Saint Ignatius of Antioch and the Paradoxes of the Incarnation

Icon of Ignatius of AntiochIgnatius of Antioch has always been one of my all-time favorite Church Fathers and saints. He was a bishop in Antioch, and as such reportedly even knew Saint Peter. He died for his faith around 110 AD. He wrote six letters, which give us insight into the beliefs and practices of the sub-apostolic period. His writings reflect a strong desire for martyrdom and commitment to the Lord. One of the most interesting excerpts from Ignatius appears in his letter to the Ephesians.

There is one Physician,who is possessed both of flesh and spirit
both made and not made;
God existing in flesh;
true life in death;
both of Mary and of God;
first passible and then impassible
Jesus Christ our Lord.

Ignatius, without addressing any theological problems involved, expresses the amazing paradoxes involved in the mingling of the divine and human natures of Jesus. You will notice that Ignatius recognizes that Jesus is both flesh and spirit, and created in his earthly body, yet eternal. Jesus is God incarnate, and his divine impassibility mingles with his human frailty.

In contemplative prayer, it is good to just experience and accept the paradoxes inherent in the mysteries of Christ. In contemplation, there is no need to logically resolve the “problems” raised by Christ being 100% man and 100% God, because mystery is, according to many Eastern Christians, not a wall, but rather an ocean in which to swim. If you are in the mood for some contemplative prayer today, try meditating on this passage.

I also want to note that in 2006, I composed a novena based on this passage, A Healing Novena To Christ the Great Physician. Please use it to your benefit.

About David Bennett

David Bennett is an author, speaker, and small business owner. He started ChurchYear.Net in 2004, along with his brother Jonathan. The site gets over one million visitors a year, and Bennett’s writings have appeared in church bulletins, newspapers, and other media.

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