“I look forward with joy to the wild animals held in readiness for me, and I pray that they may attack me; I will coax them to devour me, so that they may not, as happened in some cases, shrink from seizing me…. I bid all men know that of my own free will I die for God, unless ye should hinder me…. Let me be given to the wild beasts, for through them I can attain unto God. I am God’s wheat, and I am ground by the wild beasts that I may be the pure bread of Christ. Entice the wild beasts that they may become my sepulcher…; come fire and cross and grapplings with wild beasts, wrenching of bones, hacking of limbs, crushings of my whole body; only be it mine to attain unto Jesus Christ.” ~St. Ignatius of Antioch: 'Epistle to the Romans.’
Illuminated manuscript painting of St. Ignatius, from the Menologion of Basil II, c. 1000 AD; Vatican Library.
"What flower in spring is so bright, what voices of singing birds are so sweet, what breezes that soothe the calm sea are so light and mild, what glebe is so fragrant to the husbandman— whether it be teeming with green blades, or waving with fruitful ears as is the spring of the soul, lit up with your peaceful beams, from the radiance which shone in your letter, which raised our life from despondency to gladness? For thus, perhaps, it will not be unfitting to adapt the word of the prophet to our present blessings: “In the multitude of the sorrows which I had in my heart, the comforts of God,” by your kindness, “have refreshed my soul,” like sunbeams, cheering and warming our life nipped by frost. For both reached the highest pitch— the severity of my troubles, I mean, on the one side, and the sweetness of your favours on the other. And if you have so gladdened us, by only sending us the joyful tidings of your coming, that everything changed for us from extremest woe to a bright condition, what will your precious and benign coming, even the sight of it, do? What consolation will the sound of your sweet voice in our ears afford our soul? May this speedily come to pass, by the good help of God, Who gives respite from pain to the fainting, and rest to the afflicted. But be assured, that when we look at our own case we grieve exceedingly at the present state of things, and men cease not to tear us in pieces: but when we turn our eyes to your excellence, we own that we have great cause for thankfulness to the dispensation of Divine Providence, that we are able to enjoy in your neighbourhood your sweetness and good-will towards us, and feast at will on such food to satiety, if indeed there is such a thing as satiety of blessings like these."
~St. Gregory of Nyssa: Letters, No. 7.
11th cent. mosaic of Gregory of Nyssa. Saint Sophia Cathedral in Kiev, Ukraine.
"CLEMENT, fourth bishop of Rome after Peter, if indeed the second was Linus and the third Anacletus, although most of the Latins think that Clement was second after the apostle. He wrote, on the part of the church of Rome, an especially valuable "Letter to the church of the Corinthians," which in some places is publicly read, and which seems to me to agree in style with the epistle to the Hebrews which passes under the name of Paul but it differs from this same epistle, not only in many of its ideas, but also in respect of the order of words, and its likeness in either respect is not very great. There is also a second Epistle under his name which is rejected by earlier writers, and a "Disputation between Peter and Appion" written out at length, which Eusebius in the third book of his Church history rejects. He died in the third year of Trajan and a church built at Rome preserves the memory of his name unto this day." ~St. Jerome: De Viris Illustribus (On Illustrious Men) Chap. 15.
“THE pursuit of God is the desire of beatitude, the attainment of God is beatitude. We pursue after him by loving Him, we attain to Him, not indeed by becoming What He is, but by coming close to Him, as it were, in some marvelous intellectual fashion, wholly illumined and wholly embraced by His holiness. For He is Light itself and by that Light are we permitted to be illumined.”
~St. Augustine: De Moribus Ecclesiae Catholicae, 18.
“FOR ‘everyone who does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is another antichrist’ (1 Jn. 4:2, 3); and whoever does not confess the witness of the Cross is of the devil; and whoever perverts the sayings of the Lord to his own evil desires and says there is neither resurrection nor judgment, that one is the first-born of Satan. Therefore, let us abandon the vanities of the crowd and their false teachings; let us return to the word which was delivered to us from the beginning.”
~St. Polycarp, (A.D. 69 – A.D. 155), bishop of Smyrna: ‘Letter to the Philippians,’ No. 7.
S. Polycarpus, by Michael Burghers. Engraving, ca 1685.
“FOR even creation reveals Him who formed it, and the very work made suggests Him who made it, and the world manifests Him who ordered it. The Universal Church, moreover, through the whole world, has received this tradition from the Apostles.”
~St. Irenaeus of Lyons: Against Heresies, Bk. 2, Chap. 9.
“SEEING there are many who think they hold the opinion of Christ, and yet some of these think differently from their predecessors, yet as the teaching of the church, transmitted in orderly succession from the Apostles, and remaining in the churches to the present day, is still preserved, that alone is to be accepted as truth which differs in no respect from ecclesiastical and apostolic tradition.”
“I HAVE ever kept the faith of the Apostles undefiled…. So
have I learnt not only from the Apostles and the prophets but also from the
interpreters of their writings, Ignatius, Eustathius, Athanasius, Basil,
Gregory, John and the rest of the lights of the world; and before these from
the holy Fathers in council at Nicaea, whose confession of faith I preserve in
its integrity, like an ancestral heritage styling corrupt and enemies if the
truth all who dare to transgress its decrees.”
~Theodoret (Bishop of Cyrus and theologian, 393 — c. 457): Letters, No. 89; To Florentius, a patrician.
Eastern Orthodox icon depicting the First Council of Nicaea.
“WHILE [Ignatius of Antioch] was making the journey through Asia under the strictest military guard, he strengthened the diocese in each city where he stayed by spoken sermons and exhortations, and he especially exhorted them above all to be on their guard against the heresies which then for the first time were prevalent and he urged them to hold fast to the tradition of the apostles to which they thought it necessary, for security’s sake, to give form by written testimony.”
"WHEREFORE, since it is our duty fully to enjoy the truth which lives unchangeably, and since the triune God takes counsel in this truth for the things which He has made, the soul must be purified that it may have power to perceive that light, and to rest in it when it is perceived. And let us look upon this purification as a kind of journey or voyage to our native land. For it is not by change of place that we can come nearer to Him who is in every place, but by the cultivation of pure desires and virtuous habits."
“I am Who am” (Ex. 3:14). I was filled with admiration at such a clear definition of God, which spoke of the incomprehensible nature in language most suitable to our human understanding. It is known that there is nothing more characteristic of God than to be, because that itself which is does not belong to those things which will one day end or to those which had a beginning. But, that which combines eternity with the power of unending happiness could never not have been, nor is it possible that one day it will not be, because what is divine is not liable to destruction nor does it have a beginning. And since the eternity of God will not be untrue to itself in anything, He has revealed to us in a fitting manner this fact alone, that He is, in order to render testimony to His everlasting eternity.
"GIVE reverential attention to the prophetic Scriptures, and they will make your way plainer for escaping the eternal punishments, and obtaining the eternal prizes of God. For He who gave the mouth for speech, and formed the ear to hear, and made the eye to see, will examine all things, and will judge righteous judgment, rendering merited awards to each. To those who by patient continuance in well-doing (Rom. 2:7) seek immortality, He will give life everlasting, joy, peace, rest, and abundance of good things, which neither has eye seen, nor ear heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man to conceive. (1 Cor. 2:9) But to the unbelieving and despisers, who obey not the truth, but are obedient to unrighteousness, when they shall have been filled with adulteries and fornications, and filthiness, and covetousness, and unlawful idolatries, there shall be anger and wrath, tribulation and anguish, (Rom. 2:8-9) and at the last everlasting fire shall possess such men. Since you said, “Show me your God,” this is my God, and I counsel you to fear Him and to trust Him." ~St. Theophilus of Antioch: To Autolychus, Chap. 1:14.
“BELIEVE…that He is to return, glorious and illustrious, to exercise judgment on the living and the dead, not indeed in His former fleshly form nor yet without a body, but with a body more august and more divine such as He alone knew.”
~St. Gregory Nazianzen: Oratio, 45.
Last Judgment, by Michelangelo Buonarroti. Fresco, 1537-41; Cappella Sistina, Vatican.
“IT IS to be believed that before the judgment there is a purgatorial fire for certain minor sins. For the Truth says that if anyone blasphemes against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this world or in the next. From which we learn that certain sins may be forgiven in this world and certain in the next… the apostle (1 Cor. 3:12) holds out the possibility of being saved by fire, not to him who builds on the foundation iron, brass, or lead, that is, the greater and harder sins that are no longer remissible in purgatory, but to the builder of wood, hay, and stubble, that is, the least and lightest sins, which the fire easily consumes. We must know, however, that a man will not be cleansed in purgatory of even the least sins, unless during his lifetime he deserved by his good works to receive such a favor.”
"THERE is not one baptism only. One is that which the Church administers here by water and the Holy Ghost. Another is the baptism of suffering, whereby each is cleansed by his own blood. There is also a baptism at the entrance of Paradise. This last baptism did not exist in the beginning; but after the sinner was driven out of Paradise, God set there a fiery sword…. But though there be a purgation here, there must be a second purification there, that each of us, burnt but not burnt up by that fiery sword, may enter into the delight of Paradise. But this fire whereby involuntary and casual sins are burnt away… is different from that which the Lord assigned to the devil and his angels, of which he says, Enter into everlasting fire.”
“IN short, inasmuch as we understand the prison pointed out in the Gospel to be hades, and as we also interpret the uttermost farthing to mean the very smallest offence which has to be recompensed there before the resurrection, no one will hesitate to believe that the soul undergoes in hades some compensatory discipline, without prejudice to the full process of the resurrection, when the recompense will be administered through the flesh besides.”
“WHEN he has quitted his body and the difference between virtue and vice is known he cannot approach God till the purging fire shall have cleansed the stains with which his soul was infested. That same fire in others will cancel the corruption of matter, and the propensity to evil.”
“TO the saints honor must be paid… if the Creator and Lord of all things is also called King of kings and Lord of lords and God of gods, surely the saints also are gods and lords and kings. For God is God and Lord and King of these.”
~St. John Damascene: Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, 4, 15.