Fitted to the Bishop as to Strings of the Harp …

Ignatius of Antioch, martyred in Rome around the year 110  A.D. was among the Apostolic Fathers, served as the third Bishop of Antioch [St. Peter being recognized as the first], and was a student of John the Apostle. En route to his martyrdom in Rome, Ignatius wrote a series of letters which have been preserved as an example of very early Christian theology. Important topics addressed in these letters include ecclesiology, the sacraments, and the role of bishops.

These letters, dating only a few decades from the deaths of the apostles themselves and prior to the establishment of the New Testament canon, are among the wealth of writings available from the earliest presbyters of the Church. They help reveal the continuity of today’s Orthodox Church with that received from the faith and practice of the apostles.

From The Epistle of Ignatius to the Ephesians:

“Wherefore it is fitting that you should run together in accordance with the will of your bishop, which thing also you do. For your justly renowned presbytery, worthy of God, is fitted as exactly to the bishop as the strings are to the harp. Therefore in your concord and harmonious love, Jesus Christ is sung. And do you, man by man, become a choir, that being harmonious in love, and taking up the song of God in unison, you may with one voice sing to the Father through Jesus Christ, so that He may both hear you, and perceive by your works that you are indeed the members of His Son. It is profitable, therefore, that you should live in an unblameable unity, that thus you may always enjoy communion with God. Continue reading

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An Intimate Experience of Christ

The means to find an intensely personal relationship with Christ exists within the Catholic Church in the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. For a lay person living in the world, I cannot imagine that there exists more than a few experiences anywhere in Christendom that offer a more profound means to meet Christ, and learn to love and follow him in a transformative and intimate way.

St. Ignatius LoyolaThe Spritual Exercises originated with St. Ignatius himself, as he struggled with the meaning of his own life in world of the 16th century, turning away from a future as a functionary in a noble court, and turning himself over to Jesus. “Few souls,’ he said, “understand what God would accomplish in them if they were to abandon themselves unreservedly to Him and if they were to allow His grace to mold them accordingly.”

A common way to undertake these exercises is the Retreat in Daily Life. Fr. J. Tetlow, SJ, describes the retreat this way: “A person [prays] daily for some long weeks and months, following the structure of revealed truths that Master Ignatius outlined for the [original] full thirty-day retreat. The retreatant begins by reflecting on creation in Christ Jesus and moves through human sinfulness and the need for redemption. He or she then contemplates Jesus of Nazareth’s incarnation, public life, passion, and resurrection. These Exercises…help people reach a serious decision or make deep changes in their way of life.”

While St. Ignatius is not a saint of the First Thousand Years and is revered only with the Roman Church at this time, I believe that there is nothing but good within these exercises for any Christian who wants to love at  the deepest level and follow the Lord unreservedly. Indeed, for those raised in the apostolic churches who might feel that our churches do not emphasize a personal, one-on-one experience with Jesus, the Exercises may be able to give you the depth of relationship that you crave and show you the fullness of Christ with the Church.

You can read an introduction to the Exercises by Fr. Tetlow here: http://www.sjweb.info/pray/introspex.cfm

There are many opportunities to undertake the Exercises throughout the world, even online. In California, one can contact: http://www.loyolainstitute.org/cats.php

In Washington, DC, contact http://www.holytrinitydc.org/JesuitCtrSpir.htm

In New York, contact http://www.stignatiusloyola.org/index.php/faith_formation/retreats

A Prayer of St. Ignatius:

Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my entire will, all that I have and possess.You have given all to me. To You, O Lord, I return it all. All is Yours; dispose of it wholly according to Your Will. Give me Your love and Your grace, for this is sufficient for me. For with these I am rich enough and desire nothing more. Amen.