IGNATIUS TO POLYCARP
Ignatius, also called Theophorus, sends heartiest greetings to Polycarp,
who is bishop of the Church of Smyma, or rather has for his bishop God the
Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
1. I am so well pleased with your God-mindedness, firmly built, as it were,
upon an immovable rock, that I am exceedingly grateful for the privilege I
had of seeing your saintly face. May it, please God, be a constant joy to
me! I exhort you, clothed as you are with the garment of grace, to speed
on your course and exhort all others to attend to their salvation. Do
justice to your once with the utmost solicitude, both physical and
spiritual. Be concerned about unity, the greatest blessing. Bear with all,
just as the Lord does with you. Have patience with all in charity, as
indeed you do. To prayer give yourself unceasingly; beg for an increase in
understanding; watch without letting your spirit flag. Speak to each one
singly in imitation of God's way. Bear the infirmities of all, like a
master athlete. The greater the toil, the greater the reward.
2. If you love good disciples, you can expect no thanks. Rather, reduce to
subjection, by gentleness, the more pestiferous. Not every hurt is healed
by the same plaster. Allay fits of fever by means of poultices. Be wary
like a serpent, yet always guileless like a dove. You consist of body and
soul for the reason that you may deal graciously with whatever meets your
eye; but pray that what is kept secret may be revealed to you. In this way
you will be lacking in nothing and abound in every gift. As a pilot calls
on winds and a storm-tossed mariner looks heavenward, so the times call on
you to win your way to God. As God's athlete, be sober; the stake is
immortality and eternal life. Of this you are firmly convinced. For your
sake I sacrifice myself--chains and all, which are your delight.
3. Men that seem worthy of confidence, yet teach strange doctrines, must
not upset you. Stand firm, like an anvil under the hammer. It is like a
great athlete to take blows and yet win the fight. For God's sake above all
we must endure everything, so that God, in turn, may endure us. Increase
your zeal. Read the signs of the times. Look for Him who is above all time-
-the Timeless, the Invisible, who for our sake became visible, the
Impassible, who became subject to suffering on our account and for our sake
4. Widows must not be neglected. After the Lord, you must be their
guardian. Nothing must be done without your approval; nor must you do
anything without God's approval, as indeed you do not. Be calm. Let
meetings be held as frequently as possible. Seek out all by name. Do not
treat slaves, male or female, with a haughty air, but neither must they
give themselves airs; on the contrary, for the glory of God they should
render all the better service so as to obtain a better freedom from God.
They should not pine for release at the expense of the community;
otherwise, they turn out to be slaves of unruly appetites.
5. Pay no attention to their wily stratagems; and do more preaching on this
subject. Tell my sisters to love the Lord and to be content with their
husbands in body and soul. In like manner, exhort my brethren in the name
of Jesus Christ to love their wives as the Lord loves the Church. If anyone
is able to remain continent, to the honor of the Flesh of the Lord, let him
persistently avoid boasting. The moment he boasts, he is lost; and if he is
more highly esteemed than the bishop, he is undone. For those of both sexes
who contemplate marriage it is proper to enter the union with the sanction
of the bishop; thus their marriage will be acceptable to the Lord and not
just gratify lust. Let all things be done to the honor of God.
6. Heed the bishop, that God may heed you, too. My life is a ransom for
those who are obedient to the bishop, presbyters, and deacons; and in their
company may I obtain my portion! Toil together, wrestle together, run
together, suffer together, rest together, rise together, since you are
stewards in God's house, members of His household, and His servants. Win
the approval of Him whose soldiers you are, from whom you also draw your
pay. Let none of you turn deserter. Let your baptism be your armor; your
faith, your helmet; your love, your spear; your patient endurance, your
panoply. Your deposits should be your works, that you may receive your
savings to the exact amount. To sum up: be long-suffering toward one
another and gentle, as God is with you. May you be my joy always!
7. Since, as I was informed, the Church at Antioch in Syria enjoys peace
through your prayer, I, too, gather fresh courage, carefree and confident
in God. If only I win my way to God, for at the resurrection I want to be
found your disciple! It is fitting, my dear God-blessed Polycarp, to
convene a council invested with all the splendor of God and to appoint
someone who is dear to you and untiring in his zeal, one qualified for the
part of God's courier; then confer on him the distinction of going to Syria
and extolling, for the glory of God, the untiring charity of your
community. A Christian is not his own master; his time belongs to God. This
is God's work; and it will be yours, too, once you have accomplished it.
Yes, I trust in the grace of God that you are ready for a noble work which
concerns God. Knowing your intense zeal for the truth, I confine my
exhortation to these few words.
8. To conclude. Because of my sudden embarkation from Troas for Neapolis--
for such is the order of the day. I cannot personally write to all the
Churches. Therefore, God-minded as you are, you will please write to the
principal Churches and tell them to do the same thing: those that can
afford it should send messengers; the rest should send letters through the
kindness of your personal delegates. You are qualified for this task. In
this way you all will reap honor from a work destined to live forever.
Remember me to all by name, especially to the widow of Epitropus, with her
whole family and those of her children. Remember me to my dear Attalus.
Remember me to the man who will have the honor of going to Syria. God's
grace will forever be with him, as also with Polycarp who sends him. I say
good-bye to you all forever in Jesus Christ our God, through whom I wish
you to be united with God and under His watchful eye. Farewell in the Lord!