Reflections on prayer in the writings of St. Ignatius of Antioch
In this video, Fr. Adrian Podaru emphasizes that “our presence at the Divine Liturgy is an exercise of spiritual altruism: ‘I care for the other, that is why I participate in the Church’s prayer.'” Fr. Dr. Adrian Podaru is Lecturer in Patristics at the Faculty of Orthodox Theology in Cluj-Napoca, Romania.
“For if the prayer of one or two possesses [Matthew 18:19] such power, how much more that of the bishop and the whole Church! He, therefore, that does not assemble with the Church (we could read here: He that does not attend the Divine Liturgy), has even by this manifested his pride, and condemned himself. For it is written, God resists the proud.” [The Epistle of Ignatius to the Ephesians, Chapter 5]
Writing to the Magnesians and emphasizing the vital importance of common prayer inside the church building, St. Ignatius says: “As therefore the Lord did nothing without the Father, being united to Him, neither by Himself nor by the apostles, so neither do anything without the bishop and presbyters. Neither endeavour that anything appear reasonable and proper to yourselves apart; but being come together into the same place, let there be one prayer, one supplication, one mind, one hope, in love and in joy undefiled. There is one Jesus Christ, than whom nothing is more excellent.
The deepest purpose of community prayer, of common prayer, is to be united before God, to assume in spirit, each one of us, all the things of our neighbor as our own, and to pray for our neighbor as for ourselves.
Our presence at the Divine Liturgy, emphasizes St. Ignatius, is an exercise of spiritual altruism: ‘I care for the other, that is why I participate in the Church’s prayer.’
Referring to the exhortation of the Apostle Paul „pray without ceasing”, St. Ignatius adds and I quote again: “And pray without ceasing on behalf of other men. For there is in them hope of repentance that they may attain to God. See, then, that they be instructed by your works, if in no other way. Be meek in response to their wrath, humble in opposition to their boasting: to their blasphemies return your prayers; in contrast to their error, be stedfast [Colossians 1:23] in the faith; and for their cruelty, manifest your gentleness.”
It is about the prayers of the community and the example of the community towards those who are not yet members of this community. This prayer of the community, the example of the community, proven by deeds, works mysteriously for their conversion, for the inner change of their hearts. St. Ignatius was an ardent lover of Christ. The words of the Apostle Paul addressed to the Philippians suited St. Ignatius perfectly: “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” [Philippians 1:21]
Going to Rome to become a martyr, St. Ignatius addresses the communities to pray for him so that he may receive from the Lord a martyr’s death. To the Ephesians he writes: “trusting through your prayers to be permitted to fight with beasts at Rome, that so by martyrdom I may indeed become the disciple of Him”. And to the magnesians he says: “Be mindful of me in your prayers, that I may attain to God;” He especially appeals to the Romans not to try in any way to save him from death. If they did this, Ignatius believes, then the Romans would not be doing God’s work, but the devil’s. On the contrary, he tells them: “Entreat Christ for me, that by these instruments [i.e. beasts] I may be found a sacrifice [to God].” (The Epistle of Ignatius to the Romans, Chap. 4)
If the prayers of the community help us in our effort to live well, to live beautifully, to live Christianly, the prayers of the community also help us to leave this life in a manner worthy of God, understanding the transitory nature of this life and the absolute importance of of the quality of eternal life that bodily death inaugurates. St. Ignatius Theophorus offered among the first a bright example of Christian death, of a glorious transition from this life to the true life, the eternal life.