St. Ignatius of Antioch
Today in the calendar of the church, we remember the first century Syrian bishop and martyr, Ignatius of Antioch. One of the last of the so-called ‘Apostolic Fathers,’ tradition tells us that Ignatius worked alongside the apostles and their communities, such as St. Peter and St. John the Evangelist, from whom we read he received his theological formation. St. John Chrysostom tell us that Ignatius received his episcopal consecration from the hands of the apostles themselves.
Ignatius was martyred around 115 CE under the emperor Trajan. Seeking to reinforce the universality of his dominion by an act of religious conquest, Trajan decreed that Christians were to unite with their pagan neighbors in the worship of the civic gods. Persecution was threatened, and death named the penalty for any who refused participate. Sensitive to the danger, Ignatius did all in his power to thwart the advance of the imperial program, which would lead to his arrest and execution.
Feast of St. Stephen (transferred)
Jeremiah 26:1-9, 12-15
Acts 6:8- 7:2a, 51c-60
Today we celebrate the feast of Stephen, the day upon which “Good king Wenceslas went out… when the snow lay round about, deep and crisp and even”. St. Stephen’s Day is actually the day after Christmas, but we’ve transferred it to today. It’s a feast that sits awkwardly in a festive time of year that is otherwise so sugar plummed and Santa-fied, jingled and jangled, tinseled and tangled. The martyrdom of Stephen is our reality check–we go from glory to gory in this “snap out of it” shift. We are reminded that we live “in the meantime”—and the times can be mean.
Christmas is, of course, a celebration of the Incarnation, the birth of God’s own being into this world. It is a festival of life and light: “What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.” [John 1:3-4] We are the continuing presence of this Incarnation in the world, we are the “Body of Christ”, as Paul puts it. We are in him, he is in us, as John puts it. We are the bearers of his light, we are the God bearers, the Christ bearers in this world. We are now his hands, his feet, his eyes in the world, as St. Teresa put it. “Christ has no hands now but yours…,” she reminds us.