Saint Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch, was a direct disciple of Peter and John. He was martyred by being thrown to the wild beasts in Rome, but on his way to his triumphant fate, he wrote many epistles, letters, to the Early Church. In these epistles we find clear basis for our traditions and doctrines, clear evidence for our interpretations of the Mysteries revealed through the Gospel.
Ignatius was a firm believer in the Real Presence, the reality that Holy Communion, the Holy Eucharist, is truly the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. He writes in his Epistle to the Smyrnaeans:
“Beware of those who have false opinions and believe in unfamiliar doctrines about the grace of Jesus Christ…
They abstain from the Eucharist and prayer, and they deny that the Eucharist is the very flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, Who suffered for our sins, and Who was raised up by the Father in His goodness.
Those who speak against this good gift of God are dead in their dissent. It would be better for them to have love, so they might also rise again.
It is fitting to shun such men. Do not speak about them, either in private or in public. Instead, study the prophets, and especially the Gospel, which reveals the passion and resurrection. Avoid all conflict and division, for they are the beginning of evils.”
Ignatius clearly proclaims that the Eucharist is the “flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ,” not merely a metaphor. He even suggests we shun those who speak against this good gift of God.
To reject the Real Presence, is to reject Christ and His Church entirely. To believe that God isn’t able to make such a miracle a reality is to doubt the power of God.
The Saint and Martyr Ignatius confirms this truth, alongside other traditions of the Church. How anyone could believe that one of the direct disciples of the ordained Apostles, men chosen specifically by God to teach the world, could somehow teach what they see as “error” is simply very odd.
Reading the Church Fathers will show anyone that true Christianity, the Christianity of the Apostles, can be found in the Latin Mass and the Divine Liturgy. It can’t be found in a mall sermon featuring prepackaged communion.
Ignatius was so confident in his beliefs and doctrines, his faith of Jesus Christ, that he eagerly fought with the wild beasts in Rome, knowing that as he was torn apart, he would be grounded up as the wheat of God.
Let us remember the words of Ignatius and take part in the same traditions and worship that he helped establish. Let us receive the Eucharist with reverence knowing that is it truly our Lord, that it is not merely a metaphor. Let us willingly embrace persecution and martyrdom so that we, too, can be ground up as the wheat of God.