A Sacrifice for God in Syria

My prayer that I might live to see you all face to face has been granted. In fact, I have been given more than I asked for, since I now hope to greet you in the chains of a prisoner of Christ Jesus, if his will finds me worthy to reach my journey’s end. One thing only I beg of you: allow me to be a libation poured out to God, while there is still an altar ready for me. Then you can form a choir of love around it and sing hymns of praise to the Father in Christ Jesus for allowing Syria’s bishop, summoned from the realms of the rising sun, to have reached the land of its setting. How good it is to be sinking down below the world’s horizon toward God that I may rise again into the dawn of his presence!

I am writing to all the churches and assuring them that I am truly in earnest about dying for God, provided you put no obstacles in the way. I beg you to do me no such untimely kindness. Let me be a meal for the beasts, for it is they who can provide my way to God. I am God’s wheat, to be ground fine by the teeth of lions so that I become the purest bread for Christ. Intercede with him on my behalf, that by their instrumentality I may be made a sacrifice to God.

All the ends of the earth and all the kingdoms of this world would profit me nothing. As far as I am concerned, to die in Christ Jesus is better than to be king of earth’s widest bounds. I seek only him who for our sake died; my whole desire is for him who rose again for us. The pangs of birth are upon me. Have patience with me, my brothers and sisters, and do not shut me out from life, do not wish me to be stillborn. Do not make a present to the world again of one who longs only to be God’s; do not try to deceive him with material things. Allow me rather to attain to light, light pure and undefiled; for only when I am come to the light shall I become truly human. Allow me to imitate the passion of my God. If any of you have God within you, let them understand my longings and sympathize with me, because they will know the forces by which I am constrained.

It is the hope of the prince of this world to get hold of me and undermine my resolve, set as it is upon God. Let none of you lend him any assistance, but take my part instead, for indeed it is the part of God. Do not have Jesus Christ on your lips, and the world in your heart; do not cherish thoughts of grudging me my fate. Even if I were to come and beg you in person, do not yield to my pleading; keep your mind focused on this written resolve. Here and now, as I write in the fullness of life, I am longing for death with all the passion of a lover. Earthly longings have been crucified; there is no spark of desire for mundane things left within me, but only a murmur of living water that whispers within me, “Come to the Father.”

— A Reading from a Letter of Ignatius of Antioch in Syria to the Church in Rome
as he prepared for his forthcoming death c. 115


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