Thursday Patristics

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This is the final part of Ignatius’ Letter to Polycarp — continuing to use the Lightfoot translation. There is an Orthodox translation which is as scholarly or more so, but the entire text is given in but three chapters, which is probably more rational.

Although a fair amount of this is practical — appoint a preacher to teach in this area and where they cannot go send letters — there are some insights scattered throughout.

CHAPTER 6

Give ye heed to the bishop, that God also may give heed to you. I am devoted to those who are subject to the bishop, the presbyters, the deacons. May it be granted me to have my portion with them in the presence of God. Toil together one with another, struggle together, run together, suffer together, lie down together, rise up together, as God’s stewards and assessors and ministers.

Please the Captain in whose army ye serve, from whom also ye will receive your pay. Let none of you be found a deserter. Let your baptism abide with you as your shield; your faith as your helmet; your love as your spear; your patience as your body armour. Let your works be your deposits, that ye may receive your assets due to you. Be ye therefore long-suffering one with another in gentleness, as God is with you. May I have joy of you always.

CHAPTER 7

Seeing that the church which is in Antioch of Syria hath peace, as it hath been reported to me, through your prayers, I myself also have been the more comforted since God hath banished my care; if so be I may through suffering attain unto God, that I may be found a disciple through your intercession.

It becometh thee, most blessed Polycarp, to call together a godly council and to elect some one among you who is very dear to you and zealous also, who shall be fit to bear the name of God’s courier — to appoint him, I say, that he may go to Syria and glorify your zealous love unto the glory of God.

A Christian hath no authority over himself, but giveth his time to God. This is God’s work, and yours also, when ye shall complete it: for I trust in the Divine grace, that ye are ready for an act of well-doing which is meet for God. Knowing the fervour of your sincerity, I have exhorted you in a short letter.

CHAPTER 8

Since I have not been able to write to all the churches, by reason of my sailing suddenly from Troas to Neapolis, as the Divine will enjoineth, thou shalt write to the churches in front, as one possessing the mind of God, to the intent that they also may do thissame thing — let those who are able send messengers, and the rest letters by the persons who are sent by thee, that ye may be glorified by an ever memorable deed — for this is worthy of thee.

I salute all by name, and especially the wife of Epitropus with her whole household and her children’s. I salute Attalus my beloved. I salute him that shall be appointed to go to Syria. Grace shall be with himalways, and with Polycarp who sendeth him.

I bid you farewell always in our God Jesus Christ, in whom abide ye in the unity and supervision of God. I salute Alce, a name very dear to me. Fare ye
well in the Lord.

Ignatius, Letter to Polycarp. 2nd century