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January 29, 2010

Translation of the Relics of Saint Ignatius the God-Bearer

The Translation of the Relics of the Hieromartyr Ignatius the God-Bearer 
(Feast Day - January 29)


Having been devoured by lions Ignatius,
You are left without a body and are a portion for the faithful.
On the twenty-ninth the soul of Ignatius ascended.

After the holy hierarch Ignatius was thrown to the lions in the year 107 (or 108) on the orders of the emperor Trajan in the Flavian Amphitheater, Christians gathered up his bones and preserved them in Rome.

Later, in the year 108 (or 109), the Saint's relics were collected and buried by the deacon Philo of Cilicia and Rheus Agathopus, a Syrian, and were interred outside the gates not far from the beautiful suburb of Daphne near Antioch. A second transfer, to the city of Antioch itself, took place in the year 438 by the Emperor Theodosius II to the Tychaeum, or Temple of Tyche, which was converted into a church dedicated to Ignatius. After the capture of Antioch by the Persians, the relics of the Hieromartyr Ignatius were returned to Rome and placed in the Church of the Holy Hieromartyr Clement (San Clemente) in the year 540 (or 637, according to other sources), where portions remain today.

St. Ignatius introduced antiphonal singing into Church services. He has left us seven archpastoral epistles in which he provided instructions on faith, love and good works. He also urged his flock to preserve the unity of the faith and to beware of heretics. He encouraged people to honor and obey their bishops: "We should regard the bishop as we would the Lord Himself" (To the Ephesians 6).

In his Letter to Polycarp, St. Ignatius writes: "Listen to the bishop, if you want God to listen to you... let your baptism be your shield, your faith a helmet, your love a spear, your patience like full armor." (Compare Ephesians 6:14-17 and the Wisdom of Solomon 5:17-20. Also The Ladder of Divine Ascent 4:2)

Ignatius stressed the value of the Eucharist, calling it a "medicine of immortality" (To the Ephesians 20:2). 

The very strong desire for bloody martyrdom in the arena, which Ignatius expresses rather graphically in places, may seem quite odd to the modern reader. An examination of his theology of soteriology shows that he regarded salvation as one being free from the powerful fear of death and thus was compelled to bravely face martyrdom.

Saint Ignatius's most famous quotation, however, comes from his letter to the Romans:

"I am writing to all the Churches and I enjoin all, that I am dying willingly for God's sake, if only you do not prevent it. I beg you, do not do me an untimely kindness. Allow me to be eaten by the beasts, which are my way of reaching to God. I am God's wheat, and I am to be ground by the teeth of wild beasts, so that I may become the pure bread of Christ" (Letter to the Romans).

His sacred skull is kept today at the Holy Metropolis of Beroia. A hand is kept at Xeropotamou Monastery in Mount Athos. Other portions of his relics can be found in Great Lavra Monastery in Mount Athos, Panagia Varnakova Monastery in Nafpaktos, Ntaou Penteli Monastery in Athens, the Lavra of Saint Alexander Nevsky in St. Petersburg, and in the Church of Saint George of the Greeks in Venice.

Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
As a sharer of the ways and a successor to the throne of the Apostles, O inspired of God, thou foundest discipline to be a means of ascent to divine vision. Wherefore, having rightly divided the word of truth, thou didst also contest for the Faith even unto blood, O Hieromartyr Ignatios. Intercede with Christ our God that our souls be saved.

Apolytikion in the Third Tone
Soaring with love for Him Who holds thee in His hands, thou wast shown to be a God-bearer, O Ignatius. Thou didst finish thy course in the West, and pitch thy dwelling in the unwaning day of the heavens. O Venerable Father, entreat Christ our God to grant us His great mercy.

Kontakion in the Fourth Tone
Dawning from the East this day, divine Ignatius, that God-bearer praised of all, hath made the whole creation bright with his wise teachings of piety and is adorned with the beauty of martyrdom.