Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The pains of birth are upon me



~by St. Ignatius of Antioch to the Romans

All the kingdoms of this world are worth nothing to me. It is better for me to die in Christ Jesus than to be king over the ends of the earth. I seek him who died for our sake, I desire him who rose for us.

The pains of birth are upon me. Be understanding, my brethren: do not hinder me from coming to life, do not wish me to die. I desire to belong to God: do not give me to the world, do not try to deceive me with material things. Allow me to receive the pure light: when I have reached it I shall become a man. Allow me to follow the example of the Passion of my God. If any man have God within himself, let him understand what I wish, and let him sympathize with me, knowing the things which constrain me.

The Prince of this world wishes to tear me in pieces and twist my mind away from God. Let none of you who are present help him, but be on my side: that is, on God’s. Do not speak of Jesus Christ but still desire the world. Let no envy dwell among you.

Perhaps when I arrive I will ask you to save my life. Ignore what I say then, but give me what I am writing to ask you now. In the midst of life I write to you desiring death. My bodily desires have been crucified, and there is in me no fire of love for material things. Within me there is no fire, but only water living and speaking in me, and saying to me from within, “Come to the Father.” I have no pleasure in the food of corruption or in the delights of this life. I desire the bread of God, which is the flesh of Jesus Christ, who was of the seed of David, and for drink I desire his blood, which is incorruptible love.

I want no more of what men call life. And I can receive what I want, if that is your desire. Desire it, so that you also may be desired. I beg you by this short letter; believe me. And Jesus Christ shall make this plain to you, that I am speaking the truth. He is the mouth which cannot lie, by which the Father has spoken truly. Pray for me that I may attain my goal. I am writing to you not according to the flesh, but according to the mind of God. If I am given suffering, it will be proof of your goodwill; if it is denied to me, that will be a proof of your disfavour.

Remember in your prayers the Church in Syria. God has now taken my place as its shepherd. Its bishop shall be Jesus Christ — Jesus Christ and your love. For myself I am ashamed to be called a member of that church, for I am not worthy. I am the least of them, a foetus born before its time. Yet, if I succeed in reaching God, then I shall have received true mercy, and I shall have become a human being.

My spirit greets you, and the love of the Churches which have received me in the name of Jesus Christ, not as a mere passer by. Even those which did not lie on my path (as the world measures it) have escorted me from one city to the next.

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