Unity with the Bishop

It is right for you to give glory in every way to Jesus Christ who has given glory to you; you must be made holy in all things by being united in perfect obedience, in submission to the bishop and the presbyters.

I am not giving you orders as if I were a person of importance. Even if I am a prisoner for the name of Christ, I am not yet made perfect in Jesus Christ. I am now beginning to be a disciple and I am speaking to you as my fellow-disciple. It is you who should be strengthening me by your faith, your encouragement, your patience, your serenity. But since love will not allow me to be silent about you, I am taking the opportunity to urge you to be united in conformity with the mind of God. For Jesus Christ, our life, without whom we cannot live, is the mind of the Father, just as the bishops, appointed over the whole earth, are in conformity with the mind of Jesus Christ.

It is fitting, therefore, that you should be in agreement with the mind of the bishop as in fact you are. Your excellent presbyters, who are a credit to God, are as suited to the bishop as strings to a harp. So in your harmony of mind and heart the song you sing is Jesus Christ. Every one of you should form a choir, so that, in harmony of sound through harmony of hearts, and in unity taking the note from God, you may sing with one voice through Jesus Christ to the Father. If you do this, he will listen to you and see from your good works that you are members of his Son. It is then an advantage to you to live in perfect unity, so that at all times you may share in God.

If in a short space of time I have become so close a friend of your bishop – in a friendship not based on nature but on spiritual grounds – how much more blessed do I judge you to be, for you are as united with him as the Church is to Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ to the Father, so that all things are in harmony through unity. Let no one make any mistake: unless a person is within the sanctuary, he is deprived of God’s bread. For if the prayer of one or two has such power, how much more has the prayer of the bishop and the whole Church.



Ignatius of Antioch, St.

Ignatius was the second bishop of Antioch, the place where the followers of Jesus were called Christians for the first time (Acts 11:26; Eusebius Eccl. Hist. 3.22.36 and Origen, Hom. 6 In Luc).  The impor­tance of Antioch as a center of apostolic Christianity cannot be overestimated.  It was the first center of outreach to the Gentiles (Acts 11:20) and the base from which Paul and Barna­bas were sent out on their missionary journeys (Acts 13:2-3; 15: 35-41; 18:22-23).  Peter, too, spent some time there prior to relocating in Rome (Gal 2:11).      St. Ignatius of Antioch is therefore an important testi­mony to the way in which the teaching of these apostles was remem­bered by this eminent Church.  Yet the letters of Saint Ignatius reflect not only the apostolic tradition as preserved by Antioch; many of the churches to which he wrote, such as that of Ephesus, were also founded by those of the apos­tolic generation.  So the seven letters which St. Ignatius wrote shortly before his martyrdom around 115AD witness to a common apostolic patrimony as understood and lived probably only a decade or two after the writing of John’s Gospel.