Join the choir

Daily Reading for October 17 • Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch, and Martyr, c. 115

From Ignatius, whose other name is Theophorus, to the deservedly happy church at Ephesus in Asia; notably blessed with greatness by God the Father out of His own fullness; marked out since the beginning of time for glory unfading and unchanging; and owing its unity and its election to the true and undoubted Passion, by the will of the Father and Jesus Christ our God. Every good wish to you for perfect joy in Jesus Christ.

Your visit to me was a godsend. The warm affection your name inspires is yours by right of nature, as well as by virtue of your faith and your love for our Saviour Jesus Christ. Taking God as your pattern and example, you have indeed fulfilled to perfection the duties of brotherliness, with an ardour kindled into flame by the Divine Blood. For as soon as you heard that I was on my way from Syria, as a prisoner for the Name and the Hope we all share (and trusting through your prayers to be granted an encounter with the wild beasts at Rome—a boon that will enable me to become a true disciple), you were all eagerness to visit me. Thus I have now been able to play the host, in God’s name, to your whole community in the person of your bishop Onesimus. His endearing kindliness is beyond all words; I pray you to cherish him in the true spirit of Jesus Christ, and that every one of you may be the sort of man that he is. Blessings on Him who gave you the privilege of having such a bishop, and well indeed do you deserve it. . . . For we can have no life apart from Jesus Christ; and as He represents the mind of the Father, so our bishops, even those who are stationed in the remotest parts of the world, represent the mind of Jesus Christ.

That is why it is proper for your conduct and your practices to correspond closely with the mind of the bishop. And this, indeed, they are doing; your justly respected clergy, who are a credit to God, are attuned to their bishop like the strings of a harp, and the result is a hymn of praise to Jesus Christ from minds that are in unison, and affections that are in harmony. Pray, then, come and join this choir, every one of you; let there be a whole symphony of minds in concert; take the tone all together from God, and sing aloud to the Father with one voice through Jesus Christ, so that He may hear you and know by your good works that you are indeed members of His Son’s Body.

From The Epistle to the Ephesians of Ignatius of Antioch, quoted in Early Christian Writings: The Apostolic Fathers, translated by Maxwell Staniforth (Penguin Books, 1968).

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