again. Then the living water is murmuring within me. Come to the Father. So it's a dynamic of Exodus spirituality. Then as we've seen, it is specifically Eucharistic. He's trying to understand what'll happen to him,


and he sees that he himself will become in some way the host. They, these lions, will provide me the way to my God. I am his wheat, ground fine by the lion's teeth to be made purest bread for Christ. This is one of the classic lines in Ignatius. And this is real theology of an existential sort. This is real spirituality. That is, he is, Anselm defines theology as faith-seeking understanding. So here he's explaining that he's a Christian, he's in this very concrete situation, and he believes that Christ is there. Now he's seeking to understand it. And he sees it in the light of Christ, he sees it in the light of the Eucharist. So he becomes the Eucharistic offering to the Father in Christ. And this is very profound theme. It'll be taken up again later in the Father's. Augustine has this lovely meditation on in the Eucharist. The body of Christ is there on the altar,


but the real body of Christ about which the Father is concerned, says Augustine, is we who be nourished by the body of Christ. We become body of Christ. We become host. So that's very rich stuff. So rooted in Christ and precisely in his being, not simply in his doing, also in his doing, but especially not just in words. This is a theme that comes up. It's very powerful. But in his actions and in his being, and at the deepest, deepest level, in his silence. In his letter to the Ephesians, paragraph 80. Very contemplative stuff. As the tree is known by its fruits, so they who claim to belong to Christ, always going back to this Christ center, are known by their actions. For this work of ours does not consist


in just making professions, but in a faith that is both practical and lasting. Indeed, it is better to keep quiet and be than to make fluent professions and not be. Here we're at a very, very deep level. No doubt it is a fine thing to instruct others, but only if the speaker practices what he preaches. One such teacher, capital T, there is. He who spake the word and it was done. Here is the Father speaking from all eternity the one word that creates all things. And what he achieved, even by his silences, was well worthy of the Father. A man who has truly mastered the utterance of Jesus will also be able to apprehend his silence and thus reach the full spiritual maturity so that his own words have the force of actions and his silence is the significance of speech. Very poetic and eloquent.


Hymn to silence. Nothing is hidden from the Lord, even our most secret thoughts are ever present to him. Whatever we do then, let it be done as though he himself were dwelling within us, as though we were his temples and he within as their God. For in fact, that is literally the case. In proportions, we rightly love him, so it will become clear to our eyes. So God is in us, this God who created all things in eternal silence, redeemed all in the one word who is Christ. We are rooted in Christ, in his actions and in this very mysterious way, in his silence. There's that famous phrase of St. John, the cross that God spoke, the one word from all eternity and that word he spoke in silence. So here he is being bustled along by these soldiers and scratching off letters and things and he's living at a very deep level, fixed in Christ.


This is an image that comes up elsewhere in his letter to the Smyrnians at the very beginning, paragraph one in the church at Smyrna. Glory be to Jesus Christ, the divine one who has gifted you with such wisdom, gnosis. This is the real wisdom. I have seen how immovably settled in faith you are, nailed body and soul, as it were, to the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ and rooted and grounded by love in his blood. So it's very spiritual, but also very concrete earthy, nailed to the cross, rooted in his blood. You hold the firmest convictions about our Lord, believing him to be truly of David's line in his manhood and the son of God by divine will and power. So he always insists on this fullness of the Christ mystery, man, fully man, flesh and blood and God, son of God and thus all the rest comes.


But it is insofar as we're rooted in Christ, grounded in Christ, that all the rest follows. Often when Ignatius was studied in our days in theology, they immediately went to his theology of the church and how important were bishops in his church. This was the whole polemic between the Roman Catholics and Protestants and it's still going on in a certain way. But this isn't his central concern to throw out a theory of bishops. The central thing is this lived experience of Christ. Thus martyrdom, thus not accept those who are dividing the unity of the church, who are again the Judaizers and thus unity and thus the bishop and thus the priest and the deacon. Work for unity. Theme of in Christ, theme of come to the Father, Trinitarian, he's got thus a whole Christology, which he wants to be a full Christology and then he's got a whole anthropology,


that is a theory of the human person that comes out of that. We also are pure spirit and also flesh and blood. He says these docetics, they just kind of, they have such a spiritual ethereal Christ in the end they'll just kind of fade away themselves. The very reason you are given this, he gives, jumping before, he gives a whole theology also of our ministry to others because we're visible. We've got a kind of a sacramental function in the church as Christ did. Christ was made flesh to truly minister to every dimension of the human person. So also we. So this is his full anthropology of transcendent spirit and also body, also flesh. The very reason you are given a body as well as a soul is to help you to gain the favor of this outward and visible world. At the same time you must also pray for insight into the invisible world as well


so that you may come short of nothing. The whole treasury of the spirit may be yours. Here's a reference to the spirit in the sense of totality is lifting up body, transforming body. Critical times like these need you as the bark needs the helmsman or the storm tossed mariner a haven if men are ever to find their way to God. It's a very lofty theology of the vocation of the Christian. We've got to guide humanity through these rough times. From Ignatius we'll be going on to a lovely early patristic document, the letter to Diognetus which is also in this collection and a beautiful, beautiful thing. He also has the author, whoever it be, Mysterius, has quite a beautiful theology of the Christian's function for humanity. And that's why we're given a body. He stresses that we're in a point then of vital choice,


life or death. All things must come to an end and there are two alternatives before us. They are life and death. Unbelievers carry the stamp of the world while the faithful in love bear the stamp of God, the Father through Jesus Christ. Unless we are ready and willing to die in conformity with his passion, his life is not in us. All these Trinitarian theme, the theme of imitation of Christ, thus be at least prepared for martyrdom. And this in imitation of Christ. Where he talks about the deceitics is kind of fading into in reality. And suffer he did, this is letter to the church, it's near enough, second paragraph. Suffer he did, this is always against them.


And indeed, just as he did verily and did raise himself again, his passion was no unreal illusion. This is very explicit, he's responding with this. As some skeptics claim, who are all unreality themselves. Very, very interesting. In their claiming that Christ is pure, ethereal spirit, they become unreality. The fate of those wretches will match their belief. For one day they will similarly become phantoms without substance themselves. Something very profound is going on here about the link up between our concept of Christ and our concept of ourselves and what happens to ourself. If we've got a Christ who's not really man, not really flesh and blood, not really suffered and died for us, then we ourselves are no longer fully human beings. Pascal has a powerful phrase that


those who want to be lifted up above humanity in some kind of angelic level, end up lower than the beasts. It's that sort of paradox between spirituality and anthropological destiny. These docetics, and he keeps pounding against them, they lack any sense of love. Christ in his body, who suffered and ministered in a world of Rome or something, and saying for that reason it's heretical. He's saying, this isn't the Christian life. It is faith and love that are everything and these must come before all else. But look at the men who have those perverted notions about the grace of Jesus Christ, which have come down to us, and see how contrary to the mind of God they are. They have no care for love, no thought for the widow and orphan, none at all for the afflicted, the captive, the hungry, or the thirsty. This is a powerful criterion


for the authenticity of a spirituality. Do people just kind of fade away, disinterested in problems of the poor and the widow, et cetera? The docetics do, because they're so spiritual, and those are just worldly matters. Then he hits them with another thing, their absolute lack of sacramental sense. They're so spiritual and ethereal that they have no need of the material sacramental order. They even absent themselves from the Eucharist and the public prayers, because they will not admit that the Eucharist is the same self-body of our Savior, Jesus Christ, who suffered for our sins, which the Father in his goodness afterwards raised up again. Consequently, they reject God's good gifts. Thus they are doomed in their disputations. It would have done better to learn charity if they were ever to know any resurrection. Very powerful stuff. It's love that opens our eyes to the resurrection,


to the passion, to the sacraments, to social, and they lack it in their very... There's big debate whether the docetic heresy is on one side and he's fighting them and the Judaizers on the other and he's fighting them, and the scholars debate whether they're two heresies or one. Do you have Judaic, Judaizing docetics? And scholars write big articles on whether it's two heresies or one. One, I think it was Lightfoot, wrote about a 70-page essay insisting that it's one heresy. It's sort of interesting, but the two go together in curious ways, or they can be distinguished. It's not clear whether he's fighting on two fronts or fighting one thing. No? I wrote about these essays. What were they? Did they go in the desert? Did they have communities somewhere? Or was he scattered? This is very debated. Oh, well, this is Italian punctuality. Yes.


Yes. [...] This is very debated. I'm also beginning to progress quickly. One scholar says they were related to the Essenes, the Judaic Essenes who took over a little of Christianity. So he sees them as a kind of an austere, ascetic monastic group. Judaic Essenes who then got into the docetic thing to avoid the scandal of Yahweh suffering on the cross. This is one theory. We don't really know. We know that they're in several of these churches, and for Ignatius, they represent the big threat to Christian life. For the widespread movement. Right. Right. I think all of his letters, this comes up again and again. In the letter to the Philippians, especially he focuses in an explicit way on the Judaizers. In the others, we read some. I wanted to stop. So many things go through my head when I'm reading.


But one of those texts, which sounded like it could have been against the docetic or the Judaizers, so you have this big. But certainly they were widespread, and certainly they were seen as the threat to the early Christian community by Ignatius. A first form of Gnosticism, if you like. And it's for that. Indwelling, a beautiful, beautiful Pauline concept. He calls Christians God-bearers, Christ-bearers, temple-bearers, and we read that thing. We're about, we are, as it were, temples. Indeed, we are really very beautiful in Ephesians 15. Let it be done as though he himself were dwelling within us. And indeed, this literally is the case. So the whole theme of indwelling. The importance of the Gospels, of salvation history,


all consummated in Christ. These are all themes we could look at. Of course, he doesn't have, remember, written Gospels. He doesn't have a New Testament around, and he opens it. It's still all oral tradition, and maybe first written documents, but not all put together in the word of God. There were letters of Paul around. There were the Gospels around. It's very debated by the scholars whether he had, what letters of Paul, and what Gospels, and all that. But when he refers to the Gospel, it's particularly the spoken word announced. But there's what we would call the Old Testament around, and he has quite a sense of them. Here he's hitting against the Judaizers. They refuse to be persuaded by the prophets, or the law of Moses, or even in our own times by the Gospel, still less by the personal sufferings


of so many of our own people, since they apply the same sort of argument to ourselves. Here he's against the Judaizers. He says, their own scriptures won't open their eyes to what's happening. That is, it's all being fulfilled now in Christ. They refuse to be persuaded by the prophets, or the law, or the Gospel, or even our own sufferings. This is very moving. That is, it's the one Gospel that's continuing now in the witness of the martyrs, and these Judaizers won't even accept that. For them, it's all the law. But we have implicitly here a whole theology of salvation history ongoing, and him being right in there in the middle, and it's all fulfilled in Christ. Unbelievers carry the stamp of the world, while the faithful, we already saw this text


in the Motherlight, in love, bear the stamp of God through Jesus Christ. 89a, even the lives of their, they're talking about these Judaizers, of their divinely inspired prophets were instinct with Jesus Christ. This is beautiful. Later fathers would say that the New Testament is already hidden in the old, Augustine would say, and the old is explicit in the new. Here, come va con le franzi in latino? No, in testamentum, ah, yes, in vetro, la tete. The New Testament is hidden in the old, the old in the new, patete, is made evident. Here he's saying that the prophets are instinct with Jesus Christ, so he wants to meet these Judaizers on their own ground. Take your law, take your prophets. Christ is there, but they don't, here's a whole, at the very beginning of the second century,


and already a full doctrine, implicitly, of the Christic dimension of the spiritual reading of the Old Testament. Indeed, the only reason they were persecuted, the prophets, is because they were inspired by his grace, Christ, so that they might convince future unbelievers of the existence of one sole God who has revealed himself in his son, Jesus Christ, word of his own, from silence proceeding, beautiful, who in all that he was and did gladdened the heart of the one who sent him, word of his own, from silence proceeding. I wanna make note of that, about the silence again. So, whole theology of salvation history fulfilled in Christ. Um, and thus, a full Eucharistic theology. You can write immense tomes on Ignatius when you want to,


whenever he wants to write his doctrine. You will be able to do it just on the Eucharistic theology in Ignatius. And we've already seen some of these Eucharistic themes in him, but the Eucharist is very, very important because of the visible, concrete, earthly Christ. Now, this is the function of the clergy to celebrate the Eucharist. You see how it all fits in, and the function of the Eucharist is to make the paschal mystery of Christ present, which is everything for us. So it's, again, not just an arbitrary legalism, obey, obey. But it's this deep inner Christ life that's present in Christ, dead and risen, present thus in the Eucharist, and thus the importance of the church. Make sure that no step affecting the church is ever taken by anyone without the bishop's sanction. The sole Eucharist you should consider valid


is one that is celebrated by the bishop himself or by some person authorized by him. Where the bishop is to be seen, let all his people be, just as where Jesus Christ is present, we have the worldwide church. This is another famous phrase. Where the bishop is, there's the people of God. Just as where Christ is, there is the Catholic Church. Nor is it permissible to conduct baptisms or love feasts, agape, without the bishop. So that's how it all ties together. That must be another embarrassment to Protestants, because that's only about the year 100. That's right. That emphasis on the Eucharist. Indeed, indeed, there's a strong sacramental aspect. Now, for instance, Lutherans are recovering the Eucharist, and many are, but this has been a weakness, and I think they're recognizing this. The centrality of the Eucharist,


and thus the centrality of the church, the centrality of priest and bishop, because who's going to guarantee this celebration? We'll see about that. He has in his letter to Rome. So there's lots of things here. It's a very technical debate. What does he mean by bishop here? That is, he'll use a phrase, we're still using it today, the dangers that we read back, and so we see this man with a mitre, and he's living in his Episcopal palace, and he's got all the priests under him, et cetera. There have been some very scholarly essays written on, what is the bishop in his church? Is it the later monarchical bishop with a whole diocese and priests and parishes, et cetera? Clearly not. So it's debated. Some have argued that the bishop is kind of the local, what we would call a priest of quite a local community,


a city community, for instance. The Bishop of Corinth would be that presider of that community. So he says that Eucharist should have the bishop presiding or someone he appoints. So that is recognized, but it's recognized as a kind of an exception. If you've got a Eucharist, the one who will be celebrating is the bishop. So we want to be careful. We don't too easily read later models. Some have argued that there's no concept of what we would call an archbishop with lots of bishops under him or a bishop with lots of clergy under him, but it's more the local community. Also, there's no reference to base this. There's no reference to the apostolic succession in Ignatius. This is true. He doesn't justify bishops because of the passing on of hands. He simply says they represent Christ. So it's a whole disgust thing, and not all the cards are on our side, but most of them are, and this is what is enriching the ecumenical dialogue today,


rediscovering the fathers and working through what scholars on both sides are saying. Happily, we've gotten beyond the point of a specific Roman Catholic reading of Ignatius and Clement and Irenaeus, and then a Lutheran reading and a Methodist reading. We've got scholars sharing their work and collaborating, et cetera, but certainly these are very key for these things. So the ecclesial significance. Let's rush into that, which is something to think about. Here, this man is being dragged off to be fed to the lions. He's trying to save his own individual soul, and he's so concerned about the churches, and he's so consoled by the churches that come. It's a very ecclesial spirituality. Can you imagine yourself, right before death, worrying about how the church in New York is doing and how the church in Texas is doing and trying to exhort them to live in love? And he's a bishop all the way, in the sense that he never goes off


onto an individualistic thing, but it's profoundly ecclesial. And the importance of intercessory prayer. He says, if I'm saved, it's because of your prayers. Therefore, to set the seal of perfection on your work, here he's saying, grace which I am now praying to be given in fullest measure so that with the help of your prayers, I may make my way to him. Here again is his paschal image. Therefore, to set the seal of perfection on your work, I am your work, he's saying, both here and hereafter, will be most fitting. Oh, I'm sorry. He's been talking about that, the prayers for him. Now he's going on to the relation of this church with another church, with it's gotten its act together through the intercessions and prayers of this church. Therefore, to set the seal of perfection on your work of reconciliation regarding this other church, both here and hereafter. It would be good if you would do much honor to God if your church were to appoint someone to go


as his ambassador to Syria with your felicitations on the restoration of peace there, on the recovery of their numbers and on their reestablishment as a corporate body again. Always this ecclesial concern and the concern of one church for another. We've talked about local churches, church being used in the plural. So here he's talking to the church of Smyrna saying, be very concerned for the church in Syria. For my thought is that it would be well worth your while to send a letter by one of your people, joining them in giving glory to God for the tranquility he has granted them. And for the fact that through your prayers, this communion of one church with another, which is primarily a spiritual communion. Again, it seems that the juridical structures of Episcopal synods and archbishops,


these haven't yet emerged, but he just assumes that if you're in contact with a bishop, you're in good shape and that that bishop will be in communion with every other bishop. Except he does acknowledge and note that there are problems of splitting apart some reconciliations. The ecumenical endeavor has been an eternal endeavor right from the very beginning. We sometimes have a very simplistic view of the church was absolutely one up to 1054 and then a first split with the East. And then absolutely one in the West up till 1600. There's been a constant split off, schism, heresy, reconciliation, negotiation, rediscovery of a unity, not et cetera. So through your prayers, that they may come to safe harbor at last. Since you are spiritually quite mature, pray for them. Of course, he's sort of buttering them up, but he's also noting diverse levels of profundity of spirituality. And precisely those most advanced should be most committed to working for the unity,


the reconciliation of the brethren. So one community concerned with another lifts up the other. Now, unity is the most important thing for the churches in this regard. Again, not a juridical unity, an outer marching lockstep, but this spiritual community in the one mystery of Christ. In his letter to Polycarp, he says, up here he's talking to another bishop. Let me charge you. Here's one bishop charging another, this beautiful reciprocal exhortation. Let me charge you to press on even more strenuously in your course. Here again is the Paschal theme. In all the grace with which you are clothed and to call your people to salvation, give thought especially to unity. There's nothing more important than this. So unity comes up again and again and again. And it's a unity in Christ, not a unity in the law.


Here he fights the Judaizers. Our unity is in the one Christ, in the one Eucharist, in the one bishop, not in the law and not in some gnostic spirituality. Make certain therefore that all of you observe one common Eucharist, for there is but one body of our Lord Jesus Christ, but one cup of union with his blood, and one single altar of sacrifice. Even also there is but one bishop with his clergy and deacons. So this is very profound. There's one Christ, therefore there's one Eucharist, therefore there's one Episcopacy. Now we share in that union. You see it's a spiritual communion ultimately with God. And then he goes on to attack the Judaizers. For I am cleaving for refuge to the one gospel message as though to the incarnate Christ and to the apostles. This is beautiful. It's the gospel that saves me, it's Christ that saves me, it's the one Eucharist, thus not the law. All the same, if anyone should make use of the scriptures,


that is the Old Testament, to propound Judaism to you, do not listen to him. Then he goes into an amusing thing. Better to talk of Christianity from a man who is circumcised than of Judaism from one who is not. Here seems to be some sort of curious reference to Gentile uncircumcised but who've become legalists who sort of become more Judaizing than the Judaizers. This can happen. And he's saying, I'd rather talk to a Jews, become fully a Christian than to one of these people who's bending over backwards to be more legalistic than the others. Though in my judgment, both of them alike, both the circumcised, if they fail to preach Jesus Christ, are no more than tombstones and graves of the dead. If they what? If they fail to preach Jesus Christ. There's the one life-giving message, which is the gospel. By the way, our Protestant brethren would cite all these things from Ignatius, the centrality of the gospel.


It is Christ that gives life, et cetera. So to avoid this sort of thing. And thus be loyal to your bishop and clergy and deacons. That was the preaching of the spirit itself. Be imitators of Jesus Christ as he was of his father. Here's this theme again of imitation, but at the deepest level, we imitate Christ again as he imitates the father. Loyalty to the bishop and the priest and the deacon. He has all three here. In what relation? Again, it's debated by the scholars. We can't too easily read back our categories, but they're here. However, the same time over, essentially it is that you should never act independently of the bishop, as evidently you do not. You must also be no less submissive to your clergy and regard them as apostles of Jesus Christ, our hope. Curiously, he doesn't relate the bishops to the apostles.


He relates the clergy. This has been noted. In whom we shall one day be found if our lives are in him, the deacons too, who serve the mysteries of Jesus Christ. Must be man universally approved in every way, et cetera. The ultimate motive of this unity, again, is Christological. We want to maintain our communion with Christ in the same way as the Lord was wholly one with the father. Here is the ultimate, his theology of unity. One of my students did a term paper on unity in Ignatius. Same way as the Lord was wholly one with the father and never acted independently of him, either in person or through the apostles. So you yourselves must never act independently of your bishop and clergy. On no account persuade yourselves it is right to, proper to follow your own private judgment. Have a single service of prayer, which everyone attends.


One united supplication, one mind, one hope in love and innocent joyfulness. It's a very joyful unity because it's communion in Christ with the father. So this is the ultimate level of it. Your obedience to your bishop as though he were Jesus Christ shows me plainly enough that yours is no worldly manner of life, but is that way of Jesus Christ himself. Again, the theme of imitate Christ, therefore be united with your bishop. So it's not a worldly saluting and I need a leader and I need an authority figure so I'll do anything the bishop, that ain't it. It's in so far as Christ is in us and we know that communion, that gnosis, does spontaneously, we are committed to church unity and to our communion with the bishop. Responsibilities then towards the bishop,


towards the priests, towards the deacons and responsibilities of the bishops and priests and deacons to the people. He's very eloquent also on this one. He writes to Polycarp, he has six letters to six local churches and one letter to a bishop. Not just any bishop, the great Polycarp, which is very beautiful. In his very first paragraph, he says, make yourself the support of all in sundry. First he had this exhortation to give thought especially to unity for there is nothing more important than this. So here's a bishop that's to reinforce unity. Now is he gonna do it? By screaming obey me, obey me. How? Make yourself the support of all in sundry as the Lord is to you. Beautiful how he always comes back to the Christological ground of this. Christ supports you, you support the faithful. And continue to bear lovingly with them all as you are doing at present. Spend your time in constant prayer


and beg for ever larger gifts of wisdom. It's quite a beautiful exhortation here. Be watchful and unsleeping in spirit. This could be a kind of a program for monks also. Address yourself to people personally as it is the way of God himself. Very profound stuff. Not just commands from on a high and personally, but people on a kind of a one-to-one basis. And carry the infirmities of them all on your own shoulders. Some Lutherans have said that had all bishops always acted thus, we might not have had some of the problems we had. Carry the infirmities of them all on your own shoulders. Much of this recalls the rule of Saint Benedict, by the way, in the exhortations to the abbot who's not to rule over the strong, but to us support and carry the weak. The image of the good shepherd who bears the lamb.


As a good champion of Christ ought to do. The heavier the labor, the richer the reward. So this is the other side of the coin. Quite a pastoral, so it's not the military model of arbitrary authority and power and the other simply say yes, sir, and that's it, to have a tight army. It's something very, very profound that's tied in with the way Christ acts with his sheep. So, and then you could do a whole thing on love as primary in Ignatius and all this. Let him who can absorb this truth. High position is no excuse for pride. Here he said, it is faith and love that are everything and these must come before all else. So, the decisiveness of love, especially for those on high.


And then finally, the primacy of Rome. In what sense, in what way? His beautiful letter to the Romans. Something here very special is happening. Curiously, he makes no reference to the bishop of Rome. And this is puzzled scholars. Again, from the colony of the church of God at Rome, from the colony of the church of God at Corinth. Hold on, I've gotten into the wrong category here. I've gotten into Clement's letter too. Let's get Ignatius to Rome, let's not get Clement from Rome to Rome. It's very confusing. It's confusing. Don't make a mistake, Luigi. From Ignatius, whose other name is Theophorus, God-bearer. To her, who has found mercy in the greatness


of the All-High Father and Jesus Christ is what he said. To the church beloved and enlightened in her love. He praises Rome, but not for great privileges, not for the Petrine privileges, but for this love of our Jesus Christ by the will of him who wills all things. To the church holding chief place in the territories of the district of Rome. Here's something special about all the territories around Rome, this church has a special function there. So something, here's a scholarly footnote, et cetera. Worthy of God, worthy of honor, et cetera. Foremost in love. This is a phrase that has caused much ink to flow and much debate and discussion. As much in the Father's, it isn't that crystal clear what he's getting at. You've got a kind of a minimalist interpretation of what he is getting at here, and a maximalist. The minimalist is the good Protestant one who says


he's praising this Christian community in Rome that they have lots of charity, lots of love. It would that this had continued through the centuries, this sort of thing. The Roman says, what do we mean by love here? This is a kind of a mystical category. It sums up the whole of the Christian mystery. There's a Roman Catholic scholar, Theo, T-H-I-E-O-E, who argues that the totality of supernatural life in Christ is implemented in and through his love. Thus, when he's talking about foremost in love, it's kind of a theological category, foremost in the fullness of the Christian mystery. Thus, Ignatius would recognize in this phrase the authority to guide in matters pertaining to the essence of Christianity. This is Theo's argument. Now, how do you prove the one or the other? You get into very, very scholarly research upon how the category love is used


in the writings of Ignatius. Does he ever elsewhere pump it full of a kind of theological power significance? Is he talking about the virtue of love as we would normally mean also in Christian circles, et cetera? So it gets very, very technical. But something very beautiful is happening there. And then there's certainly much more praise here for Rome than for any of the other churches. And you have been a source of instruction to others, he says, in one of the first paragraphs of paragraph three. Here's immediately a scholarly footnote. All of these phrases then stir up all sorts of discussion in the churches. And this is of the richness of patristic scholarship. We have a common ground here. Now we have to understand. And once it can be proved that it means the one or the other, that is significant. Um, foremost of love. I think that does remain significant.


I was at a kind of top level ecumenical discussion in Rome. And one of the men of the Secretariat for Christian Unity was saying, what will be the primacy of Rome in the coming great united gathering of sister churches? And he was quoting an Orthodox patriarch who said that our principle is first among equals. That's the function of Rome. And that primacy is a primacy of honor. This is a famous Orthodox formula for dealing with Rome, primacy of honor. And this representative of the Secretariat said, this isn't quite it. This certainly isn't New Testament language. New Testament language doesn't talk about primacies of honor. Christ says, take the last place, et cetera. But if anything, this is very beautiful. Some kind of primacy of love with all that means. It's also a commitment and a burden.


Has Rome always given this impression to its faithful of a kind of a, first of all, a primacy in love, but it's with all that love means, remembering 1 Corinthians 13, et cetera. We'll see if we get along far enough. If I don't die before this course is over. Some of the medieval popes in the worst periods, they projected more a kind of imperial images than this primacy of love. But it is a key. And this sort of thing could be a key to all sorts of ecumenical getting togethers. The significance of Pope John XXIII, for instance, for the Orthodox, for the Anglicans, for the Protestants. They saw of their some kind of very special function, but very much in love. But very much in love each other,