Thursday, January 31, 2013

Q & A: New Picture

Hey Nick, what's with the new picture on the top of your blog?

I thought the site could use a bit more visual flavor.

That's for sure. Seeing all that red made me feel like a bull facing a matador. What's this a picture of?

This is a stained glass window from St. Ignatius Martyr Catholic Church in Austin, Texas. The man depicted is the aforementioned St. Ignatius.

First: why do you have a picture from that parish?

Back in my seminary days, I spent a month at that parish, and thoroughly enjoyed my time there. Plus, it's a real perdy picture.

Fair enough. But why a picture of this guy on your blog?

Here at the DSPT, I'm concentrating on historical theology; I'd like to focus on the patristic period, the time of the Church Fathers. St. Ignatius of Antioch is one of the earliest and, in many ways, one of the most important of the Church Fathers. He's one of a few who are referred to as the "Apostolic Fathers," because of his connection with the apostles.

Why? What's his deal?

St. Ignatius was the bishop of Antioch around the end of the first century AD. He was the second successor of St. Peter the Apostle as head of the church in Antioch; one source even says that St. Peter himself appointed St. Ignatius as bishop of Antioch. And it's thought that St. Ignatius may have been a disciple of St. John the Evangelist. So... pretty good credentials there.

Wait, I thought Peter was head of the church in Rome.

He was. Antioch was his first gig.

I see. Go on.

St. Ignatius was arrested by the Romans and brought to Rome for execution around the year 100 AD. On his way, he wrote several letters to the churches in Asia Minor, Greece, and Italy, places like Philadelphia, Smyrna (addressed to his friend St. Polycarp, the bishop there), Ephesus, Magnesia, Trallia, and Rome.

What do we care about his letters? "Dear People of Magnesia, please send me some of that milk your so famous for." Big deal.

Think more like St. Paul's letters to the churches at Ephesus, Thessolonica, Philippi, etc. These letters were full of exhortations and teachings about the faith and about church life.

What makes them so important?

The fact that they're from such an early time in the Church's history, and that they affirm so clearly so many things that Catholics affirm: the divinity of Christ; the Real Presence in the Eucharist; the three-fold hierarchical structure of bishop, priest, and deacon; they even contain the first reference to the "Catholic Church," when he writes: "Wherever the bishop appears, there let the people be; as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church." And in his letter to the church at Rome, he refers to the Roman church as "she who presides in love," which would seem to be a very strong and very early indicator of Roman primacy in the universal church. He also writes beautifully on his impending martyrdom, calling himself a grain of wheat that is to be ground up for Christ to serve as bread for others, the sort of sentiment that would later be echoed by Tertullian: "The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church."

Not only for his witness to catholic and orthodox teaching, but for devotion to Christ and His Church, St. Ignatius of Antioch is a fine exemplar, not only for a theology student, but for all Christians. Seems like a good idea to have his picture on my virtual wall.

1 comment:

  1. Love the picture of the window, love your funny Q & A. Milk of magnesia....good one!