TO THE EPHESIANS IGNATIUS TO THE EPHESIANS
Ignatius, also called Theophorus, sends heartiest good wishes for unalloyed
joy in Jesus Christ to the Church at Ephesus in Asia; a church deserving of
felicitation, blessed, as she is, with greatness through the fullness of
God the Father; predestined, before time was, to be--to her abiding and
unchanging glory--forever united and chosen, through real suffering, by the
will of the Father and Jesus Christ our God.
1. With joy in God I welcomed your community, which possesses its dearly
beloved name because of a right disposition, enhanced by faith and love
through Christ Jesus our Savior. Being imitators of God, you have, once
restored to new life in the Blood of God, perfectly accomplished the task
so natural to you. Indeed, as soon as you heard that I was coming from
Syria in chains for our common Name and hope--hoping I might, thanks to
your prayer, obtain the favor of fighting wild beasts at Rome and through
this favor be able to prove myself a disciple--you hastened to see me. In
the name of God, then, I have received your numerous community in the
person of Onesimus, a man of indescribable charity and your bishop here on
earth. I pray you in the spirit of Jesus Christ to love him, and wish all
of you to resemble him. Blessed, indeed, is He whose grace made you worthy
to possess such a bishop.
2. As to my fellow servant Burrus, your deacon by God's appointment and
blessed with every gift, I wish he would stay at my side both for your
honor and that of the bishop. But Crocus, too, a man of God and worthy of
you, whom I received as a living example of your affection, has brought
relief to me in every way; and I wish that the Father of Jesus Christ may
comfort him in turn, as also Onesimus and Burrus and Euplus and Fronto, in
whose persons I saw tokens of the affection of all of you. May you ever be
my joy, if indeed I deserve it! It is therefore proper in every way to
glorify Jesus Christ who has glorified you, so that you, fully trained in
unanimous submission, may be submissive to the bishop and the presbytery,
and thus be sanctified in every respect.
3. I give you no orders as though I were somebody. For, even though I am in
chains for the sake of the Name, I am not yet perfected in Jesus Christ.
Indeed, I am now but being initiated into discipleship, and I address you
as my fellow disciples. Yes, I ought to be anointed by you with faith,
encouragement, patient endurance, and steadfastness. However, ,since
affection does not permit me to be silent when you are concerned, I am at
once taking this opportunity to exhort you to live in harmony with the mind
of God. Surely, Jesus Christ, our inseparable life, for His part is the
mind of the Father, just as the bishops, though appointed throughout the
vast, wide earth, represent for their part the mind of Jesus Christ.
4. Hence it is proper for you to act in agreement with the mind of the
bishop; and this you do. Certain it is that your presbytery, which is a
credit to its name, is a credit to God; for it harmonizes with the bishop
as completely as the strings with a harp. This is why in the symphony of
your concord and love the praises of Jesus Christ are sung. But you, the
rank and file, should also form a choir, so that, joining the symphony by
your concord, and by your unity taking your key note from God, you may with
one voice through Jesus Christ sing a song to the Father. Thus He will both
listen to you and by reason of your good life recognize in you the melodies
of His Son. It profits you, therefore, to continue In your flawless unity,
that you may at all times have a share in God.
5. For a fact, if I in a short time became so warmly attached to your
bishop--an attachment based not on human grounds but on spiritual--how much
more do I count you happy who are as closely knit to him as the Church is
to Jesus Christ, and as Jesus Christ is to the Father! As a result, the
symphony of unity is perfect. Let no one deceive himself: unless a man is
within the sanctuary, he has to go without the Bread of God. Assuredly, if
the prayer of one or two has such efficacy, how much more that of the
bishop and the entire Church! It follows, then: he who absents himself from
the common meeting, by that very fact shows pride and becomes a sectarian;
for the Scripture says: God resists the proud. Let us take care, therefore,
not to oppose the bishop, that we may be submissive to God.
6. Furthermore: the more anyone observes that a bishop is discreetly
silent, the more he should stand in fear of him. Obviously, anyone whom the
Master of the household puts in charge of His domestic affairs, ought to be
received by us in the same spirit as He who has charged him with this duty.
Plainly, then, one should look upon the bishop as upon the Lord Himself.
Now, Onesimus for his part overflows with praise of the good order that,
thanks to God, exists in your midst. Truth is the rule of life for all of
you, and heresy has no foothold among you. The fact is, you have nothing
more to learn from anyone, since you listen to Jesus Christ who speaks
7. Some there are, you know, accustomed with vicious guile to go about with
the Name on their lips, while they indulge in certain practices at variance
with it and an insult to God. These you must shun as you would wild beasts:
they are rabid dogs that bite in secret; you must beware of them, for they
are hard to cure. a There is only one Physician, both carnal and spiritual,
born and unborn, God become man, true life in death; sprung both from Mary
and from God, first subject to suffering and then incapable of it--Jesus
Christ Our Lord.
8. Let no one, then, deceive you, as indeed you are not being deceived,
belonging wholly to God. For as long as no dissension calculated to plague
you has taken firm root among you, it follows that you are leading a life
conformable to God. Your lowliest servant, I also consecrate myself to you
Ephesians--that Church whose renown will go down the ages. The carnal
cannot live a spiritual life, nor can the spiritual live a carnal life, any
more than faith can act the part of infidelity, or infidelity the part of
faith. But even the things you do in the flesh are spiritual, for you do
all things in union with Jesus Christ.
9. I have heard of certain persons from elsewhere passing through, whose
doctrine was bad. These you did not permit to sow their seed among you; you
stopped your ears, so as not to receive the seed sown by them. You consider
yourselves stones of the Father's temple, prepared for the edifice of God
the Father, to be taken aloft by the hoisting engine of Jesus Christ, that
is, the Cross, while the Holy Spirit serves you as a rope; your faith is
your spiritual windlass and your love the road which leads up to God. And
thus you all are fellow travelers, God-bearers and temple-bearers, Christ-
bearers and bearers of holiness, with the commandments of Jesus Christ for
festal attire. At this I am jubilant, privileged as I am to converse with
you through this letter, and to congratulate you because in your
otherworldliness you love nothing but God alone.
10. But pray unceasingly also for the rest of men, for they offer ground
for hoping that they may be converted and win their way to God. Give them
an opportunity therefore, at least by your conduct, of becoming your
disciples. Meet their angry outbursts with your own gentleness, their
boastfulness with your humility, their revilings with your prayers, their
error with your constancy in the faith, their harshness with your meekness;
and beware of trying to match their example. Let us prove ourselves their
brothers through courtesy. Let us strive to follow the Lord's example and
see who can suffer greater wrong, who more deprivation, who more contempt.
Thus no weed of the devil will be found among you; but you will persevere
in perfect chastity and sobriety through Jesus Christ, in body and soul.
11. The last epoch has arrived! Therefore let us exercise restraint and
fear lest God's long-suffering should turn to our condemnation. Obviously,
we must either fear the gathering storm of anger or else cherish the
present time of grace--one of the two; only let us be found in union with
Christ Jesus so as to possess the true life. Apart from Him, let nothing
fascinate you. In union with Him I carry about these chains of mine--
spiritual pearls they are! May I be privileged through your prayer--in
which I wish I may ever have a share--to wear them when I rise from the
dead! Thus I shall be found in the ranks of the Christians of Ephesus, who
have ever been of one mind with the Apostles through the power of Jesus
12. I know who I am and to whom I am writing. I have been condemned, you
have been spared; I am in danger, you are in perfect safety. YOU are the
highway of God's martyrs. You are fellow initiates with Paul, a man
sanctified, of character magnificently attested, and worthy of every
felicitation, in whose footsteps I wish to be found when I come to meet
God, and who in an entire epistle remembers you in Christ Jesus.
13. Make an effort, then, to meet more frequently to celebrate God's
Eucharist and to offer praise. For, when you meet frequently in the same
place, the forces of Satan are overthrown, and his baneful influence is
neutralized by the unanimity of your faith. Peace is a precious thing: it
puts an end to every war waged by heavenly or earthly enemies.
14. Nothing of this escapes you; only persevere to the end in your faith
in, and your love for, Jesus Christ. Here is the beginning and the end of
life: faith is the beginning, the end is love; and when the two blend
perfectly with each other, they are God. Everything else that makes for
right living is consequent upon these. No one who professes faith sins; no
one who possesses love hates. The tree is known by its fruit. In like
manner, those who profess to belong to Christ will be known as such by
their conduct. Certainly, what matters now is not mere profession of faith,
but whether one is found to be actuated by it to the end.
15. It is better to keep silence and be something than to talk and be
nothing. Teaching is an excellent thing, provided the speaker practices
what he teaches. Now, there is one Teacher who spoke and it was done. But
even what He did silently is worthy of the Father. He who has made the
words of Jesus really his own is able also to hear His silence. Thus he
will be perfect: he will act through his speech and be understood through
his silence. Nothing is hidden from the Lord; no, even our secrets reach
Him. Let us, then, do all things in the conviction that He dwells in us.
Thus we shall be His temples and He will be our God within us. And this is
the truth, and it will be made manifest before our eyes. Let us, then, love
Him as He deserves.
16. Do not be deceived, my brethren. Those who ruin homes will not inherit
the kingdom of God. Now, if those who do this to gratify the flesh are
liable to death, how much more a man who by evil doctrine ruins the faith
in God, for which Jesus Christ was crucified! Such a filthy creature will
go into the unquenchable fire, as will anyone that listens to him.
17. The Lord permitted myrrh to be poured on His head that He might breathe
incorruption upon the Church. Do not let yourselves be anointed with the
malodorous doctrine of the Prince of this world, for fear he may carry you
off into captivity--away from the life that is in store for you. Why do we
not all become wise, having received knowledge of God, that is, Jesus
Christ! Why do we perish in folly, failing to appreciate the gift which the
Lord has sent us in truth!
18. I offer my life's breath for the sake of the Cross, which is a
stumbling block to the unbelievers, but to us is salvation and eternal
life. What has become of the philosopher? What of the controversialist?
What of the vaunting of the so-called intellectuals? The fact is, our God
Jesus Christ was conceived by Mary according to God's dispensation of the
seed of David, it is true, but also of the Holy Spirit. He was born and was
baptized, that by His Passion He might consecrate the water.
19. And the Prince of this world was in ignorance of the virginity of Mary
and her childbearing and also of the death of the Lord--three mysteries
loudly proclaimed to the world, though accomplished in the stillness of
God! How, then, were they revealed to the ages? A star blazed forth in the
sky, outshining all the other stars, and its light was indescribable, and
its novelty provoked wonderment, and all the starry orbs, with the sun and
the moon, formed a choir round that star; but its light exceeded that of
all the rest, and there was perplexity as to the cause of the unparalleled
novelty. This was the reason why every form of magic began to be destroyed,
every malignant spell to be broken, ignorance to be dethroned, an ancient
empire to be overthrown--God was making His appearance in human form to
mold the newness of eternal life! Then at length was ushered in what God
had prepared in His counsels; then all the world was in an upheaval because
the destruction of death was being prosecuted.
20. If Jesus Christ, yielding to your prayer, grants me the favor and it is
His will, I shall, in the subsequent letter which I intend to write to you,
still further explain the dispensation which I have here only touched upon,
regarding the New Man Jesus Christ--a dispensation founded on faith in Him
and love for Him, on His Passion and Resurrection. I will do so especially
if the Lord should reveal to me that you--the entire community of you!--are
in the habit, through grace derived from the Name, of meeting in common,
animated by one faith and in union with Jesus Christ--who in the flesh was
of the line of David, the Son of Man and the Son of God--of meeting, I say,
to show obedience with undivided mind to the bishop and the presbytery, and
to break the same Bread, which is the medicine of immortality, the antidote
against death, and everlasting life in Jesus Christ.
21. I offer my life as a ransom for you and for those whom for the glory of
God you sent to Smyrna, where, too, I am writing to you with thanks to the
Lord and with love for Polycarp and you. Remember me, as may Jesus Christ
remember you! Pray for the Church in Syria, whence I am being led away in
chains to Rome, though I am the least of the faithful there. But then, I
was granted the favor of contributing to the honor of God. Farewell! May
God the Father and Jesus Christ, our common Hope, bless you!