Ignatius to the Romans

Author: St. Ignatius

IGNATIUS TO THE ROMANS Ignatius, also called Theophorus, to the Church that has found mercy in the transcendent Majesty of the Most High Father and of Jesus Christ, His only Son; the church by the will of Him who willed all things that exist, beloved and illuminated through the faith and love of Jesus Christ our God; which also presides in the chief place of the Roman territory; a church worthy of God, worthy of honor, worthy of felicitation, worthy of praise, worthy of success, worthy of sanctification, and presiding in love, maintaining the law of Christ, and bearer of the Father's name: her do I therefore salute in the name of Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father. Heartiest good wishes for unimpaired joy in Jesus Christ our God, to those who are united in flesh and spirit by every commandment of His; who imperturbably enjoy the full measure of God's grace and have every foreign stain filtered out of them.

1. By prayer to God I have obtained the favor of seeing your venerable faces; in fact, I have been pleading for an even greater favor: as a prisoner in Christ Jesus I hope to embrace you, provided it is His will that I should be privileged to reach the goal. An auspicious beginning has certainly been made--if only I obtain the grace of taking due possession of my inheritance without hindrance. The truth is, I am afraid it is your love that will do me wrong. For you, of course, it is easy to achieve your object; but for me it is difficult to win my way to God, should you be wanting in consideration for me.

2. Surely, I do not want you to court the good pleasure of men, but to please God, as indeed you do please Him. Yes, I shall never again have such an opportunity of winning my way to God, nor can you, if you remain quiet, ever have your name inscribed on a more glorious achievement. For, if you quietly ignore me, I am the word of God; but if you fall in love with my human nature, I shall, on the contrary, be a mere sound. Grant me no more than that you let my blood be spilled in sacrifice to God, while yet there is an altar ready. You should form a choir of love and sing a song to the Father through Jesus Christ, because God has graciously summoned the bishop of Syria to come from the rising of the sun to the setting. How glorious to be a setting sun--away from the world, on to God! May I rise in His presence!

3. You have never grudged any man. You have taught others. All I want is that the lessons you inculcate in initiating disciples remain in force. Only beg for me strength within and without, that I may be a man not merely of words, but also of resolution. In this way I shall not only be called a Christian, but also prove to be one. For if I prove to be one, I can also be called a true believer even then when I am no longer seen by the world. Nothing that is seen is good. Our God Jesus Christ certainly is the more clearly seen now that He is in the Father. Whenever Christianity is hated by the world, what counts is not power of persuasion, but greatness. 4. I am writing to all the Churches and state emphatically to all that I die willingly for God, provided you do not interfere. I beg you, do not show me unseasonable kindness. Suffer me to be the food of wild beasts, which are the means of my making my way to God. God's wheat I am, and by the teeth of wild beasts I am to be ground that I may prove Christ's pure bread. Better still, coax the wild beasts to become my tomb and to leave no part of my person behind: once I have fallen asleep, I do not wish to be a burden to anyone. Then only shall I be a genuine disciple of Jesus Christ when the world will not see even my body. Petition Christ in my behalf that through these instruments I may prove God's sacrifice. Not like Peter and Paul do I issue any orders to you. They were Apostles, I am a convict; they were free, I am until this moment a slave. But once I have suffered, I shall become a freedman of Jesus Christ, and, united with Him, I shall rise a free man. Just now I learn, being in chains, to desire nothing.

5. All the way from Syria to Rome I am fighting wild beasts, on land and sea, by day and night, chained as I am to ten leopards, that is, a detachment of soldiers, who prove themselves the more malevolent for kindnesses shown them. Yet in the school of this abuse I am more and more trained in discipleship, although I am not therefore justified. Oh, may the beasts prepared for me be my joy! And I pray that they may be found to be ready for me. I will even coax them to make short work of me, not as has happened to some whom they were too timid to touch. And should they be unwilling to attack me who am willing, I will myself compel them. Pardon me--I know very well where my advantage lies. At last I am well on the way to being a disciple. May nothing seen or unseen, fascinate me, so that I may happily make my way to Jesus Christ! Fire, cross, struggles with wild beasts, wrenching of bones, mangling of limbs, crunching of the whole body, cruel tortures inflicted by the devil--let them come upon me, provided only I make my way to Jesus Christ.

6. Of no use to me will be the farthest reaches of the universe or the kingdoms of this world. I would rather die and come to Jesus Christ than be king over the entire earth. Him I seek who died for us; Him I love who rose again because of us. The birth pangs are upon me. Forgive me, brethren; do not obstruct my coming to life--do not wish me to die; do not make a gift to the world of one who wants to be God's. Beware of seducing me with matter; suffer me to receive pure light. Once arrived there, I shall be a man. Permit me to be an imitator of my suffering God. If anyone holds Him in his heart, let him understand what I am aspiring to; and then let him sympathize with me, knowing in what distress I am.

7. The Prince of this world is resolved to abduct me, and to corrupt my Godward aspirations. Let none of you, therefore, who will then be present, assist him. Rather, side with me, that is, with God. Do not have Jesus Christ on your lips, and the world in your hearts. Give envy no place among you. And should I upon my arrival plead for your intervention, do not listen to me. Rather, give heed to what I write to you. I am writing while still alive, but my yearning is for death. My Love has been crucified, and I am not on fire with the love of earthly things. But there is in me a Living Water, which is eloquent and within me says: "Come to the Father." I have no taste for corruptible food or for the delights of this life. Bread of God is what I desire; that is, the Flesh of Jesus Christ, who was of the seed of David; and for my drink I desire His Blood, that is, incorruptible love.

8. No longer do I wish to live after the manner of men; and this is what will happen if you wish it so. Wish it, that your own wishes, too, may be fulfilled. By this short letter I beseech you: do believe me! Jesus Christ will make it clear to you that I speak the truth--He on whose lips there are no lies, through whom the Father has spoken truthfully. Pray for me that I may succeed. What I write to you does not please the appetites of the flesh, but it pleases the mind of God. If I suffer, you have loved me; if I am rejected, you have hated me!

9. Remember in your prayers the Church in Syria which now has God for her Shepherd in my stead. Jesus Christ alone will be her Bishop, together with your love. For myself, I am ashamed to be counted as one of her members. I certainly do not deserve to be one, being the least of them and one that came to birth unexpectedly. However, if I but make my way to God, then by His mercy I shall be someone. My spirit salutes you, and so does the affection of the Churches that offered their hospitality to me, not as to a chance visitor, but in deference to Jesus Christ. Why, even those not adjoining my route--the route by which my body traveledhastened in advance from town after town to meet me.

10. I am sending you this letter from Smyrna through the kindness of the Ephesians, who deserve so much praise. Among many others Crocus is here with me--a dearly beloved name to me! As to the men from Syria who for the glory of God have gone to Rome to meet you there, you have, I trust, made their acquaintance. Please, inform them also that I am near. One and all they are men of God and will be an honor to you. You will do well to give them every comfort. I am writing this to you on the 24th of August. Farewell to the end in the patient endurance of Jesus Christ.


Ignatius, also called Theophorus, to the Church of God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, which is at Philadelphia in Asia; a church which has found mercy and is irrevocably of one mind with God; which unwaveringly exults in the Passion of Our Lord, and firmly believes in His Resurrection through sheer mercy. This Church I salute in the Blood of Jesus Christ. She is a source of everlasting joy, especially when the members are at one with the bishop and his assistants, the presbyters and deacons, that have been appointed in accordance with the wish of Jesus Christ, and whom He has, by His own will, through the operation of His Holy Spirit, confirmed in loyalty.

1. Regarding this bishop I am informed that he holds the supreme office in the community not by his own efforts, or by men's doing, or for personal glory. No, he holds it by the love of God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I am charmed with his sweetness of manner. He accomplishes more by his silence than others that talk to no purpose No wonder; he is as perfectly in accord with the commandments as strings are with a harp. With all my heart, therefore, I laud his disposition to please God, a disposition virtuous and perfect, as I am very well aware; his unshaken constancy, too, and his passionless temper, modeled on the transcendent gentleness of the living God.

2. Being born, then, of the light of truth, shun division and bad doctrines. Where the shepherd is, there you, being sheep, must follow. For, many wolves there are, apparently worthy of confidence, who with the bait of baneful pleasure seek to capture the runners in God's race; but if you stand united, they will have no success.

3. Avoid the noxious weeds. Their gardener is not Jesus Christ, because they are not the planting of the Father. Not that I found any division in your midst; but I did find that there had been a purge. Surely, all those that belong to God and Jesus Christ are the very ones that side with the bishop; and all those that may yet change their mind and return to the unity of the Church, will likewise belong to God, and thus lead a life acceptable to Jesus Christ. Do not be deceived, my brethren: if a man runs after a schismatic, he will not inherit the kingdom of God; if a man chooses to be a dissenter, he severs all connection with the Passion.

4. Take care, then, to partake of one Eucharist; for, one is the Flesh of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and one the cup to unite us with His Blood, and one altar, just as there is one bishop assisted by the presbytery and the deacons, my fellow servants. Thus you will conform in all your actions to the will of God.

5. My brethren, my love for you overflows all bounds, and it is my supreme delight to provide you with safeguards, though it is really not I that do it, but Jesus Christ. Being in chains for His sake, I am all the more apprehensive, since I am not yet perfected. But then, your prayer will make me perfect in the sight of God, so that I may win the lot which, through mercy, has fallen to me. I take refuge in the Gospel, which to me is Jesus in the flesh, and in the Apostles, as represented by the presbytery of the Church. But let us also cherish the Prophets, because they, for their part, foreshadowed the Gospel; and they hoped in Him and waited for Him and were saved by their belief in Him; for thus they were one with Jesus Christ. O those lovable and wonderful saints! Their merits are attested by Jesus Christ, and their message is part and parcel of the Gospel of our common hope.

6. But should anyone expound Judaism, do not listen to him. It is preferable, surely, to listen to a circumcised man preaching Christianity than to an uncircumcised man preaching Judaism. But if neither of them preaches Jesus Christ, they are to me tombstones and graves of the dead, on which only the names of the dead are inscribed. Shun, then, the base artifices and snares of the Prince of this world, for fear you may be harassed by his scheming and grow weak in your love. Rather, come together, all of you, with undivided heart. I thank my God that I have a good conscience as concerning you, and that no one has occasion to boast that I was a burden to anyone either secretly or openly, in great matters or in small. But I also pray for all those in whose midst I spoke, that they may not find in my words any testimony against them.

7. For, even though some were willing enough to lead my human spirit into error, yet the Spirit is not led into error, since He proceeds from God. Indeed, He knows where He comes from and whither He goes, and lays bare what is secret. I cried out, while in your midst, and said in a ringing voice--God's voice: "Give heed to the bishop and to the presbytery and to the deacons." Some, however, suspected I was saying this because I had previous knowledge of the division caused by some; but He for whose sake I am in chains is my witness, that I had not learned it from any human source. No, it was the Spirit who kept preaching in these words: "Apart from the bishop do nothing; preserve your persons as shrines of God; cherish unity, shun divisions; do as Jesus Christ did, for He, too, did as the Father did."

8. I was doing my part, therefore, acting as a man trained to cherish unity. Where there is division and passion, there is no place for God. Now, the Lord forgives all if they change their mind and by this change of mind return to union with God and the council of the bishop. I trust in the grace of Jesus Christ, who will free you from all enslavement. I exhort you never to act in a spirit of factiousness, but according to what you learnt in the school of Christ. When I heard some say, "Unless I find it in the official records--in the Gospel I do not believe"; and when I answered them, "It is in the Scriptures," they retorted: "That is just the point at issue."But to me the official record is Jesus Christ; the inviolable record is His Cross and His death and His Resurrection and the faith of which He is the Author. These are the things which, thanks to your prayer, I want to be my justification.

9. God, too, are priests; but better is the High Priest who was entrusted with the Holy of Holies, who alone was entrusted with the hidden designs of God. He is the door of the Father, through which enter Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and the Prophets and the Apostles and the Church. All these are means of being united with God. a But the Gospel contains something special--the Advent of the Savior Our Lord Jesus Christ, His Passion and His Resurrection. The beloved Prophets announced His coming, whereas the Gospel is the imperishable fulfillment. All things alike are good, provided your faith is rooted in love.

10. Since it was reported to me that--thanks to your prayer and kindly interest, inspired by Jesus Christ--the Church at Antioch in Syria is at peace, it is proper that you, as a church of God, should appoint a deacon to go there as God's ambassador, and congratulate the people in a public meeting, and give glory to the Name. Blessed in Jesus Christ is he who is to discharge this office; and you, too, will reap glory. If only you are determined, it is not impossible to do this for God's name, just as the neighboring Churches have, some of them, delegated bishops--others, presbyters and deacons.

11. Now, as to Philo, the deacon from Cilicia, a man of attested merit, who even now assists me in the ministry of the word of God together with Rheus Agathopus, an exquisite character, who has been accompanying me from Syria after turning his back upon this life--well, both these men testify (and I, too, thank God on your behalf) that you received them kindly. May the Lord do so to you! As for those who treated them with disrespect, may they be redeemed by the grace of Jesus Christ! In their love the brethren of Troas wish to be remembered. It is from here that I send this letter through the kindness of Burrus, who, as a testimonial of honor, was sent by the Ephesians and Smyrnaeans to accompany me. These men will be honored by the Lord Jesus Christ, in whom they hope with body and soul and spirit and faith and love and concord. Farewell in Jesus Christ, our common Hope.